The trial of five Kurdish activists and journalists for 'spying' has left Kurds furious with their leaders. As hardship increases, they recoil against growing authoritarianism, writes Judit Neurink.
|One of the journalists being led away after the trial. FOTO TWITTER|
This exclamation, by a Kurdish journalist to the judge who would go on to sentence him to six years in jail for spying, may have made an even greater impression than the verdict itself.
Based on notes and pictures on the journalists' phones, plus confessions they refute or say were made under duress, five Kurdish journalists and activists had been convicted before the trial in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil even began.
At a press conference days earlier, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq denied that the 70 or so Kurds imprisoned during anti-government protests were journalists and activists.
He said they were "spies" working for "foreign powers" and provoking conflict, and "armed vandals who tried to bomb foreign missions". The prime minister, who headed his party's secret service before taking office, offered no proof to back up his allegations.
Given the number of judges Barzani's ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has appointed in recent years in those parts of the Kurdistan Region it administers, the verdict was seen as a foregone conclusion. At least one of the trial judges was also a prominent member of the KDP, and court documents circulating on social media indicate that Barzani ordered the verdict personally. Even if these claims are not true, the independence of Kurdish justice is clearly in jeopardy.
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