On Tuesday 19 October 2021, Badal Barwari and Omed Barushky were sentenced to one year in prison, accused of encouraging people to join violent demonstrations and charged under Article 222 of the Iraqi Penal Code (Law No.111 of 1969). They received time served, and Barwari expects to be released on 26 November. Barushky will remain in prison for other charges related to Article 2 ofLaw No 6 (2008) to Prevent the Misuse of Telecommunications Equipment.
In court, Barushky, Barwari, and their lawyers raised serious concerns about the investigation and trial amounting to human rights violations.
Barushky denied all accusations made in court on 19 October. He recounted that he was brought to the Asaish prison and beaten by 20 people after his arrest, including being hit in the back of his head with rifle butts. The Asaish put him in a 30-person cell with 130 other prisoners. Asaish officers threatened him during the investigation process.
Barwari has lost 41kg since his arrest. He spoke openly about organizing demonstrations for teachers and pointed out that he had not committed any crime. He requested that he be able to bring witnesses to show his innocence. The judges did not allow the lawyer for the defence to call on any witnesses or play a voice recording in defence of Barwari.
Their lawyers addressed several concerning issues: they were prevented from meeting their clients before the first trial, the investigation happened without the presence of a lawyer, their clients were forced to open their mobile phones, and they were not given a list of accusations or charges, despite numerous requests to the court and Security Council. The Asaish were also using intimidation tactics by being present at the only meeting the lawyers had with their client and in the courtroom. Their final statement pointed to the lack of evidence and stated that even the rocks and trees in Badinan stood witness to these men’s innocence.
We heard no evidence that Badal Barwari and Omed Barushky in any way incited violence or were part of planning violent protests. The Security Council brought voice messages exchanged between Barwari and Sherwan Sherwani as evidence, which proved that Barwari was only interested in organizing peaceful demonstrations advocating for human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Erbil criminal court took an important step in re-establishing people’s trust in the justice system when they refused the prosecution’s request for Badal Barwari and Omed Barushky to be charged with Article 156 of the Iraqi Penal Code (Law No.111 of 1969, as amended by Law No.21 (2003). Defendants charged under this article generally receive 20-year sentences for anti-state activities and terrorism charges.
We hope that the courts continue to show their independence from political parties and that the trials of the other Badinan Prisoners are conducted fairly and justly according to the rule of law. As the lawyers rightly pointed out, it is not illegal to participate in or organize peaceful demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan.
CPT stands in solidarity with the Badinan Prisoners and their families calling for the courts to take further steps to ensure the safeguarding of freedom of expression in Iraqi Kurdistan.