Six months in prison for freelancer served two others sentences

Guhdar Zebari, a freelance journalist, sentenced to six months in prison for the third time by KRG court. Facebook Account of Zebari

By Ammar Aziz in Duhok

Journalist Guhdar Zebari has been sentenced to six months in prison for the third time after being accused of possessing an illegal weapon in a trial was held in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR, on Sunday.

The third case was filed while Zebari was scheduled to be released on August 16, from the Erbil Rehabilitation Facility, but he was transferred to the Erbil Asayish (Security) Directorate.

Guhdar and four other activists and journalists were sentenced on February 16, 2021 by the Erbil Criminal Court to six years in prison after being accused of "espionage, coup attempt and riot".

Before fully serving his sentence in March 2023, Guhdar was sentenced to five months in prison on the background of another case. He was accused of changing the plate number of his vehicle without official approval when arrested.

“My brother was unjustly punished again. He will remain in the prison for another six months before being released,” Zidane, Zebari's brother, told KirkukNow. "The court's decision is really unfair against Guhdar and his family," he said.

Revink Yasin, a volunteer lawyer for the Badinan Journalists and Activists Defense Team, told KirkukNow: “Guhdar Zebari was sentenced to six months in prison but he was detained for a month and 14 days by Asayish so he will be released after four months and half from now.”

"It was definitely an unfair decision. A case has been filed and put before the judge to decide. Even the judge himself is not convinced of his verdict," he said.

The court's decision is really unfair

The case was filed under the first paragraph of Article 15 of the 2022 Weapons Law on the grounds of finding a gun in his house when he was arrested in October

Zebari's brother said the hunting rifle did not belong to him and was not used in any way. Earlier, Zebari's relatives said the gun belonged to their grandfather and it was kept only for decoration at home.

“We completely denounce court verdict,” Zidane added.

According to Article 15 of the Arms Law; Anyone who possesses, sells, repairs, or possesses a firearm or ammunition without a license shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than one year and not more than three years, and shall be fined not less than two million dinars and not more than five million dinars.

According to the law, firearms include “pistols and rifles,” but ammunition weapons include bullets used in firearms and any parts thereof.

Badinan detainees are victims of a wave of arrests carried out by the Kurdish security forces Asayish since June 2020 in response to a series of major protests against delay in payments of monthly salaries for state employees, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s 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 and lately banning the KRG from exporting oil via Turkey.

The freelance reporters Zebari and Sherwan Sherwani, along with civic activists Ayaz Karam, Hariwan Essa & Shivan Sa'id were arrested in 2020 and convicted guilty of disturbing national security of IKR by Erbil criminal court on February 16, 2021, for six years in prison among over 80 detainees of Badinan (Duhok province).

Sherwani and Zebari are still in prison. Erbil court of the IKR has sentenced Sherwani to four years in prison on charges of fraud end of last June.

Zebari's relatives filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission in mid-June against the Erbil General Security for keeping him in prison without trial.

The Independent commission for Human Rights in the IKR recorded detention of 300 people from August to October 2020 for "organization of protests and disorder mainly in Duhok province.”

The KRG has sent over 50 activists and journalists to court in 2020 and 2021 and some of the cases are still pending at court awaiting trial.

  • FB
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • YT