Regarding the confirmation of the first‑instance sentencing of the journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Ayas Karam and Gudhar Zebari, as well as the activitists Shivan Saeed and Arewan Essa Mohamed, by the court of cassation of the Region of Kurdistan‑Iraq in Erbil, a Foreign Office Spokesperson issued the following statement today (6 May):
We regret the judgement made public today by the court of cassation of the Regional of Kurdistan‑Iraq against the journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Ayas Karam and Gudhar Zebari, as well as the activists Shivan Saeed and Arewan Essa Mohamed, in Erbil. There is no justification for confirming this sentence of a six‑year prison term handed down to the journalists and activists by the court of first instance.
According to credible observers, the proceedings in the court of first instance were seriously flawed. Lawyers, for example, were not granted adequate access to their clients. Especially worrying are the accusations of torture and forced confessions during the time of imprisonment. It is incomprehensible that the two courts did not investigate these accusations. So soon after World Press Freedom Day, the decision is a worrying indicator of the situation in the region in terms of freedom of the press and opinion. We appeal to the President of the Region of Kurdistan‑Iraq to avail himself of his right to grant amnesty.
Moreover, we are very concerned about references to contacts of some of the accused with the German Consulate‑General in Erbil in the court of cassation's justification for its decision. Informative and regular exchange with civil society, with journalists and activists, is part of the daily work performed by diplomats around the world and is an expression of a vibrant civil society to which the Government of the Region of Kurdistan‑Iraq also attaches great importance. By referring to the Consulate‑General in the judgement, the court is criminalising the latter’s work. This runs contrary to the close and friendly relations that Germany has been nurturing for some time with the Region of Kurdistan‑Iraq and Iraq and which it wants to continue nurturing in the future.