An Iraqi court on Monday declared a Hezbollah commander accused of killing U.S. solders in Iraq in 2007 not guilty for lack of evidence and ruled that he be set free.
The case of Ali Mussa Daqduq has been a thorn in diplomatic relations between Baghdad and Washington since the American military pullout last December.
U.S. terror experts have described Daqduq as among "the worst of the worst" militants who would remain a severe threat to Americans if freed.
He is a Lebanese commander for Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group linked to numerous deadly attacks. U.S. officials say he trained Shiite militias in Iraq and helped plot the 2007 killing of four American soldiers in the holy city of Karbala, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Baghdad.
Daqduq was captured late 2007 and held in U.S. custody in Iraq as officials tried to decide where to charge him. When the American military left Iraq late in December, U.S. officials were forced to hand over Daqduq to Iraqi authorities — despite fears in Washington that he would be quietly freed by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
"The judge found that there wasn't enough evidence to keep him in jail and ruled to set him free for lack of evidence," Daqduq's attorney, Abdul-Mahdi al-Mitairi, told The Associated Press after the three-hour trial on Monday.
However, under Iraqi law the verdict will be appealed automatically so Daqduq has still not been released, al-Mitairi said. He added it was unclear when the court would decide on the appeal but it would take no more than six months.
Charges against Daqduq included terrorism and forging official documents.
Nine officials from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad attended the trial in Baghdad's Central Criminal Court, the lawyer added. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad did not have an immediate comment.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Bomb planted on minibus kills 2 in Baghdad Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/05/07/bomb-planted-on-minibus-kills-2-in-baghdad/#ixzz1uJ8otpaO
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Iraq’s vice president on Friday described a terror trial pending against him in Baghdad as part of a political vendetta that has wider repercussions for Iraqi unity and sectarian tensions across the Middle East.
The trial in absentia of Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Muslim, was postponed Thursday as his lawyers appealed to have parliament create a special court to hear the case that could deepen Iraq’s sectarian divide. Al-Hashemi has denied charges that he ran death squads that targeted government officials, security forces and Shiite pilgrims.
Al-Hashemi also alleged that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, may have engineered the trial to snuff out domestic opposition in case he is threatened by a revolt in Iraq similar to that in neighboring Syria.
“It could be a pre-emptive attack” stemming from concern about the upheaval in Syria, al-Hashemi said in an interview with The Associated Press in Istanbul.
“Al-Maliki apparently is very much sensitive to what’s going on in Syria. So from the sectarian angle, he tried to immunize himself in the future in addressing one of the principal political rivals,” he said, referring to his role as a frequent critic of al-Maliki.
A media adviser for al-Maliki disputed claims that the vice president was being targeted for political reasons and said the government does not interfere in the judicial system.
“We do understand that al-Hashemi might say anything to protect himself,” spokesman Ali al-Moussawi said. “The fugitive vice president should go to court and defend himself instead of launching accusations and allegations.”
Al-Hashemi denies allegations he is a lawbreaker, opening a news conference in Istanbul with a declaration that he is not a fugitive. His representatives maintain he left Iraq for diplomatic meetings with regional leaders, not to escape arrest.
The case against al-Hashemi highlights rifts that haunt Iraq after decades of dictatorship, war and civil conflict, and the departure of American troops. It also follows regional revolts that have toppled or undermined authoritarian leaders in the Middle East.
Most in the Syrian opposition, for example, come from the country’s Sunni majority, while President Bashar Assad’s regime relies on the minority Alawites, an offshoot from Shiism. Sunni Arab leaders in the Gulf see the Shiite-led government in Iraq as too soft on Syria, where the United Nations estimates at least 9,000 people, many of them civilians, have died in a government crackdown on dissent.
Additionally, regional powers Iran, led by a Shiite theocracy, and Turkey, which is mostly Sunni but espouses unity across sectarian lines, have supported opposing factions in Iraq.
Al-Hashemi, who fled to Iraq’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region in December to avoid arrest, warned of regional spillover if Iraq’s factions cannot unite and address the mismanagement that he blamed on al-Maliki.
“Iraq is the core of the geopolitical scene in the area. Whatever happens in Iraq is going to affect the neighboring countries,” he said. “We could end up in some sort of sectarian polarization in the Middle East.”
Iraq’s political crisis pits the mostly Shiite leadership against Sunnis and Kurds who accuse it of consolidating power even as public services deteriorate and security remains vulnerable. Last week, Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish autonomous region, threatened to let Kurds vote to secede from Iraq if the government crisis has not been resolved by regional elections in September.
In the AP interview, al-Hashemi said he understood the frustration that led Barzani to talk about partition but said the possibility was “not on the table” in Kurdish circles, at least for now.
“I sit down from time to time with Kurdish leaders and we talk freely and openly about the subject,” al-Hashemi said. “All politicians are very much interested in reaching a political solution rather than jumping into an Iraqi partition.”
On his own dilemma, the vice president held out hope of a settlement.
“I am ready, in fact, to show up in any court provided that I do receive a fair trial, according to the constitution, according to the international justice standard,” he said.
Then he added: “The whole case is politically motivated, so it is waiting for a political solution, not a legal solution.”
Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, accused of running a death squad, said Friday that he has no faith in the Iraqi justice system and fears for his life.
"My life in Baghdad (is) in high risk," the key Sunni Arab leader told journalists in Istanbul, where he has been based more than a month.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's decision to dissolve the vice president's guard unit had increased the threat level, said Hashemi, who is being tried in absentia in a Baghdad court.
