Kurdish journalist Sherwan Sherwani received a four-year prison sentence for fraud, handed down by an Erbil (Hewler) court on Thursday. The verdict has sparked objections from Sherwani’s lawyer, Kameran Sarmemi, citing political motives.
A video on social media shows Sherwani being transferred to jail post-verdict while his family and colleagues, who warned about the erosion of the rule of law in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, shouted “terrorist” against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities.
Sherwani’s case is tied to his criticism of Turkish military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan. He accused the government of insincerity towards the victims of Turkish bombardment while prosecuting those advocating rights and free thought.
As per reports, Turkish incursions have caused civilian casualties and severe damage in the Kurdish region of Iraq, including fatalities, injuries, extensive fires, and infrastructure damage. The military operation has displaced over 1,500 civilians. Turkish forces bombed a tourist resort in Duhok’s Zakho district in July last year, killing nine people and injuring 23 others.
Sherwani’s lawyer suggested that the case adjournment during the first hearing was a tactic to concoct false evidence against Sherwani, in an effort to prevent a favourable outcome.
Sherwani, arrested with four other journalists in 2020 for anti-government protests, was sentenced to six years in prison in 2021 for undermining national security. Despite international outcry over the political nature of the trials, Sherwani and another journalist, Guhdar Zebari, remain in custody with reduced sentences.
During their detention after being abducted by the KRG forces, the journalists experienced disappearance, limited legal access, alleged torture, and ill-treatment, all dismissed by the court.
As the chief editor of Ashur magazine, Sherwani has highlighted human rights issues in Kurdistan, especially corruption and prisoners’ rights.