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Consulates 'have nothing to do' with work of Duhok convicts: court

  2021-06-27  | 
 Zhyan News Network
Journalists and activists Sherwan Amin Sherwans, Shivan Saeed, Guhdar Zebari, Hariwan Issa and Ayaz Karam, who were sentenced by a court in Erbil on February 16, 2021. Graphic by Zhya News Network
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – Kurdistan Region’s Court of Cassation has rejected appeal of five Duhok journalists and activists against their conviction for allegedly attempting to undermine the security of the state, according to a statement from the court which was obtained by Zhyan News Network.

The court has decided on June 20 to uphold six-year sentences given to the journalists and activists in February, according to the statement.

Only a part of the lower court’s decision, which accused US and German consulates in Erbil of links to the convicts, was reversed. “The two [US and German] consulates have nothing to do with their [Duhok detainees’] work.”

“The names of the American and German consulates were not mentioned in the defendants’ testimonies, except for the accused (Shiran Amin) who sought to mislead the consulates by recognizing himself as a journalist… The presence of these consulates in the Kurdistan Region is a support for the region and the judicial authority,” read the statement by the Kurdistan Region’s Court of Cassation.

The Metro Center for Journalists' Rights and Advocacy, a local monitor, described the court's fresh decree as “unexpected” in a statement. 

“We were waiting  for the appellate court to answer [positively] to the demands and discontent’s of the local and international watchdogs and the convicts’ families and decide in favor of the broadening of the freedom of press and expression,” Metro said.

“The decision was against our wishes and demands as Metro Center and most of the human rights organizations and monitors of the democracy process in Kurdistan,” it said, calling on Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani to issue an amnesty and revoke the court ruling as the last recourse. 

In a letter to Barzani, Kurdistan Parliament Lawmaker Ali Hama Salih reiterated the same call on him to rescind the court decision. 

The Kurdistan Region has come under scrutiny for deteriorating state of freedom of the press and expression, especially regarding the case of five convicted journalists and activists from Duhok’s Badinan, after they were sentenced to six years in prison in February over controversial charges amounting to undermining the stability and security of the Region.

Between March 2020 and April 2021, Kurdish security forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) reportedly cracked down on anti-government protests in Duhok and apprehended over 100 individuals in Duhok governorate alone, and specifically in the Badinan area, northwest of the governorate, Amnesty International reported on June 15.

Metro Center  documented nearly 400 violations committed against journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan Region in 2020.

(Zhyan English)

*This story was updated at 04:16 pm EBL on Sunday (June 27)