November 11, 2008
His Excellency Faruq Jamil
Minister of Justice of Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq
Ministry of Justice
François Mitterrand Square
60 Beltway, Arbil
Dear Minister Jamil,
The Committee to Protect Journalists brings your attention to a one-month prison sentence handed down last week by the criminal court in Sulaymaniyah in contravention of the region's new press law.
Shwan Dawdi, editor-in-chief of the Kirkuk-based newspaper Hawal, has been in prison since November 5, the day the court found him guilty of three defamation charges filed by retired judge Kemal Mustafa, former director of Sulaymaniyah courthouse. Dawdi was also fined 300,000 Iraqi dinars for 2004 articles that detailed a number of courthouse problems.
It is alarming that a journalist should be imprisoned after parliament passed a new press law in September that removes prison terms for offenses such as defamation. The law was published in Waqa'y Kurdistan, the official government journal, on October 20 and, thus, had taken effect at the time of Dawdi's sentencing.
Dawdi's attorney, Star Khwa Rahm, told CPJ that he had informed the judge of the new law during the proceedings. The judge responded that he had not received a copy of the law, according to the lawyer.
Dawdi has appealed the conviction. We hope that the court of appeal will hear Dawdi's case quickly and overturn his conviction. Regardless, Dawdi should be freed immediately in compliance with the new press law, which clearly does not allow imprisonment for this type of offense.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your response.