Iraq sentences killer of Karbala mayor to death by hanging

Iraq sentences killer of Karbala mayor to death by hanging
Hussein Abd Al-Amir was sentenced to death by hanging for killing Karbala Mayor Abeer Al-Khafaji.
2 min read
23 August, 2021
Karbala mayor Abeer Al-Khafaji was killed on 10 August [Getty]

Iraq on Sunday sentenced to death the man suspected of killing a senior official in the central city of Karbala, a rare occurrence for politically motivated killings in the country.

Abeer Al-Khafaji, the municipal director in the shrine city of Karbala, was assassinated on 10 August while overseeing a campaign to tackle road violations.

The local criminal court has sentenced Hussein Abd Al-Amir, who was arrested at the scene, to death by hanging. He is accused of shooting Al-Khafaji at close range with a pistol.

"After all proceedings concluded and the convict confessed, he was brought before the Karbala criminal court which examined the crime and sentenced him to death by hanging," the Supreme Court of Iraq said in a statement on Sunday.

The execution order will now need to be signed by President Barham Salih and the condemned has 30 days to file an appeal, according to Iraq's criminal justice system.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Karbala in the aftermath of the killing to vow that "murderers and criminals will not escape punishment".

More than 70 activists had been targeted for assassination since October 2019. The apparent impunity for politically motivated crimes has sparked protests in Iraq's south.

In May, Iraqi security forces detained two people as part of a probe into a campaign targeting activists. A third person, said to be a leader in the Shia Tafuf militia group, fled his home during a raid by special forces.

Protests took place in several Shia-majority cities earlier this year after a well-known political activist and anti-government critic was murdered by suspected Iran-backed Shia militias in the early hours of 9 May.

Ihab Al-Wazni, a coordinator of protests in the city of Karbala, was a vocal opponent of corruption and of Iran's influence in Iraq.

The assassination of Al-Wazni was followed by the attempted murder of journalist Ahmad Hassan, who was shot in the head as he arrived at his home in Diwaniyah.

Demonstrators in Karbala set fire to property belonging to the Iranian consulate, leading Tehran to hand a letter of protest to the Iraqi ambassador to Iran demanding Baghdad protect Iranian diplomatic sites.

Karbala, home to some of Shia Islam's most sacred sites, has been a hotbed of protests against the Iraqi government.