Iraq: Civil activist Mohammad Khadhum Al-Iraqi arrested after criticising government official on Facebook
On 05 September 2019, authorities in the province of Al-Muthanna in Iraq arrested and detained civil activist and blogger Mohammad Khadum Al-Iraqi over a Facebook post, according to reliable local sources. Although he was released the following day, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for the charges against him to be dropped immediately. Furthermore, GCHR calls on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that freedom of expression is not criminalized.
Al-Muthanna Governor Ahmed Manfi Jawdah is reported to have filed a lawsuit against Al-Iraqi after he criticised the Governor on his Facebook page. He was arrested immediately after the lawsuit was filed and then released on bail the following day, on 06 September at 11pm. Al-Iraqi is scheduled to appear at a hearing in the case on 08 September.
Al-Iraqi lives in the city of Al-Rumaythah and a well-known activist in the governate of Al-Muthana who over the past year has participated in many protests, which were launched against the rampant corruption in the area and lack of public services such as water and electricity. Similar protests have been taking place across Iraq since the summer of 2018.
Local citizens gathered in the streets of Al-Rumaythah protesting his arrest and demanding he be immediately released. There were similar protests in other cities in solidarity with him.
GCHR calls on the authorities in Iraq to:
- Ensure that Mohammad Khadum Al-Iraqi is not charged under criminal defamation laws -or any other law, and that he will not be sentenced for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities;
- Encourage an open and tolerant attitude to freedom of expression and opinion in Iraq; and
- Ensure that all citizens, journalists and human rights defenders in Iraq are able to work and express themselves peacefully online without facing restrictions, threats and harassment, whether legal or otherwise.