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Five Duhok detainees to be released: lawyer

Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Five of the detainees from Duhok whose cases prompted an international outcry from media watchdogs, human rights groups, and diplomats are expected to be released on Thursday, one of their lawyers told Rudaw.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has come under fire for the prosecution of the dozens of people arrested during anti-government protests in Duhok last year. 

On Thursday, the court released Amer Khalid Agid and sentenced Frsat Ahmad, Jamal Khalil, Suleiman Kamal, and Suleiman Mousa to one year in prison. However, since they have already served time since September 6, 2020, the court has agreed to release them, Bashdar Hassan said.

Their trial began in July on charges that include “plotting chaos.” During their first trial, MPs said there was no proof for the alleged crimes they were accused of.

Hearings for the cases were postponed two times.

Thursday’s case is the second to be resolved among dozens. Teacher and activist Badal Barwari was released on Wednesday after he was also sentenced to one year in prison but was counted as time served since his detention last year.

Barwari was arrested along with journalist Omed Baroshki in Duhok in the summer of 2020 after anti-government protests over unpaid wages. Baroshki was also sentenced to one year but he will face “some defamation cases in Duhok.” He was convicted in June and sentenced to a year in prison on a separate charge of “misusing a communication device.” 

European diplomats in June said they were concerned that “basic fair trial standards have not been respected” during the prosecution of Barwari and Baroshki’s co-defendants. 

Erbil has defended the trials, stating that the courts are independent and has requested assistance from the UN and foreign missions to strengthen the legal system and train judges. 

“The Kurdistan Regional Government does not and will not interfere with legal processes. We call on the foreign and domestic entities to respect the court’s decisions and heed the impartiality of the judicial process,” Dindar Zebari, the government’s coordinator for international advocacy, said in response to the EU statement.

There are multiple cases ongoing on similar charges in connection with the Duhok protests last year. The first group to be put on trial – Sherwan Sherwani, Shvan Saeed, Ayaz Karam, Hariwan Issa, and Guhdar Zebari – were found guilty of endangering national security and sentenced to six years in jail.

The United Nations mission in Iraq and diplomats issued a joint statement in June after their appeal was rejected, saying the decision “regrettably confirms the urgent need for judicial and institutional reform in the KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq] to prevent such miscarriages of justice in the future.”