Militants get dying sentences for killing two Iraqi journalists

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Basra Criminal Court sentenced a second man to dying on Nov. 1 for involvement in a dying squad that killed a number of Iraqi journalists and activists. Another convict was additionally sentenced to dying a day earlier than for a similar crime.

According to Iraqi safety officers, Hamza Kadhim al-Aidani and Aqeel Hadi had been arrested in early 2021 with different members who labored as a part of a “network of 16 people responsible for assassinations.” Photos of the boys below arrest had been extensively circulated as we speak.

The court docket’s conviction is preliminary and topic to a 30-day attraction interval.

The victims had been Ahmad Abdessamad, an Al-Dijla channel information correspondent, and his cameraman, Safaa Ghali, who lined the 2019 protests in Basra. On Jan. 11, 2020, as they had been driving home, one other automobile pulled up subsequent to theirs and opened fireplace, killing Abdessamad on the spot and injuring Ghali, who later died within the hospital. 

After the court docket’s ruling, a video of Abdessamad’s mom expressing her satisfaction with the “righteous” verdict was shared on social media platforms.

During the 2019 mass protests, many took to the streets to protest towards international interference within the nation, lack of fundamental companies and armed militias outdoors of state management. As a end result, greater than 600 had been killed, 30,000 injured, and dozens of journalists and activists had been systematically focused. 

Before his assassination, Abdessamad knowledgeable his followers on social media that he had obtained dying threats from militias due to masking the protesters and criticizing Iranian-backed militias. 

The Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council launched an announcement on Nov. 2 that the convicted felons “confessed to all the main points of this crime with a motive of destabilizing the nation and spreading terror within the hearts of individuals and demonstrators.”

Aidani confessed to being the driver in the death squad responsible for killing Abdessamad. He said the squad also consisted of Ahmad Twaisia as the team leader, Abbas Hashim to track the victim and shooter Ahmad Abdul-Karim. Aqeel Hadi, another member of this squad, was allegedly responsible for killing Mujtaba Ahmad, a 14-year-old protester in Basra. 

Only Aidani and Hadi have been arrested. The other members remain at large and have yet to be prosecuted.

Twaisia was officially affiliated with Katai’b Hezbollah (KH). His photo beside late Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and current leader of the PMU parliamentary bloc Hadi al-Amiri has circulated in social media.

A source in criminal court informed Al-Monitor that Aidani confessed that the squad received their orders from their superiors in KH to systematically target and kill activists, journalists and also members of Iraqi security forces. The superiors convinced their followers that the orders were fatwas issued by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

The members of the squad worked inside different security forces institutes, using their positions and relations to carry out their operations. 

The Iraqi government has replaced many security officials in order to counteract the influence of militia networks. Today, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi dismissed the head of the Iraqi National Security Service.

The head of the famous Falcon Intelligence Cell, Abu Ali al-Basri, was also dismissed earlier this year. The Falcon Intelligence Cell is a counterterrorism unit within the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Basri was accused of facilitating militia operations during his time.

Aidani, born in 1983, was a member of the judicial police in Basra and joined the PMU in 2014. He was an active member for 18 months and returned to the police force while maintaining contact with the PMU. 

He confessed that his death squad also attacked Basra Gov. Asaad al-Eidani and construction CEO Hatem al-Daraji and killed Mujtaba Ahmad, Jenan Madha and intelligence officer Muthanna Adnan.

During today’s Cabinet meeting, Kadhimi praised Iraqi judges and the Judiciary Council. “We pursued the murderous groups that were involved in the killing, and we succeeded in arresting the killers of the martyr Hisham al-Hashimi and Ahmed Abd al-Samad, and we will continue to pursue the killers and everyone involved in Iraqi blood,” Kadhimi said.

Hashimi was a prominent Iraqi security analyst who was assassinated by gunmen on motorcycles outside his home in the Iraqi capital in July 2020. One member of the assassination group was arrested earlier this year and recently sentenced to death.

“We support the independence of the judiciary,” Kadhimi said. “We do not seek revenge; rather, our main goal is to achieve justice.”

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