'Flimsy evidences' in trial against two Kurdish journalists: CPJ
Zhyan News Network
SULAIMANI – Two Kurdish journalists Sherwan Amin Sherwani and Guhdar Zebari were sentenced to six years in prison based on “flimsy and circumstantial evidences,” said Committee to Protect Journalists citing witnesses of the trial.
“Their six-year prison sentences on anti-state charges represent a new low for press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan,” CPJ said.
According to CPJ there is doubt on the fairness of the hearing against the two men due to lack of convincing evidence provided by prosecutors for the allegations.
“The evidence was very circumstantial, nothing solid. There was a bit of spaghetti against the wall, like things that are mildly abnormal being somehow suspicious,” CPJ quoted Winthrop Rodgers, a senior editor at Kurdish broadcaster NRT English as saying.
On February 16, five previously detained journalists and activists were sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted by Branch 2 of Erbil’s Criminal Court of controversial charges of “taking pictures of forbidden places”, releasing information about the movement of the security forces”, and “receiving money from outside the Kurdistan Region for exchanging information about the security agencies.”
The defendants all denied the charges against them and lawyers lamented a “bad” ruling, saying the charges had “previously been decided.”
CPJ said prosecutors accused Zebari, Sherwani of “spying” for the United States by providing US diplomats information regarding an intelligence agency and prisons.
“Court documents also claim that Sherwani received $5,000 from three people working for a group called Bar in exchange for information about prisoners, prison conditions, and security personnel. Witnesses to the trial told CPJ that Bar was actually the American Bar Association – the U.S. legal group.”
Besides Zebari and Sherwani, over a score of other journalists, activists and political opposition figures are held in jails under the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) jurisdiction in Duhok governorate without charge or trial for periods ranging from several weeks to a year.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) on March 4 released a video footage which appeared to show five detained Badinan journalists and activists, including Zebari and Sherwani, confessing to “spying.”
The footage contained transcripts of social media chats between Sherwani, Zebari, and other defendants, as well as photographs and voice recordings.
CPJ cited two other observers of the journalists’ trial as saying “the transcript of the chats read in the trial didn’t contain any incriminating anti-state assertions and were mainly conversational in style.”