The Scotsman

Iraqi courts order anti-government protesters’ release


Iraq’s judiciary has ordered courts to release anti-government protesters, carrying out one of the first decisions of the recently inaugurate­d prime minister just as dozens of demonstrat­ors burned tyres in renewed protests against the new leadership.

Premier Mustafa al-kadhimi also promoted a well-respected Iraqi general, who played a key role in the military campaign against the Islamic State, to lead counter-terrorism operations.

Lieutenant General Abdul Wahab al-saadi was mysterious­ly demoted last year by former prime minister Adel Abdul-mahdi, prompting outrage and sparking popular protests in northern Iraq and Baghdad.

The Supreme Judiciary Council said in a statement that it had ordered the release of protesters detained since those demonstrat­ions erupted, in line with the new prime minister’s call.

The council released detainees based on Article 38 of the constituti­on which guarantees the right to protest, “provided that it is not accompanie­d by an act contrary to the law”, the statement said.

In a press briefing on Saturday night following his first Cabinet meeting as premier, Mr al-kadhimi said demonstrat­ors should be protected and that all protesters should be released, except those involved in violence.

Protests erupted in Baghdad and across the country’s south on October 1, when frustrated Iraqis took to the streets to decry rampant government corruption, unemployme­nt and poor services.

Human rights groups say at least 600 people died in the following three months at the hands of Iraqi security forces who used live fire and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The demonstrat­ions petered out with the rise of the coronaviru­s pandemic, though dozens of protesters are still camped out in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square determined not to let the movement die.

Mr al-kadhimi also said he was promoting Mr al-saadi to become head of Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism service, just as the country was experienci­ng an upsurge in attacks by the Islamic State group in the north.

Previously, the general was a force commander in the the service before Mr Abdul-mahdi demoted him in September to a post in the defence ministry.

The Iraqi public considered his sudden demotion a sign of corrupt government practices and took to the streets in outrage. Mr al-saadi, 56, was one of the leading commanders in the fight against IS and the battle to retake Mosul.

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