On 29 July 2021, CPT observed the court trial for the Badinan activists Badal Barwari and Omed Barushky. Badal Barwari has been a teacher for 24 years, as well as a political organizer. Omed Barushky is an independent journalist who is 21-years-old. Badal and Omed were imprisoned in August 2020 after they organized a demonstration where they demanded the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) pay the salaries of government employees.
Prior to Badal and Omed’s court case, CPT observed all of the announced court trials involving activists and journalists from the Badinan region imprisoned for their criticism of government corruption. After witnessing several court appearances of the Badinan activists and journalists, CPT is confident that all prisoners would be immediately released if given a fair trial. The lack of evidence is astounding. In each trial, witnesses brought forth by the Security Council and Prosecution have sided with the Defence. Each witness directly stated that they would not testify against the prisoners because the Prosecution’s evidence is completely fabricated. Several witnesses have also confirmed that their written testimonies were drafted without their knowledge and consent, and the witnesses were forced to sign them under conditions of torture.
The most recent trial of Badal and Omed revealed that the cases of the Badinan prisoners are contingent on one statement signed by Sherwan Sherwani. During questioning at Thursday’s trial, the representative of the Security Council stated that this document was used as the sole evidence in the arrest of Omed, Badal and several additional activists from the Badinan region.
Sherwan was then brought forth as a witness for the Prosecution on behalf of the Security Council. Sherwan stated to the judge that all the information in the documents containing his signatures was false. Sherwan said he was forced to sign approximately 50 documents while being beaten and that security forces threatened to sexually assault his wife. Sherwan was not allowed to read what he had signed and is hearing their contents for the first time in various trials for fellow activists now called the “Badinan Prisoners.”
In addition to Sherwan, the Security Council summoned Eyaz Karam, Guhdar Zebari, Hariwan Issa, and Shvan Saeed to provide testimony on Thursday. When brought before the judge, Eyaz Karam told the court, “This statement is not mine.” He pointed at the Security Council representative and said, “They forced me to sign this document. We didn’t have any rights!”
All witnesses summoned to provide evidence for the Prosecution have denied that they are witnesses for the Prosecution, stating time and again, “That is not my statement,” and “No, I am not a witness to this,” solidifying the position of the Defence.
The documents that Sherwan Sherwani and fellow prisoners signed under torture have been used to arrest and detain several civil society activists and journalists involved in organizing public protests and addressing state corruption and non-payment of salaries by the Kurdish Government.
Furthermore, the physical condition of the Badinan detainees is very concerning. They have all drastically lost body weight. Several have also exclaimed that they were tortured during brief statements in court.
Finally, it is appalling that the Badinan activists and journalists have been denied access to their lawyers, some for the entirety of their detainment. As Badal and Omed were forced out of the courtroom by Asayish security on Thursday, Omed shouted to a room full of Parliamentarians, Lawyers, and International Observers, “I have been in prison for a year and haven’t seen my lawyer yet!” These were the only words spoken by the defendants in court that day. Badal’s lawyer reported to CPT that he was only allowed to visit his client once, in a ten-minute visit with Badal’s oldest son. As soon as this visit changed to address his client’s case, the security forces immediately ended the conversation. There cannot be a fair trial if the defendants are prevented from explaining their case to their lawyers before the trial.
CPT calls for the immediate release of Badal Barwari, Omed Barushky and all of the Badinan Prisoners. The lack of evidence, the statements signed under torture, and the denial of legal defence are overwhelming causes for these trials to be thrown out of a free and fair court.
***A summary transcript of the Prosecution’s witness statements for the court trial of Badal Barwari and Omed Barushky (as reflected in notes taken by CPT during the court proceedings) can be found here