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Over 30 remain in jail one year after Duhok protests: Amnesty

  2021-06-15  | 
 Zhyan News Network
(File Photo) Kurdish demonstrators face tear gas while protesting unpaid salaries of public servants in Sulaimani. (Ako Rasheed/Reuters)
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – At least 30 people still remain in jail nearly one year after their detention along with over 100 other individuals arrested during protests in Duhok between August and October 2020, Amnesty International said on Tuesday (June 15).

Some of the detainees have already been sentenced following “unfair trials” over their participation in protests and amid ongoing crackdown of protests, Amnesty said in a report.

It called on authorities in the Kurdistan Region to end “arbitrary arrests and harassment” against protests under the excuse of preserving “national security.”

Kurdish security and Parastin forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) had “arbitrarily” arrested 14 individuals and disappeared some of them over their participation in protests, criticism of local authorities or due to their journalistic work.

“All 14 individuals were held incommunicado for periods ranging between a few days to five months; six were subjected to enforced disappearance - a crime under international law, for periods of time ranging between 10 days to over three months,” Amnesty International said.

Widespread demonstrations erupted in the Kurdistan Region in mid-August 2020 over lack of public services, overdue salaries and corruption.

Amnesty said it’s report is the outcome of reviewing official court documents and 21 interviews with victims, family members of detained individuals, lawyers, human rights workers, and journalists in the Kurdistan Region.

“In October 2020, Asayish forces in Duhok and Erbil arbitrarily arrested three activists and two journalists. Three of them were subjected to enforced disappearance, where their detentions were followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of their fate or whereabouts, for periods of time ranging between two to three months.”

On February 16, Second Branch of the Erbil Criminal Court sentenced five journalists and activists to six years in prison over controversial charges for undermining the stability and security of the Kurdistan Region. Amnesty said the trial against them was “unfair.”

“Their trial was marred by serious violations of their right to a fair trial, including concerns around sentences based on statements extracted under duress, failure to provide in a timely manner the case documents allowing defense lawyers to adequately prepare their defense, and failure to order investigations into the defendants’ claims of torture.”

In a reply statement, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari categorically refuted claims by Amnesty International and accused the detained protesters of incitement to break the then COVID-19-related lockdowns. 

“Those who broke the regulations and held gatherings and the media stirred up violations are brought to justice, but the government did not arrest anyone on the issue,” Zebari said. 

(Zhyan English)

*This story was updated at 05:32 pm EBL on Tuesday (June 15)