Muqtada al-Sadr praises Iraqi officers who allowed protesters to burn down Sweden's embassy in Baghdad
Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, on Wednesday, 13 September, condemned the Iraqi government for detaining 28 officers from the Iraqi security forces, who are being punished for not protecting the Swedish embassy in Baghdad from being attacked and torched in July during protests against the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in Sweden.
The protest was called by supporters of Al-Sadr ahead of an expected burning of the Quran by Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika in Sweden.
Families and relatives of 28 Iraqi officers sent a letter to Sadr on Wednesday, saying the Iraqi government had imprisoned the officers and fired them from duty because these men did not confront angry Iraqi protestors in front of the Swedish embassy in Baghdad.
The families also wrote that the officers, through their stance, contributed to "protecting the Quran '' and urged Sadr to support their sons.
In response, Sadr, with his handwriting, praised what he described as "the brave stance" by the officers, and he "would never forget" the position they took.
Sadr also denounced the Iraqi government for punishing the officers and accused the government of "being far away from the Quran…and indulged in corruption."
Iraqi protesters stormed the Swedish embassy twice in Baghdad in July, starting fires within the compound on the second occasion.
Sweden-based Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika, 37, stepped on the Quran and burned pages outside Stockholm's main mosque in June. Momika also burnt the Iraqi flag.
While condemning the storming of the embassy, in which nobody was hurt, the Iraqi government also moved to sever ties with Sweden after Sadr challenged it to take "a firm position".
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani has recalled Iraq's envoy to Stockholm and instructed the Swedish ambassador in Baghdad to leave Iraqi territory on 20 July.
The decision was "prompted by the Swedish government's repeated permission for the burning of the Holy Quran, insulting Islamic sanctities and the burning of the Iraqi flag", Sudani's office said.
Baghdad has asked Sweden to extradite Momika, his lawyer told AFP on Tuesday.
"Iraq wants him extradited because he burnt a Quran outside the mosque (in Stockholm) in June," lawyer David Hall told AFP after Swedish police questioned Momika about the extradition request.
"To be extradited to another country, the law (in Sweden) dictates that the crime has to be a crime in Sweden and Iraq," Hall said.
Burning Islam's holy book "is not a crime in Sweden, so Sweden can't extradite him."
The Swedish government has condemned the desecrations of the Quran but upheld the country's laws regarding freedom of speech and assembly.
Momika has burned Quran at a slew of protests in Sweden since June, sparking widespread outrage and condemnation in Muslim countries.