Appeals court majority members approve ruling for Duhok convicts
Journalists and activists Sherwan Sherwan, Shvan Saeed, Guhdar Zebari, Hariwan Issa and Ayaz Karam, who were sentenced to six years in prison by a court in Erbil on February 16, 2021. Graphic by Zhya News Network
Zhyan News Network
SULAIMANI – Three out of five judges from the Kurdistan Region Court of Appeals approved a six-year-imprisonment sentence handed down to each five Duhok journalists and activists in mid-February by a court in Erbil, a legal expert said on Tuesday (May 4).
On February 16, Second Branch of the Erbil Criminal Court sentenced the five
to six years in prison over controversial charges for undermining the stability and security of the Kurdistan Region, but they deny the charges and claim their confessions were manipulated.
On Tuesday, three out five judges from the appeals court’s penal body, which is tasked to review legal cases, approved the court’s ruling.
“A black and dangerous turning point in using court for political penalties. This will sully the Region’s fame further,” legal export and former judge Latif Mustafa said on his Facebook.
“The only way is that the Kurdistan Region President should live up to its statements and issue amnesties for them, because it is not being predicted the general body of the court of appeals change or wants to change its verdict.”
Lawyer Harem Abdulla representing the convicts said at a news conference that majority of the court's judges had approved the verdict but the approval should be issued to officalize it.
Last summer and autumn, a number of journalists and activists were arrested by the security forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Erbil in a bid to crack down protests criticism over the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) decision to delay and slash public sector salary payments amid deteriorating economic conditions.
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 affiliated with Barzani’s party the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in areas under its jurisdiction last year.
385 violations against journalists and media outlets were logged throughout 2020, according to the local watchdog Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy.