Kawa Garmyane

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Unknown gunmen shot and killed Garmyane outside his home in town of Kalar, south of the Kurdish Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah, news reports said.

Garmyane was the editor-in-chief of the news website Rayel and a correspondent for the Kurdish-language newspaper Awene. Garmyane had published several reports alleging corruption among Kurdish politicians, especially of those within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, according to the Sulaymaniyah-based press freedom group Metro Center for Journalist Rights and Advocacy.

News reports said that three days prior to his death Garmyane posted on his Facebook page that he planned to publish a new report on corruption.

According to news reports, Mahmoud Sangawi, PUK leader and army general, was the main suspect in the murder. A phone conversation published on YouTube in July 2012 purportedly records Sangawi threatening Garmyane and calling him a “son of a dog.” Sangawi has not denied the authenticity of the “son of a dog” phone call. Sangawi was briefly detained in January 2014 but was released for lack of evidence, news reports said. He has maintained his innocence regarding the murder.

On October 26, 2014, a criminal court sentenced Twana Khaleefa to death for the murder, according to news reports. Rahman Gharib, general coordinator for the Metro Center, told CPJ that Khaleefa originally confessed to the murder, saying he killed Garmyane because the journalist belonged to the Communist Party, which he blamed for the death of two family members. Despite the original confession, Khaleefa appealed the court’s decision. No court date was set as of November 2014. Another defendant, who was not named in the news reports, was acquitted for lack of evidence.

In a November 2014 interview with Kurdish journalist Kamal Chomani, Garmyane’s brother, Karwan Ahmed, said he believed Garmyane was killed for his coverage of corrupt politicians, Chomani told CPJ. Ahmed said that Khaleefa had asked for the location of Garmyane’s house a few days before the killing.

Gharib told CPJ, “We consider the decision a step toward combating impunity for the assault on journalists in the region.” But he said the sentence was not sufficient, saying “the ruling did not answer the simple question of who benefited from the killing of Kawa Garmyane.”

The PUK, which is led by former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, condemned the killing and denied all involvement in it.

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani also condemned the killing, according to news reports. Barzani leads the PUK’s main political opponent, the Kurdish Democratic Party.