Erbil court of Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR on Monday has postponed the trial of four out of over 80 activists and journalists detained since last year to October 20th due to replacement of members of the jury, a member of defense team said.
The first trial of Kargar Abbas, Bandawar Rashid, Sherwan Taha Amin and Masoud Ali Shingali was held in September was postponed Erbil criminal Court 2 to October 4th for the same reason.
Rebaz Yousif, member of the volunteer team of defense, told KirkukNow in front of Erbil court the trial was postponed because the first and the second deputy presidents of the court were replaced.
"Two judges were temporary members of the jury and replaced by two other permanent members," Yousif added. "Part of the issue is legal yet the other side is a political pressure over the process of trial for Badinan civic activists and journalists.
On September 23rd, Omed Baroshki, a freelance journalist, one of Duhok 82 detainees of Duhok, was sentenced by Duhok court of one year in prison for charges of defamation, Christian Peace Makers Team CPT, an NGO defending freedom of expression, said in a statement.
Baroshki, the four tried Monday and tens of other journalists and civic activists in prison, are victims of a wave of arrests carried out by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since October in response to a series of major protests against delay in salaries of state employees, KRG handling of the economic crisis resulting from disputes with Baghdad over oil production, export and corruption, and reached its peak under the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most of Duhok (Badinan) detainees, including Baroshki, have gone on hunger strike for weeks against long pre-trial detention in the Asayish (prisons), unfair trials and poor imprisoning conditions as hundreds are detained in small detention cells and banned from seeing their relatives.
They are accused espionage and undermining national security and tried per law Number 21 of 2003 of terrorism which states "any one deliberately in any form involved in an act aims at destabilizing security and stability of IKR or its sovereignty faced life sentence or imprisonment."
Erbil Criminal Court in February has convicted five of Badinan detainees of six-years-in-prison for "undermining national security".
The penal panel two of Iraqi Kurdistan Appellate Court has issued its final verdict unanimously on June 20, upholding the court ruling of six-years-in-prison for freelance journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Mohammed Zebari, and civil society activists Ayaz Karam, Hariwan Essa and Shivan Sa'id.
"We want the court to perform its duties not pushed into a political framework because there is no proof against any one of them, who are mainly teachers and activists," said Tangaz Ayoub Rashif, brother of Bandawar Ayoub, one of Badinan detainees.
"The trial session is delayed on purpose in order to hurt relatives of the detainees whom travel from Duhok to Erbil for the third time and the session is adjourned," he added.
Over 300 people were arrested from August to October 2020 per law number 2 of 2003 for charges of organizing demonstrations and disorder mostly in Duhok and 50 still in prison up today, the indepdent commission for human rights in Kurdistan said.
People have gathered in front of houses of justice in several cities and towns including the province of Kirkuk in solidarity with Badinan detainees and protested their arrest, long pre-trial detention and delay of their trials.
Rajbar Abbas, brother of Kargar Abbas, one of Badinan detainees due to be tried today, told KirkukNow, "the process is completely political since now it's almost a year and found no proof against Kargar and the others."
"They are all teachers and were holding pens not guns when arrested, as they claim, and the motive behind the delay of the trial is political."