Iraqi jailed over tweet ‘insulting’ pro-Iran paramilitaries

Two killed during protest against ruling

(Photo: Envato Elements)

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi activist has been sentenced to three years in prison over a disputed tweet deemed insulting to a pro-Iran paramilitary force, court documents seen by AFP Wednesday showed.

اضافة اعلان


Two protesters in Iraq’s southern city of Nasiriyah were shot dead in clashes with security forces at a rally against an activist’s prison sentence, a health official told AFP.


“Two protesters were shot dead” in the clashes and 21 others were wounded, including five by gunfire, said Hussein Riyad, a spokesman for the Dhi Qar provincial health ministry.


Haidar Al-Zaidi, 20, had written on Facebook Sunday that he faced charges of “insulting state institutions”.


On Monday, the court delivered its verdict, which Zaidi can appeal.


Zaidi was prosecuted over a post, long since deleted from his Twitter account, criticizing the slain deputy commander of the paramilitary Hashed Al-Shaabi force, Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandis. Screen grabs of the disputed tweet were shared by accounts close to the Hashed.


Mohandis was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in January 2020 alongside Iranian foreign operations commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani.


He is revered as a martyr by the Hashed, a paramilitary group integrated into Iraq’s security forces whose political wing forms part of Iraq’s ruling coalition.


The court granted the Hashed permission to seek financial damages from Zaidi for the alleged insult.


Zaidi has denied he posted the tweet, claiming his account was hacked, according to the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW).


“Regardless of who posted the Twitter message, the Iraqi justice system should not be used as a tool to suppress peaceful criticism of the authorities or armed actors,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East director, Adam Coogle.


Iraq was hit by a wave of protests in late 2019 that were crushed by the security forces in a bloody crackdown that killed more than 600 people.


In June, the UN mission in Iraq spoke of an “environment of fear and intimidation” created by assaults and bombings carried out by unidentified armed elements and “aimed at suppressing dissent and criticism”.


On social media, users contrasted the three-year jail term handed down against Zaidi with the recent release on bail of businessman Nour Zuhair Jassem, who is accused of fraudulently withdrawing a significant part of $2.5 billion in public funds that were stolen from a government account.


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