Syrian Journalist Arrested Last October Faces Trial

Suleiman Ahmed, Syrian-Kurdish journalist and editor, was arrested on Syria-Iraqi Kurdistan border end of October. Roj News

By KirkukNow

The Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR has set June 30 for the trial of a Syrian journalist arrested last October for disturbing the security of the region, lawyers told KirkukNow.

The lawyers said journalist Suleiman Ahmed, faces trial at the court of Duhok Northern Province 220 days after his arrest, under the same law that punished journalists and activists of Badinan.

Reveng Yasin, a lawyer, and member of the defense team of Ahmad, told KirkukNow that the court has informed them that the first hearing will be held on June 30.

“We were able to see his arrest and obtain a power of attorney to be his lawyer officially.”

Yasin stressed that Suleiman Ahmed will be tried under Article 1 of Law No. 21 of 2003, "This article is related to those who disrupt the security of the Kurdistan Region.

In 2023, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) brought more than 50 activists, journalists, teachers, and others to court under the same law. So far, five people have been sentenced to prison under the law.

Law No. 21 is the same article that Saddam Hussein, as chairman of the Revolutionary Leadership Council, applied to the Kurdish Peshmerga and his regime's opposition before 2003, with minor changes.

"We will defend Suleiman Ahmed in every way. We are well prepared to do something good for him on the day of his trial," Yasin said.

On October 25, Ahmed, 35, a news editor in the Arabic section of the Rojnews Agency, was arrested at the Fishkhabur (Simelka) Syria-IKR border crossing, while returning from northeast Syria to the IKR. He went missing for five days before the Dohuk Asayish (security) announced his detention.

Rojnews Agency says on its website that it belongs to Chatr Publishing Company and publishes its articles in Kurdish (both Sorani and Kurmanji dialects) and Arabic languages. The concessioner is Hasan Hama Raza and it is licensed by KRG.

Ahmed is originally from Afrin and has lived in the IKR since 2018. In October 2023, he returned to his hometown to participate in his father’s funeral and was arrested during his return to the Duhok Northern Province.

Duhok Security forces did not mention in its statement last January the charges against Ahmed as a journalist and indicated that the Asayish forces “arrested a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who was moving between Rojava (Kurdish region of Syria) and the Kurdistan Region for secret and illegal tasks, so he was arrested.”

Law No. 21 was passed on September 27, 2003, in a regular session of the Kurdistan Parliament chaired by Roj Nuri Shaweis, and aims to abolish several articles of the Iraqi Penal Code.

The law consists of six articles, the first of which replaces Article 156 of the Iraqi Penal Code, which states: "Anyone who deliberately and in any way, involved in an act intended to harm the security, stability, and sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region. The cause of the damage is punishable by life imprisonment or temporary imprisonment.”

The law was published in the 45th issue of the Kurdistan Waqaea (Reality) newspaper on October 28, 2003, and has been in force ever since.

Although the lawyers and members of the defense team repeatedly asked the security forces to see Suleiman to at least sign a power of attorney to defend him, the security forces said they did not have it. They arrested him until the end of last month.

The local and international organizations, human rights advocates members of the Iraqi and Kurdistan parliaments MPs continuously express their grave concern that the journalists and the freedom of the press are increasingly under threat all over Iraq including the IKR.

Almost 249 violations were registered against journalists in the IKR last year, according to the Metro Center for the Protection of Journalists' Rights

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