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Canada, EU envoys denounce appeal denial for 5 Badinan convicts

  2021-06-28  | 
 Zhyan News Network
Logos of the European Union (EU) mission in Iraq, the flag of Canada and the file photos of the five Badinan convicts- Graphic by Zhyan News Network
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – After a court in Erbil upheld again the sentencing of each five convicted journalists and activists to a six-year sentence, the Canadian and European Union (EU) diplomats denounced the court’s fresh decision.

On Sunday, Kurdistan Region’s Court of Cassation denied an appeal filed by the defense team of Sherwan Sherwani, Shvan Saeed, Ayaz Karam, Hariwan Issa, and Guhdar Zebari who were sentenced to six years in prison in February over controversial charges amounting to the undermining of the security and stability of the Region.

“Disappointed with yesterday's Appeals Court decision upholding the sentencing of the unhindered work of journalists is key to an open and informed society,” Head of Office of Canada in Erbil Ashley Durec tweeted. 

The Kurdistan Region has come under fire by the human rights organizations such as Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the foreign missions in Erbil and Baghdad for the court trial and decisions.

“Appalled by today’s decision of the Erbil Court of Appeal that confirmed the 6-year prison sentence for the 5 journalists and activists already convicted in May despite serious procedural flaws and allegations of mistreatment identified by the UN,” EU Ambassador to Iraq Martin Huth tweeted.

“Freedom of expression and media freedom, as well as an independent professional judiciary are essential components of a democracy,” Huth added.

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

“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. 

UNAMI said there is urgent need for judicial and institutional reform in the Kurdistan Region, describing the decision by the Kurdistan Region's Cassation Court as "miscarriage of justice."

"Yesterday’s decision by the Kurdistan Region’s Cassation Court regrettably confirms the urgent need for judicial and institutional reform in the KRI to prevent such miscarriages of justice in future," UNAMI said.

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.

Another detained journalist Omed Baroshki also has been recently sentenced to twelve months in jail and fined with 240,000 Iraqi dinars (around 164 US dollars) for three charges by a court in Erbil. 

He faces other charges and is supposed to stand trial on July 29. 

On June 26, the mother of Qaraman Shukri, another journalists in Duhok’s Shiladze sub-district, told Zhyan News Network that her son told him that he had been sentenced to seven years in prison secretly.

On June 27, 2021, Shukri was arrested by the security in Sire community in Shiladze after storming his home. He had worked as a cameraman and journalists in KNN and Roj news agencies. 

On Monday, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) bloc in the Kurdistan Parliament said in a statement, “the human rights and compatriots’ disappointment are at a dangerous situation,” warning the authorities that “the fame of the Kurdistan Region has been smeared” by the case of the Badinan detained activists and journalists

The courts mostly resort to the Iraqi Penal Code or Law to Prevent the Misuse of Communication Devices for trying journalists and activists, but the local and international watchdogs say the law stifles the space of the freedom of press and expression. 

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 05:40 pm EBL on Monday (June 28)