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Kurdistan magazine sued for $1 bilion over Iran smuggling report

Kurdistan magazine sued for $1 bilion over Iran smuggling report
Gagged by K.D.P.: “This lawsuit is one more example of the KDP’s attempts to gag independent and opposition journalists,” 'Rojname' editor Azad Chalak said. “The authorities do not want other voices to make themselves heard, especially when they expose the authoritarian system’s inner workings and corruption.”

The Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) has sued magazine Rojname for $1 billion. A report published in the magazine on July 20 had accused the KDP and its ruling coalition partner, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), of helping smuggle refined petroleum products into Iran in violation of the international sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic by the UN Security Council. The article accused the KDP and PUK of collecting $250,000 a month each in kickbacks.

The KDP sued Rojname on July 25 and demanded its closure. “This lawsuit is one more example of the KDP’s attempts to gag independent and opposition journalists,” Rojname editor Azad Chalak told Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). “The authorities do not want other voices to make themselves heard, especially when they expose the authoritarian system’s inner workings and corruption.”

“We have all the documents to prove what is said in the article,” Chalak added. “There can be no doubt about the fact that we are going to win.” The allegations that the PUK and KDP were collecting kickbacks from the contraband in petroleum products was first reported by the New York Times in its July 8 issue.

The amount of damages demanded is the biggest in the history of lawsuits against news media anywhere in Iraq, including Kurdistan. The 2007 press law in force in Iraqi Kurdistan does not allow a court to close down a news media and limits the amount of damages that can be demanded to 3 million dinars. But the KDP asked for Rojname to be tried under the 1969 Iraqi criminal code.

The trial, which Chalak regards as highly political, opened on August 8 in Erbil but Rojname’s lawyers would rather the case were heard in Sulaymaniyah where the newspaper is based. “We have doubts about the independence of the courts in Erbil,” Chalak said. “In Erbil, judges cannot issue a ruling without getting a green light from the KDP first. A trial of this kind cannot for one moment be regarded as fair. If it is held in Erbil, we will fear for our lives. We have asked for the case to be moved to Sulaymaniyah.”

The court’s decision on where the case should be tried is due to be issued on August 23. The KDP is meanwhile reportedly pressuring the court to impose a travel ban on Chalak and the journalist who wrote the article, Sirwan Rasheed.

Launched in 2007 by the company Wisha, Rojname is nowadays the main mouthpiece of the opposition Movement for Change.

Date posted: August 12, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 222