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Journalist sentenced in Duhok in secret without ‘due process’: CPJ

  2021-06-29  | 
 Zhyan News Network
A file photo of detained journalist Qaraman Shukri holding the portrait of slain journalist Wedat Hussein. Photo courtesy of social media
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Monday (June 28) that the authorities in Duhok governorate had sentenced a journalist in secret without a fair trial, calling for dropping charges and his release, as the Kurdistan region has come under scrutiny for deteriorating space for the freedom of press and expression.  

On June 26, the mother of detained journalist and cameraman Qaraman Shukri told Zhyan News Network that her son told her two days before that he had secretly been sentenced to seven years in prison by a court in Duhok.

“Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq are making an appalling habit of sentencing journalists to prison without any regard for due process and for the rights and freedoms they claim to defend,” Ignacio Miguel Delgado, the CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, said.

“The Kurdish regional government should immediately release photojournalist Qaraman Shukri, drop the charges against him, and stop imposing harsh prison sentences on members of the press,” he added.

His brother, Zeravan Shukri, told the journalist advoacy that Shukri did not reveal when the trail took place or what laws he was convicted of violating.

The journalist’s family is planning to send a lawyer to Zirka Prison, where Shukri is detained in Duhok, to determine whether they can appeal the verdict.

On January 27, Shukri, who contributed to the news website KNN, Rojnews and the broadcaster Sterk TV, was apprehended by a security forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) after radioing his home in Sire community in Shiladze sub-district east of Duhok.

In February, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari told CPJ the journalist was detained in accordance with Article 156 of the Iraqi Penal Code for violating  the country’s unity, independence, or security; violations can be punished by life in prison.

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

On Sunday, the Court of Cassation denied an appeal filed by the defense team of five convicted journalists and activists sentenced in February to six years in prison over controversial charges amounting to the undermining of the security and stability of the Region.

Between March 2020 and April 2021, KDP-affiliated security forces 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. 

Metro Center for Journalists' Rights and Advocacy documented nearly 400 violations committed against journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan Region in 2020.

(Zhyan English)