Trial of four Duhok activists in pre-trial custody delayed yet again

Lawyer of Duhok's imprisoned activists and journalists Bashdar Hassan in front of Erbil court on Oct 20, 2021. (NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — The trial of four imprisoned Duhok activists and journalists was postponed on Wednesday (October 20) because the judges asked for the presented proof to be reviewed.

Activists Masoud Ali, Sherwan Taha, Bandawar Ayub, and Kargar Abbas have been held in pre-trial detention for more than a year as they await a trial on charges of seeking to undermine the security of the state.

Their trial has been postponed several times.

They were arrested along with dozens of other activists and journalists by the security forces in Duhok, which are affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), as part of an effort by the authorities to prevent public criticism of the party and the government.

Lawyer Bashdar Hassan said that a voice message was presented as evidence against his clients, but the judges were not able to assess its validity as evidence.

Foreign diplomats and a wide array of human rights groups have raised objections about the deterioration of freedom of the press and expression and basic rule of law in the Kurdistan Region.

On Tuesday, Badal Barwari, journalist Omed Baroshki were controversially sentenced to a year in prison by a court in Erbil, with the defendants maintaining their innocence of the charges.

Four other journalists and two activists have received jail sentences associated with the Duhok crackdown, while dozens of others have been in pre-trial detention for more than a year.

On Thursday, activists and teachers Amr Khalid, Sleman Kamal, Sleman Musa, Jamal Khalil and Firsat Ahmed will face the same charges in a separate trial. They were arrested in Duhok around the same time and have also been held in pre-trial detention for more than a year.

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated at 2:07 p.m. EBL