It was a case that had caused a stir in Iraq. A year after the assassination of Hicham al-Hachemi, a highly respected Iraqi researcher in the country, Prime Minister Moustafa al-Kazimi announced, Friday, July 16, the arrest of his killers. The main suspect has been identified as a police officer, according to ‘confessions’ broadcast by state television.
‘We had promised to capture the killers of Hicham al-Hashemi. We have kept that promise, ‘Moustafa al-Kazimi said on Twitter.
We promised to capture Husham Alhashimi’s killers. We fulfilled that promise. We have arrested hundreds of criminals – murderers of innocent Iraqis like Ahmed Abdulsamad. We don’t care about media spin: we carry out our duties in the service of our people & in pursuit of justice.
— Mustafa Al-Kadhimi July 16, 2021
Moments later, state television broadcast a report and the ‘confessions’ of the man presented as the main perpetrator of the assassination: Ahmad el-Kenani, a 36-year-old policeman, enlisted in the forces of the order since 2007. This dark-haired man claims to have fired the fatal shot there. A total of four men were arrested, according to state television.
Criticism of the government
Hicham al-Hachémi, an internationally recognized specialist in jihadist movements and a respected figure in civil society, was killed on July 6, 2020 by men on motorcycles, in front of his home in Baghdad.
His assassination had deeply shocked Iraq and, on July 6, a rally in his memory was organized in Baghdad, in Tahrir Square, the heart of the popular uprising at the end of 2019.
The researcher had vigorously taken a stand in favor of this movement, which denounced corruption in the country, called for a total overhaul of the political system and castigated Iranian stranglehold on Baghdad.
The movement was crushed in blood, at least 600 dead and more than 30,000 injured. Since then, dozens of Iraqi opponents have been murdered or kidnapped, sometimes briefly.
A few days ago, a young journalist, Ali al-Mikdam, disappeared for 24 hours in the capital before being found. The activist, known for his opposition to pro-Iran factions, said he was kidnapped and beaten.
Iranian influence on Baghdad
So far, no perpetrator of these killings or kidnappings has been prosecuted, with human rights defenders denouncing ‘total impunity in Iraq’.
‘We have arrested hundreds of criminals,’ Moustafa al-Kazimi assured in his tweet, without giving further details. ‘We don’t care what the media say: we fulfill our duties in the service of the people and of justice,’ he added.
The arrests announced Thursday ‘are a positive step to end impunity and we hope that all cases of violence will be clarified, and that their perpetrators will be held to account,’ Dr Ali al-Bayati told AFP. , member of the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, an independent body.
Many Iraqi militants and opponents have fled the country since the end of 2019, or have found refuge in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan (north).
While the killings have never been claimed, activists accuse the all-powerful pro-Iranian factions in Iraq of being responsible.
According to a security source interviewed by AFP, the policeman who confessed to having killed Hicham al-Hashemi is close to the Hezbollah brigades, one of the most powerful groups of the pro-Iranian coalition of Hachd al-Chaabi. The Hachd, an essential force in Iraq, is integrated into the Iraqi security forces.
At the end of May, an influential Hachd commander, Qassem Mouslah, suspected of murdering a figure in the anti-power protest, was arrested. But he was released, officially for lack of evidence, two weeks later, after a show of force by his supporters in Baghdad.