The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has raised concerns over the recent sentencing of journalist Sherwan Sherwani, stating that the verdict was seemingly influenced by a factor unrelated to his case.
A correspondence dated 23 July and addressed to the Kurdistan Region’s Judiciary Council bearing the signature of Minister Kwestan Mohamad Abdulla expressed astonishment over the conviction, stating, “Our ministry has no complaint against Sherwan Sherwani, nor are we aware of the court hearing during which Sherwan was sentenced to four years in prison.”
Despite having served his initial sentence, on 20 July Sherwani was sentenced to an additional four years in prison, with the charge of fabricating documents for signing on behalf of another inmate in prison. Before the new sentence was handed down, his release was scheduled for 9 September.
The verdict has been criticised both domestically and globally, with Abdulla’s political party Gorran and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) strongly denouncing it.
The Minister’s missive further elaborated by shedding light on the commonplace practice of proxy signatures within correctional facilities and insinuated that the particular grounds for Sherwani’s conviction might not be valid.
“We believe that the reason Sherwani was sentenced has no bearing on the case. Therefore, we want our letter to be mentioned when the case is appealed and for our clarification to be considered,” the statement underscored, emphasising the Ministry’s desire to rectify what they perceive as an injustice.
Sherwani was arrested in 2020 with a group of 80 other dissent individuals comprising journalists, artists, and activists who became known as ‘the Badinan prisoners’. While most of the Badinan detainees have been freed, either due to lack of charges or after serving their sentences, some continue to be held, subject to the authority of courts linked to the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Critics of the KDP in Iraqi Kurdistan contend that the arrest of the journalist was a matter driven by political motivations, rather than a strictly legal action.