The local authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR have decided to punish one of Badinan detainees included in a presidential decree for reduction of sentence by 60% by reducing his sentence only 50% following his comments of defiance, attorney said.
The freelance reporter Sherwan Sherwani was arrested in 2020 and convicted guilty of disturbing national security of Iraqi Kuridstan region by Erbil criminal court on February 16, 2021, for six years in prison along with four other freelance reporters and civic activists among over 80 detainees of Badinan (Duhok province).
Nechrivan Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKRP, per a residentail decree on February 23rd has reduced the conviction sentence for 5 of Badinan detainees from six years to two years and half, expected to be released after six months.
In June 2021, the penal panel two of Iraqi Kurdistan Appellate Court in Erbil has issued its final verdict unanimously, confirming the court ruling of six-years-in-prison for freelance journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Mohammed Zebari, and civil society activists Ayaz Karam, Hariwan Essa & Shivan Sa'id for “"spying and attempts of coup d'eta and disorder.”
Bashadar Hassan, one of the volunteer attorneys to defend Badinan detainees, told KirkukNow on Monday that he found Sherwani’s dossier reduction of sentence only 50%.
“On Monday, I checked Sherwani’s papers. Due to his message from prison about the presidential decree, his verdict has been reduced by 50% while the others by 60%,” Hassan added.
Taking into consideration the three months off per year for conditional release, they are supposed to be released after six months, Hassan added.
Badinan detainees, few of them tried and freed up today, are victims of a wave of arrests carried out by the Asayish (Kurdish security forces) of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG since June 2020 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.
Sherwani has denounced the verdict and the presidential decree, denying conviction he described as injustice and affirmed defiance.
“It’s good news for our families and relatives but it is not what we looked for because of all the pain and injustice we have seen in over a year of detention at the hands of Erbil (local) administration departments and the (Kurdistan Democratic Party) KDP,” Sherwani said in a voice memo circulated on social media.
“What we have faced is multi-dimensional and unveiled severe injustice so we should not be thrilled by the (presidential decree) reduction of sentence.
The Kurdistan Regional Government have not received the decree yet.
The decree has been issued for sure but we have no information about the details
Kiwestan Mohammed, KRG minister of labor and social affairs in charge of runining prisons in IKR, told KirkukNow on March1st that so far they have not received the presidential decree.
"The decree has been issued for sure but we have no information about the details. We are an executive authority and once we receive the decree we will execute it," she added.
Court verdict was based on interrogation by Kurdistan region Asayish, security, who was in charge of questioning the detainees.
The conviction was based on bill number 21 approved by parliament of Kurdistan, Iraq, in 2003 which revoked item 156 of Iraq penal code stating that "any one purposefully in any means involved in an action that harms security, stability and sovereignty Iraqi Kurdistan region's institutions and causes damage will face life imprisonment or short-term imprisonment."
The court verdict sparked wide protests as Iraqi and international media outlets and organizations, human rights advocates & MPs expressed their grave concern that that press freedom is increasingly under threat in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR.
Local and international media organizations, journalists, civil society activists and lawmakers condemned the conviction as a restraint of freedom of press and expression as the penal code was used as means of suppression by Saddam Hussein totalitarian regime for decades against the opposition parties including the KDP and its partner Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK, the tow key political parties leadingthe KRG and ruling IKR.
The KRG accused Sherwani of spying immediately following his capture. Dindar Zebari, the KRG’s Coordinator for International Advocacy, said, “Sherwani has received payments from foreign sides to disturb security of Kurdistan region.
The independent commission for human rights in Kurdistan region recorded arrest of 300 people from August to October 2020 for "organization of protests and disorder mainly in Duhok northern province. More than 50 are still in prison.
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.