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Trumped-up charges against Duhok detainees: Amnesty

  2021-05-10  | 
 Zhyan News Network
 Zhyan News Network

SULAIMANI – Amnesty International said on Sunday (May 10) that five activists and journalists controversially sentenced to six years in prison in February and recently upheld by the appellate court in Erbil were based upon fabricated charges.

On April 2021, the Kurdistan Region Court of Cassation approved a six-year imprisonment sentence handed down to the three journalists and two activists Sherwan Sherwani,  Guhdar Zebari, Hariwan Isaa, Ayaz Karam and Shvan Saeed on February 16 by an Erbil criminal court over charges amounting to undermining the security and stability of the Kurdistan Region. 

“On February 16, the Erbil Criminal Court had sentenced the five men to six years in prison following unfair trials, based on trumped up charges,” Amnesty Iraq twitted, as it called “to be immediately and unconditionally released” them.

All those detained have denies the charges and said their confessions were taken under duress or tampered.

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.

It comes in the charges directed against the five that they “contacted the US and German consulate generals, were paid by them, visited them [consulate diplomats] in a hotel and showed them Dure area in Barzan.”

Barzan is an area where the ruling Barzani family' birthplace is situated. 

Germany and France have lambasted the court ruling and the charge related to visits to diplomatic visits. Despite declining to comment on the court matter, the US has reiterated its support to the freedom of the press and media work. 

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. 

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.”

(Zhyan English)