Irish-Iraqi citizen detained in Baghdad Airport after visiting ailing mother

Irish-Iraqi citizen detained in Baghdad Airport after visiting ailing mother
Irish foreign ministry told The New Arab it seeks urgent clarification from the Iraqi officials on the detention of a dual Irish-Iraqi citizen in Baghdad.
4 min read
28 February, 2024
An Irish-Iraqi citizen, Yasser Eljuboori, known for his activism and outspoken criticism of corruption in Iraq [Photo taken from social media]

An Irish-Iraqi citizen, Yasser Eljuboori, known for his activism and outspoken criticism of corruption in Iraq, was detained by authorities while attempting to board a flight from Baghdad to Dublin.

Iraq, where different militias, especially Iran-backed militias, mar the law, is still considered unsafe for foreigners.   

Laura Wickham, Eljuboori's wife, on 26 February, expressed her shock on social media and conveyed the deep concern of her husband's relatives and friends.

"My husband, Yasser Eljuboori, an anti-corruption advocate who holds an Irish passport, has been detained in Baghdad on his way back to Ireland without any legal basis. His family and friends are extremely concerned," She wrote on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.

Iraqi media outlets have reported that Yasser was arrested at Baghdad Airport and is currently in the hands of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces intelligence department.

The New Arab contacted Basim al-Awadi, the official spokesperson of the Iraqi government, and Ahmed al-Sahaf, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry Affairs spokesperson, but they were not immediately available to comment.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs and our Embassy in Amman, which is accredited to Iraq, are actively engaged on this case, including through official contacts with the authorities in Baghdad. We are seeking urgent clarification on why this Irish citizen was detained," a spokesperson for the Irish Foreign Ministry told TNA. "As with all such consular cases, the Department of Foreign Affairs has appointed a dedicated case officer to liaise with the family."

In response to his detention, Yasser's family initiated the #FreeYasser campaign, urging Iraqi authorities to release him.

"Activist and journalist Yasser Al-Jubouri was arrested at Baghdad Airport on the 26th while returning to his family in Ireland after visiting his sick mother in Iraq. Despite assurances from officials, he was arrested without a judicial order," according to a statement attributed to the Eljuboori family in Ireland and published online by Iraqi social media activists. "He was insulted, beaten, and had his belongings confiscated. Yasser was then transferred to different locations, subjected to inhumane treatment, and denied basic rights."

Live Story

The family also stated that after significant media attention on Yasser's abduction from Baghdad Airport, he was detained at the Al-Salhiya Police Station and charged under Article 226 of the Publishing Law by the Prime Minister's Office legal team.

Yasser faced charges under publishing law after his arrest at Baghdad Airport. Despite being on a hunger strike, he was denied access to family and friends, and his detention was extended until the 29th, the statement clarified.

"The charges relate to a tweet criticizing government appointments. Additionally, there was pressure for him to renounce his Irish citizenship and claim Iraqi citizenship…Furthermore, we have received information that the Iraqi government is about to issue a press statement containing new charges against Yasser in the coming hours to prolong his detention as much as possible," the statement added. 

The family has asked the head of Iraq's judiciary, Faiq Zidan, to "personally supervise the investigation with Yasser, trusting in his fairness and integrity".

The family also asked Iraq's Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, "to be a father to all Iraqis and to open an investigation into whoever tarnishes the reputation of our son through channels that were prepared to target him from the moment of his arrest".

Live Story

Finally, the family said, "We will issue a subsequent statement revealing the offers that Yasser received to stop fighting corruption and his refusal, as this is being coordinated with the government of Ireland, which is now aware of our son's story and is following up with us on all developments."

Stephen Edward Troell, 45, a US citizen, was fatally shot in his car in November 2022 by assailants as he pulled up to the street where he lived in Baghdad's central Karrada district with his family.

An Iraqi criminal court convicted five men and sentenced them to life in prison for the killing.

An Israeli-Russian academic, Elizabeth Tsurkov, was abducted in Iraq last July; she is reportedly held by Kataeb Hezbollah, a powerful faction of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). The PMF is composed of Iran-backed former paramilitaries who have been integrated into the Iraqi security forces in recent years.