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France slams Kurdistan Region over Erbil 5 convicted journalists, activists

  2021-05-08  | 
 Zhyan News Network
A combined graphic of the Kurdistan Region Judicial Council (R) French Consul General in Erbil (C) along with Journalists and activists Sherwan Sherwan, Shvan Saeed, Guhdar Zebari, Hariwan Issa and Ayaz Karam (L), 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 – French Consulate General in Erbil said on Saturday (May 8) that it was concerned with a court approval to the case of five convicted journalists and activists sentenced to five years in prison by a court in Erbil in February over controversial charges.

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 and was approved by the Region’s appellate court on Thursday. 

“We are recalling that the friendship that binds us to the Kurdish people and the cooperation between France and the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan are based on common values and shared principles, including freedom of the press, freedom of expression and demonstration hold a fundamental place,” the French consulate said in a statement.

The court ruling and its ensuing approval by the appellate court have sparked internal and external condemnations and calls for an annulment of the court ruling.

One of the charges directed by the courts at the five is that “they contacted the US and German General Consulates, met their diplomats in a hotel and were paid by them, showed the diplomats in Dure in Barzan area" where ruling Barzani family belongs to. 

“We are expressing deep concern at any attempt to criminalize contacts between the press and civil society with diplomatic and consular representations established in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan," added the statement. 

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.

(Zhyan English) 

*This story was updated at 08:32 pm EBL on Saturday (May 8)