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Imprisonment sentence for Duhok 5 convicts approved

  2021-05-06  | 
 Zhyan News Network
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 – Presidency of the Kurdistan Region Court of Appeals approved a February 16 court ruling for the controversial sentencing of five journalists and activists to six years in prison and surveillance after their release, according to a written document made public on Thursday (May 6).

Three out of the court’s five judges voted in favor of the court decree featuring in a document signed by head of the appellate court on February 28 and issued by legal expert and former judge and lawmaker Latif Mustafa. 

The convicts will be put under security surveillance even after their releases for five years, according to the document. 

The court document also alleges that the five convicts telephoned the US and German consulates in Erbil and received an amount of cash from them.

The court ruling also accused the five for espionage on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials and the Region’s jails in favor of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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.

Kurdistan Region President Nehcirvan Barzani can annul the verdict, Mustafa said. 

On Tuesday, the court approval was circulated on the media outlets, but lawyer representing the convicts said the decision was not typed out and published yet.  

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari said at a news conference on Thursday that the government “is the implementing side. We have full belief in the court and the Kurdistan Region Judicial Authority is independent.”

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.  

On Tuesday international organization Christian Peacemakers said at a news conference that “there was no enough evidence that could charge five detainees with espionage.”

“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 in March, citing witnesses of the trial

US has shed light on the state of press freedom in Department of State's annual report published on March 30, especially the case of the detained and convicted journalists and activists. 

Last summer and autumn, a number of journalists and activists, including the five, 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.

385 violations against journalists and media outlets were logged throughout 2020, according to the local watchdog Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy.

(Zhyan English)