Case of five journalists, activists sent back to appeal court: lawyer

File – A man holds a picture of some journalists detained by security forces in the Kurdistan Region

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The case of five journalists and activists sentenced to six years in jail has now been returned to the Court of Appeals, said a lawyer on Monday.

Bashdar Hassan, lawyer of the five, said the case was sent back to the court of appeals on Thursday after their lawyers presented their last appeal to the court.

The court of appeal in Erbil upheld convictions of the journalists and activists in May, who were detained in Duhok province in October 2020 over allegedly undermining national security in the Region.

On February 16, Erbil criminal court-2 sentenced journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebrai and Ayaz Karam as well as activists Shvan Omer and Hariwan Issa to six years each in jail on national security charges.

“We have requested to send the case to the general board [within the court], and we expect it to be given to the board including 15 judges so that they can review the case and the ruling,” Hassan told Esta Media Network.

“I think the pressures inside and outside the Kurdistan Region will have an impact. In the previous decision, two out of five judges didn’t sign the decision because they didn’t believe it. We are expecting the number to increase in the general board,” he said.

People including lawyers and judges criticized the ruling, saying it was a “political decision” to punish the journalists and activists, who called for protests in Duhok province.

The ruling also alleged that that the defendants “contacted the U.S. and German consulates and received money,” without giving further details.

It also alleged that “the defendants confessed that they had met with the German consul in one of the hotels in Erbil and they sent him [the consul] to Dora area twice, directed by the head of the group defendant Shirwan Amina Na’oo.”

U.S. and European consulates in Erbil as well as EU embassy in Baghdad expressed shock over the ruling which allegedly linking the diplomatic missions to the case.

The lawyer further said two other court trials would be held on July 5 and 12 on the cases of nine activists who were also detained in Duhok province.

Some of the activists are charged with espionage and undermining national security, the lawyer said.

Two other activists, Badal Barwari and Omed Baroshki, would be tried on August 17, he added.

“There are still 35 more activists whose cases are still at Asayish,” Hassan noted, referring to the directorate of security in Duhok.

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