Erbil court sentences Kurdish journalist Sherwan Sherwani to four more years in jail

Erbil court sentences Kurdish journalist Sherwan Sherwani to four more years in jail
An Erbil court sentences a Kurdish journalist an additional four years in jail on alleged charges of “forgery”.
3 min read
24 July, 2023
Sherwani, a critic of the ruling clans in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq, has been sentenced to six years behind bars in February 2021 for "endangering national security". [Getty]

The judiciary in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region sentenced imprisoned Kurdish journalist Sherwan Amin Sherwani to an additional four years in jail on charges of alleged forgery.

Local journalists, rights groups, and the Kurdish political parties condemned the sentence.

Sherwani, a critic of the ruling clans in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq, was sentenced in February 2021 to six years behind bars for "endangering national security,".

Refink Yassin, a lawyer defending Sherwani, told The New Arab that the court unjustly sentenced his defendant as per Articles 295 and 298 from Iraq's penal code related to forgery.

Yassin clarified that Sherwani's charge was based on him allegedly signing a document on behalf of four imprisoned colleagues, withdrawing a former request to the court for conditional release.

"During the proceedings, the four colleagues said they have no complaint against Sherwani, but the court sentenced him to four years imprisonment as per a testimony by the representative of Erbil's Adult Reform Prison where my defendant is jailed," Yassin said.

He emphasised the sentence "is politically-motivated", and hence the defence team will file an appeal.

Sherwani, with hundreds of other activists and teachers from the Badinan area of Duhok, were arrested by the Kurdistan Region's Security Council (KRSC) after a series of anti-government protests emerged in Dohuk in 2020.

TNA contacted Peshawa Hawramani, the KRG spokesperson, but he was not immediately available to comment. 

Ayhan Saeed, the representative of Duhok province prisoners, in a statement, a copy was sent to TNA- accused Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of the caretaker Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), of pressuring the region's judiciary to sentence Sherwani.

Sherwani was due to be released in September after his six-year term was reduced by 50 per cent as per a decision by the Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani issued a decree in February 2022.

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"Iraqi Kurdish authorities should release journalist Sherwan Sherwani at once, drop all charges against him, and allow members of the press to work freely," the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement on Thursday. "With the latest decision to extend his imprisonment by four years, Iraqi Kurdish authorities are showing their determination to tell the world how vicious they can be against journalists."

In a joint press conference with defence lawyers, Omed Baroshki, a critical Duhok journalist, criticised PM Barzani for ordering the judiciary to add more years to Sherwani's time in jail.

Baroshki was sentenced in August 2020 with Sherwani and was released in February 2022. Late on Thursday, 20 July, he was arrested by Kurdish security forces in Duhok and was freed later, reportedly following orders from PM Barzani.

Local Kurdish journalists and several political parties condemned the sentence and held a gathering late on Sunday, 23 July, in Sulaimaniyah City, demanding Sherwani's immediate release. 

Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its annual report published on January 2023, denounced Iraq's central government and autonomous Kurdish authorities for failing to provide fundamental human rights, targeting civil society actors and failing to prosecute abusers of human rights in recent years.