Iraq protests: 9 former officials to face corruption charges
Iraq’s Prime Minister on Friday announced that his Supreme Anti-Corruption Council has referred the cases of nine former ministers and governors to stand trial following six days of deadly protests across Iraq’s southern provinces.
Protests, which began in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on October 1 before spreading nationwide, saw thousands of young men rally against unemployment, corruption, and the chronic lack of public services.
At least 103 people were killed and 4,035 injured in clashes between protesters and security forces.
Curfews were imposed on city centers and internet services cut across the country’s south. The government claimed it did not order the brutal repression of protesters, accusing armed groups of exploiting the unrest.
Nevertheless, the protests were a wakeup call for Iraqi officials, especially Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who, as an independent technocrat, has no parliamentary bloc of his own.
Besides decisions aimed at reforms, job creation, and more social welfare programs, the PM on Friday announced he is also taking steps against corruption.
“Based on the directive of the head of the Council of Ministers, and as part of the implementation [phase] of what was included in his speech to the Iraqi people on October 9, 2019, the supreme Anti-Corruption Council referred a number of important corruption cases to the court related to nine high ranking officials after bolstering it with evidence,” the Supreme Anti-Corruption Council said in a statement published by Iraqi PM, dated October 10.
The Anti-Corruption Council said there have been “coordination meetings” with Iraq’s judiciary to “give priority” to the cases and settle them quickly.
Without naming them, the PM said the nine officials include two former ministers and their undersecretaries in the Ministries of Minerals and Industry, Transportation, Higher Education, and Health.
It also includes a former top official in the government and four former governors of the provinces of Babil, Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Saladin.
Although the officials were not identified, observers believe the sacked governors of Kirkuk and Nineveh, Najmaldin Karim and Nawfal Hamadi, may be among them.
Karim was sacked as governor of Kirkuk following the October 16, 2017 events when Iraqi forces seized the oil-rich province from Kurdish forces. He was removed largely for his support for Kurdistan’s independence referendum and for hoisting the Kurdish flag over Kirkuk’s public buildings.
Previously, an investigative court has issued an arrest warrant for Karim for corruption.
In May of this year, Karim was held by Interpol in Lebanon for several days at the request of Iraqi authorities, but he was eventually released after senior Kurdish officials intervened.
As for Nawfal Hamadi, the ousted governor of Nineveh, an arrest warrant for corruption was issued against him in March this year.
He stands accused of corruption and negligence after millions of dollars designated for the reconstruction of Mosul and Nineveh was found to have been kept in private bank accounts. Calls for his removal grew in the aftermath of the Mosul ferry disaster, which killed around 100 people.
Since taking power in October 2018, Abdul-Mahdi has said his government’s priority is to clamp down on corruption. Critics say he has moved too slowly, however. Now the PM in under mounting pressure to deliver results – and not just a few token scalps. Source