Iraq: Government charges 'pro-Turkish' former Mosul governor with espionage

Iraq: Government charges 'pro-Turkish' former Mosul governor with espionage
Baghdad has called for the arrest of Atheel al-Nujaifi on Thursday, accusing the senior politician of espionage.
2 min read
20 October, 2016
Relations between Nujaifi and Baghdad have been sour for years [Getty]

An Iraqi court has issued a warrant for the arrest of a senior political figure from Mosul, charged with passing intelligence to neighbouring Turkey, the judiciary said on Thursday.

The warrant was issued for Atheel al-Nujaifi, a former governor of the Nineveh province of which Mosul is the capital, after three parliamentarians lodged a complaint against him, a statement said.

The complaint was filed in December last year when a diplomatic crisis erupted between Baghdad and Ankara over a Turkish troop deployment to Bashiqa.

"The plaintiffs stated in their testimony that the defendant facilitated the entry of Turkish troops and helped them establish a base in Zilkan," judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar said in the statement.

Nujaifi, whose brother is a former parliament speaker, is widely perceived as corrupt and his running of the province is seen by some as a factor that allowed the Islamic State militants to take over with relative ease in 2014.

Bayraqdar said two witnesses were heard on Wednesday, completing a 10-month investigation that justified a warrant being issued against Nujaifi on charges of espionage.

Nujaifi has lived in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region that borders Nineveh, since IS captured Mosul.

He heads a force of local fighters known as the "Nineveh Guard", which has been trained by Iraq-based Turkish troops and is expected to take part in the ongoing battle for Mosul.

Turkey's presence in Iraq is deeply unpopular with Baghdad, which has chronically accused Ankara of abetting the Islamic State group that took over Mosul and parts of Iraq in 2014.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of the much-awaited offensive to retake the country's second city early and the forces have made substantial headway since.