New York, May 6, 2021 — In response to the Erbil Court of Cassation’s recent decision to uphold the six-year jail sentences of Iraqi Kurdish journalists Sherwan Amin Sherwani and Guhdar Zebari, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:
“With the Erbil Court of Cassation’s decision to uphold the six-year jail sentences of journalists Sherwan Amin Sherwani and Guhdar Zebari, the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government has shown that its purported commitment to press freedom is nothing but empty words,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq should immediately release both journalists, drop the charges against them, and stop harassing members of the media.”
In the court’s April 28 decision, which was made public today, Judge Abdullah Ali Ahmed Sharafani upheld a lower court’s decision and restated allegations that Sherwani and Zebari received money from the U.S. and German consulates in Erbil and were conspiring to undermine the security of Iraqi Kurdistan, according to news reports and the court decision, which CPJ reviewed.
On February 16, an Erbil criminal court convicted Sherwani and Zebari of destabilizing the security and stability of the Kurdistan region and handed down six-year sentences, in a trial marred by circumstantial and flimsy evidence and due process violations, according to CPJ reporting.
The decision comes three days after Nechirvan Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, pledged his “full support“ for press freedom in the region in a statement on Twitter marking World Press Freedom Day.