SULAIMANI – Lawyers representing five journalist and activists sentenced last month said late on Thursday (March 5) that a confession video issued by the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) has no “legal value” and is “dismissive.”
On February 16, the Branch 2 of Erbil’s Criminal Court sentenced five journalists and activists to six years in prison over mysterious charges amounting to the undermining of the Kurdistan Region’s security.
The detainees have denied the charges.
The trial sparked outrage many politicians and local and international human rights organizations.
In a 25-minute video footage, KRSC accused the detainees of “spying” to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), “taking pictures of forbidden places”, “releasing information about the movement of the security forces”, and “receiving money from the PKK for exchanging information about the security agencies.”
“The communication devices belonging to the Badinan convicts were already taken over by the security forces and [their contents] have been manipulated and deformed,” lawyer Bashdar Hassan representing the convicts said.
“Legally speaking, if any [communication] device is confiscated, it should be opened at the presence of the accused and their lawyers to check it, thus its [KRSC] practice was a violation to law.”
Hassan also alleged that the statements taken from the convicts within the clip were not “their messages.”
“They have showed a so-called Ardal alleging he has spoken to the convicts, but Ardal is their person,” he said.
Following the KRSC statement, three KRSC members rejected the video and said in a statement that they were not aware of the confessions.
“Two out of the five KRSC members accepted the publication of the confessions, which is another point proving the publication has no legal value,” the lawyer said.
Convicts’ families reject confessions
Following the video footage, the families of the convicts refused the KRSC statement.
“The Badinan detainees previously rejected the confessions and said that they were forced to make such confessions under duress,” Said Issa, brother of Hariwan Issa told Zhyan News Network.
“Hariwan was convicted as a spy and saboteur at the court, but he pointed out that he did not participate in any demonstration. Neither was there any evidence put forward for his spying,” Issa said.
Issa’s mother told Zhyan that she “has a bad feeling” when she was the clip.
“The confession has no signs to show that my son is a spy,” she said, as she called for the Court of Appeal and relevant sides to review the case and reduce his son’s sentence.
Change Movement (Gorran) bloc in the Kurdistan Parliament said in a statement that the confessions in video was different and contradicting to the one their lawmakers heard inside the court trial.
“We are calling on the court to take into account the principle of justice and review the case impartially and away from any political pressure and release them.”
The confession video was promulgated at a delicate moment as several local and international advocacy groups have warned of the deteriorating state of the freedom of press and expression.