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Iraq's parliament speaker accused of 'normalising' Israel

Iraq's outgoing parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi accused of 'normalisation with Israel'
3 min read
15 November, 2023
Independent Iraqi lawmaker Basim al-Khashan has filed extra charges against Iraq's ousted speaker of parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi, accusing him of "attempting to normalise ties with Israel".
Halbousi, who was re-elected as the parliament speaker in January 2022, described the ruling as "weird".

On Tuesday, 14 November, Iraq's top court revoked the parliamentary membership of Iraq's parliament speaker, Mohammed al-Halbousi, on charges of forgery, ending the powerful Sunni politician's tenure.

He is also accused of "normalisation with Israel" after he signed a contract with a US lobbying company. 

The federal court's decision followed a legal action initiated by Laith al-Dulaimi, another Sunni parliamentarian, who accused Halbousi, also leader of the Taqadum [Progress] party, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, of forging his resignation letter.

The court decided to terminate the membership in parliament for both al-Halbousi and al-Dulaimi. The top court also ruled out that the decision would be put into practice immediately, bound to all authorities, and not subject to appeal.

Al-Dulaimi, previously expelled from the party for non-compliance with its rules, alleged in his lawsuit that Halbousi falsified his parliamentary resignation in 2022.

Independent Iraqi lawmaker Basim Khashan has also filed extra charges against Halbousi, accusing him of attempting to normalise ties with Israel after the former speaker signed a contract with BGR US lobbying group that includes former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as a senior advisor.

The plaintiff has claimed that the BGR group's primary duty is lobbying for normalisation with Israel and had contributed to the normalisation of Bahrain with Israel. 

The court has ruled out that Khashan should file a separate complaint against Halbousi because investigations on the charges are not yet completed.

Halbousi, re-elected as the parliament speaker in January 2022, described the ruling as "weird". He also stated that he would take measures to safeguard his constitutional rights.

Three government ministers backed by Halbousi have resigned from their positions in protest of the ruling by the court, according to a statement by Halbousi's party. 

Criticising the court's ruling as "flagrantly unconstitutional" and an instance of "overt political targeting," the party additionally announced its decision to abstain from participating in meetings of the ruling State Administration Coalition. Furthermore, the party's lawmakers intended to refrain from attending parliamentary sessions.

The ministers of the party, including the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning, Mohammed Tameem, the Minister of Industry and Minerals, Khaled Batal Al-Najm, and the Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities, Ahmed Fikak Al-Badrani, officially submitted their resignations.

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The decision will strengthen the influence of the Coordinating Framework (CF), an alliance of Shia blocs that enjoy a majority in the parliament. 

The court's decision comes at a sensitive time in Iraq's political process as political alliances prepare for the upcoming local elections scheduled for 18 December. 

Meanwhile, the Sovereignty Alliance, led by Sunni leader Khamis Al-Khanjar, issued a statement calling for an urgent meeting with representatives of Sunni political forces to discuss the next steps without specifying the actions they intend to take. This invitation came after the Hal (Solution) Party, led by Jamal Al-Karbouli, and the Azm alliance, led by Muthanna Al-Samarrai, declared their support for the court's decision.

The CF alliance has not issued any official stance on the developments, but it is expected to discuss the situation in a meeting soon.

An Iraqi lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister publication, stated that the court's decision would shift the balance of power in the country and affect the expected election results.

He mentioned that the CF is working to strengthen its influence and introduce new Sunni leaders, creating a new coalition that will serve its program.