Teacher Badal Barwari freed in Erbil after more than a year in prison

Court orders the release of teacher Badal Barwari after serving more than a year in prison

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Teacher and activist Badal Barwari was released in Erbil on Wednesday night after more than a year behind bars, according to his lawyer.

Lawyer Bashdar Hassan said the court had ordered the release of Barwari after he served the time in prison in Erbil.

On Tuesday, Erbil criminal court sentenced Barwari and Journalist Omed Baroshki to one year each in prison in accordance with Article 222 of the Iraqi penal code.

The two were detained in Duhok in May 2020 in accordance with Article 156 of the Iraqi Penal Code, which is related to undermining security and stability in the country.

The court changed the article to Article 222, which reads: “If the intent of the gathering is to commit a felony or misdemeanor or to prevent the implementation of laws, regulations or decisions or to influence the affairs of the public authorities or to deprive another of his freedom of action with the use of force or menaces, then any person who calls for such a gathering or organizes it or who participates in it while being aware of its objective or any person who remains at it after having become aware of the objective is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 2 years plus a fine not exceeding 200 dinars or by one of those penalties.”

The sentence handed to Barwari is less than the time he has spent in jail in pre-trial detention.

“The court decided to release him after it added to the imprisonment term the 36 days when he spent at an Asayish prison,” the lawyer told Esta Media Network.

Journalist Baroshki will remain in jail due the one-year and six months imprisonment sentence given to him by a court in Duhok on three different cases.

On Wednesday, the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in the Kurdistan Region, which has observed trials of the journalists and activists detained in Duhok last year, said it heard “no evidence” against Barwari and Baroshki during the trial.

“We heard no evidence that Badal Barwari and Omed Baroshki in any way incited violence or were part of planning violent protests,” it said in a statement.

“The evidence that the [Kurdistan Region] Security Council brought to the court of voice messages exchanged between Badal and Sherwan Sherwani proved that Badad was only interested in organizing peaceful protests advocating for human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan,” it added.

In February, journalist Sherwani along with two other journalists, Guhdar Zebari and Ayaz Karam, and activists Shvan Omer and Hariwan Issa was given six years imprisonment sentence by a court in Erbil.

The Kurdish security forces arrested the five in Duhok province in October 2020 over allegedly undermining national security in the Region.

The CPT said Baroshki, Barwari and their lawyers raised “serious” concerns and human rights violations during the trial in court.

Baroshki denied all accusations made in court on Tuesday, the CPT stated, and he spoke about torture during his detention at an Asayish prison.

“He spoke about how after his arrest he was brought to Asayish prison and beaten by 20 people, including being hit at the back of his head with rifle butts,” it cited Baroshki as saying.

The CPT further said Barwari had lost 41 kilograms since his arrest.

“He requested that he be able to bring witnesses to show his innocence,” the watchdog said. “The judges did not allow the lawyer for the defence to call on any witnesses or play a voice recording in defence of Badal.”

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