"I have great...mistrust about the standard of justice," he explained.
He has challenged the legitimacy of the trial in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), claiming the federal court should have handled the case because he is a sitting vice president.
"This in itself is a straightforward violation of the constitution," he said.
Hashemi and several bodyguards are charged with killing six judges and senior officials, including a lawyer and the director general of the security ministry.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Hashemi in December after the US completed its pullout and he first sought refuge with Iraqi Kurds.
The autonomous population refused to hand him over to Baghdad and he then fled to Turkey, after stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Rejecting claims that he was a "fugitive", Hashemi said he would soon be back in Arbil, the capital of Kurdistan in northern Iraq.
"My colleagues in Iraq suggested I should postpone (the) trip (back to Arbil) for a few days, to provide more convenience to the intensive dialogue going on presently in Baghdad," he said, an apparent hint that a political deal could be reached to ease his return.
Should the trial in absentia continue, Hashemi said he would likely be sentenced to death and that he would then call on the international community "to render help as quick as possible."
Hashemi's trial began Thursday, but was delayed until May 10. His lawyers want the case to be heard by a special court and not by the CCCI.
Hashemi supporters have said they fear the trial will otherwise be politicised.
The decision to charge Hashemi sparked a political crisis that saw the vice president's bloc boycott cabinet and parliament over accusations al-Maliki, a Shiite, was monopolising power.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Violence against journalists and restrictions on media have worsened in the past year in Iraq, a local rights group said, in a country already thought to have among the least press freedoms in the world.
The Journalism Freedoms Observatory (JFO), ahead of Thursday’s World Press Freedom Day, voiced concern over arbitrary arrests, curbs on movement and reporting, and attacks on media workers, including by security forces.
On Tuesday evening, a reporter for Al-Rasheed satellite television channel was badly wounded when magnetic “sticky bombs” attached to his car blew up.
Majid Hamid, 32, had been visiting a relative in south Baghdad and upon departing, the bombs attached to his car exploded, according to Al-Rasheed anchor Ahmed Mullah Tallal.
“JFO has documented a noticeable increase in the rate of violence against journalists/media workers and restrictions imposed on their work,” the Iraq-based media rights group said in a statement released the same night.
“Multiple bills are being introduced by the government, which threaten to severely limit freedom of the press, general freedom of expression and Internet use.”
It said Iraqi security deals “with a journalist holding a camera in the same way it deals with those they find possessing car bombs or unlicensed weapons.”
The JFO said three journalists were killed in attacks over the past year, while seven survived assassination bids. Thirty-one others were beaten by what the group said were uniformed and plainclothes security forces, and 65 arrested.
It had compiled 84 cases of security forces banning media coverage, 43 cases of them blocking the free movement of reporters, and 12 instances of cameras being destroyed or confiscated.
Two media organisations were raided by security forces, the JFO said, and a radio station in southern Iraq was shut down.
The JFO also voiced alarm over what it said were vague and far-reaching laws, ranging from a journalists’ protection law with provisions for authorities to limit information to a bill penalising Internet use for “public interest.”
“Official security decrees limiting journalists’ work have been on the rise in the past year, despite government statements to the contrary,” it said.
Iraq regularly ranks near the bottom of global press freedom rankings. It placed 152nd out of 179 countries in media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders’ 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index, down 22 from the year before.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Iraq boosted crude oil exports in April to an average of 2.51 million barrels a day, the highest level “in decades,” the head of the State Oil Marketing Organization said.
Crude exports rose 8.3 percent last month from 2.32 million barrels a day in March, Falah al-Amri said in a telephone interview in Baghdad today. Oil sales in April generated $8.8 billion in revenue compared with $8.47 billion in the previous month, according to the SOMO website.
Iraq exported 2.12 million barrels a day by sea from the southern terminal of Basra and 387,000 million barrels a day from the northern oil hub of Kirkuk through a pipeline to Turkey, al-Amri said. It also sent 6,000 barrels a day by road into neighboring Jordan, he said.
The Middle Eastern nation holds the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves, according to data from BP Plc that include Canadian oil sands. Iraq produced 2.89 million barrels a day of crude in April, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and expects to increase output to 3.4 million barrels a day by the end of the year.
The country depends on crude sales for money to rebuild the economy after decades of war and sanctions. It has awarded 15 energy-exploration licenses to foreign companies since the U.S.- led invasion of 2003 and plans to auction more drilling rights on May 30.
Al-Amri didn’t specify when Iraq last exported as much oil as it did last month other than to say it was “decades” ago. Asim Jihad, an Oil Ministry spokesman, said on April 1 that exports in March were at the highest since 1980, one year after former President Saddam Hussein came to power.
Exports gained in April even as the self-ruled Kurdish region of northern Iraq stopped pumping crude on April 1 through a pipeline controlled by the central government. The halt came amid a dispute over the sharing of revenue from oil pumped at Kurdish fields.
Labels: Iraq Oil
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Iraq's deputy justice minister says U.S. authorities have handed over 55 members of Saddam Hussein's former regime, including the longtime international face of the regime, Tariq Aziz.
Wednesday's announcement comes a day before U.S. authorities are to depart Camp Cropper, the last American-run detention facility in Iraq.
Iraq's deputy justice minister Busho Ibrahim tells The Associated Press the handover has taken place over the last three days.
U.S. authorities confirmed Wednesday that they had handed over some detainees but would not give any identities.