Iraqi Kurdistan: Investigative journalist and family punished with imprisonment, threats

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CPTnet

4 April 2013
Iraqi Kurdistan: Investigative
journalist and family punished with imprisonment, threats

The
CPT Iraqi Kurdistan team is growing increasingly concerned by the situation
surrounding imprisoned journalist Karzan Karim. Karim, who has been imprisoned
since late 2011, was found guilty in October 2012 of violating a law
criminalizing any act that “harms state institutions” and “undermines the
security and stability of the region,” after he published a series of articles
calling out corruption he observed in the Erbil International Airport. He is serving
the remainder of his two-year sentence in a general prison in the Iraqi Kurdish
capital of Hawler (Erbil). Prior to October, Karim was held in an intelligence facility, where he claims the Asaish (security forces) tortured him.  Members of the Kurdish Regional Government’s
Parliamentary Human Rights Committee visited Karim last year, and affirmed his
allegations of torture based on their own observations.

Karim’s
case has gained national and international attention. Kurdish and international
human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International,
have been monitoring his situation. 
However, when CPT visited Karim in December, he told the team that,
despite his confidence in his innocence, he was at peace with his sentence. “I
feel more safe inside the prison than I would outside,” he said, speaking to
the team through prison bars on a crowded visitors’ day. Karim described how
his family still receives threats from unknown individuals, warning them to
keep quiet or have their son “end up like Sardasht,” referring to the
journalist Sardasht Osman, who was assassinated in May 2010 after writing
articles critical of the government.

When
CPT first visited with Karzan Karim in late August 2012, he and his father
separately asked the team not to publicize the meeting, such was their fear for
Karim’s safety. But in a recent visit, Karim gave CPT permission to write about
his situation. He described how his family is still receiving threats, and
added, “People have told my wife that when I am released after this sentence [in
October 2013], the Asaish will simply re-arrest me on some other charges.” Asked if Karim had access to his lawyer, he
said yes; “he has been asking for an appeal [to the sentence] … however, he
has been ignored. There is no answer from the authorities.”

Karim
fears that the Asaish “are using their power to scare the citizens and the
people” of Iraqi Kurdistan into silence, and added that his family has faced
increased hardships in the past months seemingly as a punishment for Karim’s
actions.

 

For
more information, see Human
Rights Watch’s report on Karzan Karim

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