SULAIMANI – There was no enough evidence that could charge five Badinan detainees with “espionage,” said international organization Christian Peacemakers’ Team (CPT) on Tuesday (May 4), after the Kurdistan Region Court of Appeals approved a six-year-imprisonment sentence against the journalists and activists.
“We were there at the court to observe and what we saw; there was no evidence that could in any independent court support the charges that they were charged with,” CPT which supports freedoms and peaceful activities in conflict areas, said.
Three out of five judges from the Kurdistan Region Court of Appeals approved a five-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).
Speaking to Kurdish reporters in Duhok, a CPT representative criticized Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for accusing the journalists and activists of “spying and committing acts of sabotage” before court decisions.
“We remember that [KRG] Prime Minister Masrour Barzani before the court said that those are not journalists and they are not activists, but they are already and they plan to commit acts of sabotage, and then the criminal court decided exactly the same way,” he added.
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.
CPT called on the President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani “to act in this situation, because he already said that the court should be independent.”
It said they viewed the verdict as an attack on freedom of expression.
The approval of jail terms against the Duhok journalists and activists sparked outrage in the Kurdistan Region from activists and legal experts.
“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.