Today (February 15, 2021) five of the those journalists and activists who have been arrested for months by partisan-affiliated forces in Duhok, stood trial at the second branch of Erbil’s Criminal Court in the capital city of Erbil.
Three freelance journalists (Ayaz Karem, Guhdar Zebari, Sherwan Sherwani) and two civil society activists (Hariwan Ess, Shivan Saeed) who have been arrested since October 2020, are accused undermining ‘national security’.
The lawyers and family members of the detainees were told, yesterday, that the trial will be delayed without giving them deatials. However, the trial took place in a rush today. At first, the lawyers were blocked from attending the session but were allowed later.
The so-called evidence provided by the opposite side was Facebook Messenger chats and other online conversations. However, in a violation of the defendant’s basic rights, the lawyers were not allowed to see the ‘evidence’ and they were prevented to meet their clients before the session, a clear violations of Iraq’s Penal Code.
Relatives of one of the defendants told Kurdistan Watch “phones and laptops of the detainees have been with the security forces affiliated with the KDP (Asayish) since the beginning of their arrest. We are afraid they have made up ‘evidence’ against them given they have access to their electronic devices”.
The trail comes less than a week after the Prime Minister Masrour Barzani accused the journalists and activists of being spies and plotting terror attacks without providing any evidence.
The session is scheduled to proceed tomorrow, Feb 16, 2021. All the foreign embassies, consulates in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, human rights international organization and media watchdogs should immediately get in touch with the Kurdish authorities and demand their release.
The sentence of the political motivated charge is carrying a life sentence. If the trail continues, they probably will be convicted without letting them defend themselves in a faire trail.