‘I have been on hunger strike since September 6’: imprisoned journalist Ayaz Karam

Left to right: Shvan Saeed, Ayaz Karam, Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebari, and Hariwan Issa (NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — Imprisoned journalist Ayaz Karam told NRT on Sunday (September 19) that he has been on hunger strike since September 6 and said that he will not break it until his case is reviewed by an independent court or the government issues an amnesty.

Karam, along with two other journalists and two activists, were controversially sentenced to six years in prison at a trial in February under a national security law, which has become seen as a key test case of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) commitment to human rights.

The trial was heavily criticized by observers, who argued that the process was riddled with violations of the defendants’ civil rights and that prosecutors relied on extremely flimsy evidence.

Critics also decried the personal intervention into the case by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, who described the defendants as spies and saboteurs at a press conference days ahead of the trial without providing evidence, leading to concerns about political influence over the courts.

The defendants have since had two appeals rejected by the judiciary.

Earlier this month, 81 activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens who were arrested last year in Duhok governorate launched a hunger strike to protest their treatment while in custody at the hands of the Asayish and the authorities. Some have been in prison for nearly a year without trial.

Speaking to NRT, Karam clarified that the hunger strikers have not been taken to the hospital and that a single doctor was brought to the jail to examine them.

Karam also rejected an assertion by the KRG Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which asserted that the detainees were being treated well.

(NRT Digital Media)