Iraq admits holding ‘terrorism’ suspects for months: HRW

A guard leads three death row prisoners Ismail Saleh, left, Ahmed Nijm, center, and Quteiba Younis, right, to the Eagles’ Cell counterterrorism intelligence office in Baghdad. (File Photo: Maya Alleruzzo/AP)
Updated 22 July 2018
0

Iraq admits holding ‘terrorism’ suspects for months: HRW

  • The National Security Service acknowledged it was holding male prisoners at a facility in east Mosul
  • Around 20,000 people were arrested during the three-year battle to evict Daesh, which seized swathes of western and northern Iraq in 2014

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi security agency has admitted holding hundreds of “terrorism” suspects for months, Human Rights Watch said Sunday while calling on authorities to inform the families of those held.
The National Security Service acknowledged it was holding male prisoners at a facility in east Mosul, the Iraqi city from which Daesh was ousted last year.
After previously denying the existence of any detention facilities, the NSS allowed HRW on July 4 to visit the center where the group found clean but “extremely overcrowded” cells.
“Researchers were granted access to the facility, where officials said 427 prisoners were being held at the time,” HRW said in a press release.
Before visiting the facility HRW interviewed archaeologist Faisal Jeber, who said he was detained in early April and estimated at least 450 prisoners were being held, based on a daily head count.
While the 47-year-old was released within 48 hours, he “described horrendous conditions and said that detainees had no access to lawyers, family visits, or medical care.”
Those sharing a cell with Jeber said they had been held for four months to two years, according to the May 16 interview.
An NSS officer speaking on the condition of anonymity told researchers some people had been held for “over one year,” before the end of the battle to retake Mosul from Daesh militants.
On a daily basis, Iraq’s two anti-terror courts in Baghdad and Mosul judge dozens of people suspected of being Daesh members.
Around 20,000 people were arrested during the three-year battle to evict Daesh, which seized swathes of western and northern Iraq in 2014.
Children were among those held at the Mosul facility, HRW said as it called on Iraqi authorities to release all minors who had not been charged with a crime.
“Authorities should be doing whatever it takes to make sure that families know where their loved ones are,” said Lama Fakih, the organization’s deputy Middle East director.
HRW requested the NSS clarify how many people were being held and to detail the number and location of detention facilities.
Families gather weekly in Mosul to demand news of their missing fathers, brothers and sons.
Interviewed by AFP, many of those searching for relatives feared their family members were wrongly detained on “terrorism” charges amid the chaos of the offensive against Daesh.
Jeber, the former detainee, told HRW that prisoners said a man “tortured to the point that he had been half paralyzed” had died at the facility where he was held.
The NSS, which reports to the prime minister, denied the use of torture and acknowledged “very limited cases of death, which were judicially documented.”


Egypt film festival sparks protests over French director accused of Israel support

Updated 27 min 28 sec ago
0

Egypt film festival sparks protests over French director accused of Israel support

  • The Cairo Cinema Festival said this week that Claude Lelouche, 80, would be feted at the event next month
  • Decision has sparked a backlash from some Egyptian actors, directors and critics

CAIRO: The decision by an Egyptian film festival to honor an acclaimed French director accused of supporting Israel has sparked controversy in the country.

The Cairo International Film Festival said this week that Claude Lelouche, 80, would be feted at the event next month.

But the decision has sparked a backlash from some Egyptian actors, directors and critics, with some even threatening to boycott the event.

They claim that Lelouche, an Oscar winner who has made more than 50 films, is overly sympathetic to Israel. But the festival organizers said that just because he travels to Israel, does not mean he can not be honored by Egypt.

“He is known for his intransigence of the Israeli Zionist entity, and has made this clear hundreds of times,” Ahmed Kamal, the Egyptian actor and director, said.

He said he would boycott the festival and called on the event’s president, Professor Mohamed Hafsi, to reverse the decision.

While Kamal acknowledged the director’s great achievements, he said standing up against Israel was more important.

“He is part of the history of French and international cinema, but our position on the Zionist entity is not only in defense of the state of Palestine but also in defense of the state of Egypt.”

Kamal said Lelouche has repeatedly declared that he considers Israel an example in resisting fear and hatred in the region. 

Malik Khoury, head of the film department at the American University in Cairo, said even fellow French director Jean-Luc Goddard has referred to Lelouche as a “Zionist.”

"Are we now at the stage of ‘love Israel’, while hundreds of artists from all over the world are united with the Palestinians and refuse to go or deal with the Zionist entity?" 

Egypt is one of the only Arab counties with full diplomatic relations with Israel after the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979.

But in recent years Palestinians have adopted a peaceful boycott movement to try and pressure Israel over its decades long occupation of Palestinian land. The boycott has included artistic figures and events.

Egyptian film critic Yacoub El-Deeb described the decision to honor Lelouche as dangerous.  

“It may be the beginning leading to Israel itself participating later in the festival,” he said.

The festival organisers said they had checked through the interviews Lelouche had given to Israeli media on a recent visit and “that all come within the usual courtesy of artists when visiting any country.”

“Since the members of the Advisory Committee as individuals and the Cairo Festival as a cultural institution have stood throughout its history with the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people, the Committee calls upon everyone to provide them with any document containing a political position declaring Claude Lelouche against the Palestinian cause or the rights of the Arab people, a signed statement, or any other form of political solidarity with the Israeli position,” the organizers said.

Their position was backed by the famous Egyptian producer Mohamed Al-Adl.

“Who knows his views on Zionism? Let’s not take a stand. The man is a famous director, and like many others it’s normal for him to go to Israel,” he said.

Egyptian film critic Youssef Sharif Rizkallah agreed.

“Claude is a great French filmmaker, has a real passion for movies,” he said. “He is unprecedented in French cinema, preferring to follow his own aspirations rather than to catch up with Hollywood cinema through simple stories whose love is repeated and multiplied.”

Lelouche was born in Paris in 1937 to an Algerian jewish father and a mother who converted to Judaism. His film  "A Man and a Woman" won the Palme d'Or at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival, and two Oscars 

The Cairo International Film Festivalruns from Nov. 20 to Nov. 29.