Al-Sadr withdraws support from Abadi and his alliance

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 January 2018
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Al-Sadr withdraws support from Abadi and his alliance

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s influential cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has withdrawn his support for Prime Minister Haider Abadi because of his alliance with the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) factions.
Abadi’s alliance “paves the way for the return of the corrupt,” Al-Sadr declared on Sunday.
Hours earlier, Abadi formally signed an agreement with the leaders of the PMU to form a wide joint electoral alliance called “The Victory of Iraq” to participate in the parliamentary and provincial election scheduled to be held in May.
Al-Sadr has expressed his support for Abadi more than once and said he would back his candidacy for a second term. But the deal made on Saturday between Abadi and the commanders of pro-Iranian armed factions including Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah and Badr Organization, has upset him.
Al-Sadr has called them “shameless militias” and considers the deal signifies a return to sectarian confinement.
“I condolence my people … due to the abhorrent political agreements … which pave the way for the return of the corrupt again (to the government),” Al-Sadr said.
“We were offered to join them (Abadi’s alliance) and we totally refused this. I am surprised by the attitude of the brother-in-law, who we thought was the first patriotic preacher and advocate of reform.
The “Victory of Iraq Alliance” which, headed by Abadi, consists of at least 28 political and armed factions including the most powerful Shiite groups in addition to the Sunni, Christian, Yazidi, Shabak and Turkmen armed factions, fought Daesh for the past three years under the umbrella of the PMU.
Al-Sadr, however, controls millions of votes, and represents the parliamentary power broker, which favors any candidate for prime minister in any government.
Gaining the backup of the PMU factions is crucial for Abadi to form a comfortable parliamentary majority to form the next government and avoid any serious security problems that the undisciplined armed factions could carry out to embarrass him.
Al-Sadr was planning to run for the election in a joint electoral alliance and was pushing Abadi to leave Da’awa Party, but Abadi has decided to join with the PMU groups and killed any hope of Al-Sadr backup.
“This (allying with the PMU) struck the (Al-Sadr and Abadi’s) project. We were saying that we are looking to build a patriotic project ... to establish a civil state, but see now what has happened,” a senior Sadrist leader and one of Al-Sadr negotiators told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
“All those (the leaders of the PMU) are thieves and killers. Where will this country head? How do we call to establish a civil state while it (the country) is led by armed factions?”


Turkish journalist serving life gets another 6 years in prison

Updated 1 min 14 sec ago
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Turkish journalist serving life gets another 6 years in prison

  • Nazli Ilicak was sentenced to life in prison along with five other journalists last February

ANKARA: A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced a prominent journalist serving a life sentence to almost six additional years in prison for leaking information deemed secret by the government, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said.

Nazli Ilicak was sentenced to life in prison along with five other journalists last February for aiding plotters of a 2016 failed coup attempt. All six of the journalists, including Ilicak, have denied the charges.

On Tuesday, the court sentenced Ilicak to five years and 10 months in prison in a separate case where she was charged with “sharing information that needed to remain secret for the security of the state,” Anadolu said.

Ilicak, a journalist, columnist and former lawmaker, had also been sentenced to 14 months in prison last year for insulting the president, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey.

Along with Ilicak, two prominent journalist brothers — Ahmet and Mehmet Altan — were sentenced to life in prison last February. The case had underscored deep concern about press freedom and the independence of the judiciary in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The government blames followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for masterminding the coup, and has waged a crackdown on suspected members of his network since then. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup and condemned it.

Since the abortive putsch, some 77,000 people have been jailed and more than 150,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in the military, public and private sectors.

Rights groups and Turkey’s western allies have voiced alarm over the scale of the crackdown, saying Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to quash dissent.

The government, however, rejects the criticism and says the measures are necessary due to the gravity of the security threat it faces.