Alarming Escalation of Legal Threats against Civil Society
An activist has been sentenced to three years in prison in Iraq for allegedly writing a tweet deemed to have insulted an Iran-backed paramilitary force.
A court convicted Haidar al-Zaidi, 20, of “insulting state institutions” over a post about Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the late deputy commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).
Zaidi denied writing the tweet, insisting that his account was hacked.
Human Rights Watch condemned Zaidi’s trial as “patently unfair”.
“Regardless of who posted the Twitter message, the Iraqi justice system should not be used to as a tool to suppress peaceful criticism of the authorities or armed actors,” said Adam Coogle, the campaign group’s deputy Middle East director.
“It is a sad reflection on the rule of law in Iraq that an activist like Zaidi gets three years in prison for a Twitter post he says he didn’t write while dozens of officials and armed groups enjoy impunity for killing activists and protesters.”
Zaidi was arrested in June in connection with a tweet that included a photograph of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and lamented how only in Iraq would a “spy” be given the label of “martyr”.
Muhandis was the leader of Kataib Hezbollah, a powerful Iran-backed Iraqi Shia Muslim militia designated by the US as a terrorist group.
He was also deputy commander of the PMF, an umbrella group of dozens of mainly Shia militias that is formally part of the Iraqi Security Forces but in practice operates independently and wields significant power.
In January 2020, Muhandis was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad alongside top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
Many Iraqis mourned the two men as martyrs, but some celebrated their deaths.
RELATED: Iraqi activist sentenced to 3 years in prison over a tweet
Hayder al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years in prison over for mocking the designation of the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces as a “martyr” by many in Iraq and describing him as an “agent spy.”
Zaidi had been charged under a penal code section that outlaws publicly insulting any government institution or official.
BAGHDAD – An Iraqi activist was sentenced to three years in prison over alleged criticism of state-sanctioned militias, spurring criticism from human right monitors and local activists.
Hayder al-Zaidi, 20, who was active in popular anti-government protests that began in October 2019, was sentenced in a criminal court in Baghdad over comments on Twitter that he maintains he did not write. He had been charged under a penal code section that outlaws publicly insulting any government institution or official.
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter