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Speaker Fayaq calls into question judiciary in Kurdistan Region

  2021-04-16  | 
 Zhyan News Network
File Photo -Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Rewaz Fayaq (File)
 Zhyan News Network

Sulaimani – Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Rewaz Fayaq casted doubt over the judiciary in the Kurdistan Region over the case of five journalists and activists handed a six-year imprisonment sentence in February by a court in Erbil over controversial charges of undermining the security and stability of the Region. 

Last summer and autumn, a number of journalists and activists were arrested by forces affiliated with the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Duhok in a crackdown viewed as a bid to quash protests and criticism over the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) decision to delay and slash public sector salary payments amid deteriorating economic conditions.

On February 15, five of the detainees were sentenced to six years in jail after the Branch 2 of Erbil’s Criminal Court convicted the five for “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.”

“If people had had actual trust with the judicial authority and the courts in the Kurdistan Region, nobody would have doubted about the court decree for imprisoning or sentencing those dear people in Badinan,” Fayaq told Voice of America (VOA) on Thursday (March 16). 

“Of course, it is illegal if their case was related to the freedom of expression and dealt with other cases,” she said, claiming that the freedom of expression compared with the previous year is “backtracking.”

Local and international watchdogs have voiced alarm by the aggravating state of freedom of press and expression in the Region, especially after clampdowns on anti-government protests by the security forces in Duhok.  

In its annual report released on April 7, Amnesty International said that there were journalists among the protesters detained by the security forces in Duhok in May. 

On April 1, the Kurdistan Parliament’s Social Affairs and Protection of Human Rights Committee members visited a jail in Erbil holding the convicts.

The Committee Rapporteur Badriya Esmail said that the convicts told them they were not allowed to meet with their lawyers before and after their sentences, only a few of them visisted one of their families before the court trial. 

“This is a kind of human rights violation,” Esmail said at the time. “The convicts told us that they cannot comfortably contact their families.”

US Department of State also shed light on the deteriorating state of the freedom of expression and freedom in the Kurdistan Region., especially the case of the five convcists. 

In December 2020, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed concerns about “deterioration of press freedom” in the Region and called on KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to “condemn the recent intimidation of local news outlets and to do everything in your power to ensure they are able to carry out their work freely and safely without fear of reprisal.”

(Zhyan English)