In response to the recent sentencing of renowned Kurdish journalist Şêrwan Şêrwanî to 4 years in prison in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, media outlets and journalists have come together to issue a joint statement, urging for his immediate release.
Şêrwanî, along with more than 80 other journalists, intellectuals, and activists known as the Badinan detainees, was arrested by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in 2020. Although the majority of the Badinan detainees have completed their sentences and been released, some individuals remain held under the jurisdiction of KDP-affiliated courts.
Despite having served his initial sentence, Şêrwanî was re-sentenced to an additional 4 years in prison by an Erbil (Hewlêr) court last week. His release was originally scheduled for 9 September 2023, before the new sentence was handed down.
Thirteen media outlets and over 130 journalists, primarily from Iraqi Kurdistan, have united to issue a joint statement calling for Şêrwanî’s “immediate and unconditional” release.
The statement reads:
“The court justified its harsh sentence against Şêrwan by accusing him of ‘forgery’ for signing on behalf of another Badinan prisoner, Guhdar Zêbarî. However, witnesses have testified in court that Şêrwan Şêrwanî signed on their behalf at their request, and Guhdar Zêbarî confirmed that he had granted Şêrwan the authority to sign on his behalf. This action is not only legal but also legitimate. Despite these facts, nobody has filed a complaint against Şêrwan Şêrwanî for signing on their behalf.”
The joint statement further expresses the media outlets’ and journalists’ rejection and strong condemnation of the court’s unfair decision and the perceived persecution of Şêrwanî. It emphasises their unwavering commitment to press freedom and their belief that journalists should not be subjected to tribal animosity, hatred, or political vengeance.
The outrage over Şêrwanî’s imprisonment has resonated both within Iraqi Kurdistan and internationally. In the wake of his sentencing, security forces affiliated with the ruling KDP arrested another journalist, Umêd Beroşki, shortly after he criticised the additional prison sentence imposed on his colleague. However, following mounting protests, Beroşki was eventually released.