Freedom of Expression Under Threat: Iraqi Kurdistan court rules that speaking to the U.S. Consulate and international organizations about human right is an act of espionage

11 March 2021

 

On 16 February 2021, the Criminal Court of the First Instance in Erbil found five freelance journalists and civil rights activists guilty of “espionage” and “conspiracy to commit acts that destabilize national security and stability” under Article 1 of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Parliamentary Law No. 21 of 2003. Journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Eyaz Karam and Guhdar Zebari and activists Shivan Saeed and Hariwan Essa were each sentenced to six-year prison terms.

Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an international human rights organization, observed the trial from 15-16 February 2021. 

CPT has considerable concerns about the lack of fairness and due process in the court’s ruling. The prosecutor did not present any direct or reasonable evidence to support the charges. The court’s claim that speaking to representatives of the United States Consulate General, United Nations, and International Organizations about the situation of human rights is punishable as a crime of espionage threatens human rights defenders’ ability to work effectively in the country.

This report reviews the evidence the prosecution presented at the trial. With this evidence, the judge sentenced Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebari, Shivan Saeed, Eyaz Karam and Hariwan Essa to six years in prison.

Read the report here.

 

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