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Duhok journalists, activists 'must be immediately and unconditionally released': Amnesty International

Attention continues to focus on case seen as politically motivated
Amnesty International logo (Wikimedia)
2021-02-27

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SULAIMANI — Calling the charges trumped-up, Amnesty International on Friday (February 26) urged the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to release five journalists and activists from Duhok governorate who were sentenced ten days earlier to six years in prison in a case that has brought widespread outage.

Journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebari, and Ayaz Karam and activists Shvan Saeed Omar and Hariwan Issa were arrested in Duhok governorate last year as part of a crackdown on protest organizers and journalists by the local security forces, which are affiliated with the KDP.

On February 16, they were convicted of conspiring to undermine the security of the Kurdistan Region and each sentenced to six years in prison, eliciting widespread criticism that the trial was politically motivated and that the confessions accepted by the court contained things the defendants never said and were obtained through coercion.

“[They] are now on hunger strike as they await the appeal verdict expected to take place by 16 March,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“They must be immediately and unconditionally released,” the human rights group added.

As a part of its statement, Amnesty included materials for people around the world to write to KRG Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari urging the release of the five defendants.

Last week, the wife of Sherwani, Rugash Zabari, told NRT that the defendants went on hunger strike following their sentencing. On Friday, she said she was unable to confirm whether that was still the case because the authorities had prevented her and Sherwani’s lawyers from contacting him despite court rulings allowing visitation.

(NRT Digital Media)