SULAIMANI – A court in Erbil will put to trial detained teacher and activist Badal Barwari on August 17, nearly a year after he was arrested by the security forces in Duhok following anti-government protests calling on the Kurdistan regional Government (KRG) end to salary cuts and delays, his lawyer said on Monday (May 10).
Aso Hashim, head of Barwari’s team of lawyers, said at a news conference that Barwari will be tried by the Second Branch of the Erbil Criminal Court, the same court which sentenced five journalists and activists in February.
On August 19, Barwari was apprehended by the police in Duhok on charges of Communication Devices Misuse Law.
On October 4, Duhok Criminal Court ruled to release Barwari due to lack of substantiated charges, but the court decree was not followed through.
Barwari were arrested several times in the past due to his anti-government criticism and was among the main organizers of protests in Duhok last year.
Last summer and autumn, a number of journalists and activists, including Barwari, were arrested by the security forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Duhok.
The detentions were viewed as a bid by the KDP to crack down protests criticism over KRG decision to delay and slash public sector salary payments amid deteriorating economic conditions.
Five of the detainees have been recently sentenced to
six years in jail over controversial charges amounting to the undermining the security and stability of the Kurdistan Region.
All those detained have denies the charges and said their confessions were taken under duress or tampered.
The detentions and the February ruling and recent appellate court approval on one hand and KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani’s accusing the five of being “spies” before the court judgement have called into question the sovereignty of the judicial system in the Region.
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 the KDP in areas under its jurisdiction last year.
A retired judge from the Kurdistan Region Court of Cassation told Voice of America (VOA) that the court are not independent of interventions by the political parties and described the upheld case as “politically motivated.”