Journalists and activists Sherwan Sherwan, Shvan Saeed, Guhdar Zebari, Hariwan Issa and Ayaz Karam, who were sentenced by a court in Erbil on March 29, 2021. Graphic by Zhya News Network
SULAIMANI – Criminal charges were “fabricated” in “unjust” court ruling against five Duhok journalists and activists, said international organization Christian Peacemakers’ Team (CPT) on Thursday (May 6).
There was political motive behind the court decision, CPT which supports freedoms and peaceful activities in conflict areas, said, accusing Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of using court to restrain freedom of expression.
“The Badinan journalists and activists are sentenced not according to the rule of law and justice but according to the political decision of the KDP [Kurdistan Democratic Party] to punish those who criticize corruption and to suppress journalists and civil society initiatives,” CPT said in a statement.
The courts handled the Duhok case in the same way sought by the Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the statement reads.
“The Criminal Court and the Court of Cassation in their decisions followed what the Iraqi Kurdistan’s Prime Minister, and one of the KDP leaders, Masrour Barzani, had publicly announced about the Badinan prisoners ahead of their trial.”
It also called on the President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani to grant amnesty to the journalists and activists.
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.
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.