[QUOTE][B]Iraq court acquits Shiite officials over death squads[/B]
1 day ago
BAGHDAD (AFP) — An Iraqi court has acquitted two top Shiite officials charged with orchestrating death squads which stormed into hospitals to snatch Sunni Arab patients and murder them, a court spokesman said Tuesday.
It was the first time two high-ranking Shiite officials had been charged over a wave of sectarian killings that exploded across Iraq after the bombing of a Shiite shrine two years ago.
A three-judge panel on Monday found Hakim al-Zamili, a former deputy health minister, and Brigadier General Hamid al-Shammari, who headed the ministry's security forces, not guilty of kidnapping, murder and corruption charges.
"The judgement was delivered by Central Criminal Court of Iraq which is an independent court," spokesman Judge Abdul Sattar Gafoor said. "It issued the verdict to free the two men."
US embassy spokesman Philip Reeker also confirmed the acquittal of the two officials, while noting [B]"serious allegations of witness intimidation and other irregularities"[/B] during the two-day trial.
"We understand an Iraqi court has found two former ministry of health officials not guilty of kidnapping, murder, and corruption charges," he said.
Following the trial in the Central Criminal Court, the panel "cited a lack of direct evidence as the ground for its decision to acquit" the officials, Reeker said.
Zamili and Shammari were charged with five counts of murder and another five separate counts of kidnapping.
[B]Their trial was marred by the absence of several prosecution witnesses who failed to show up after reportedly receiving death threats.
"There remain serious allegations of witness intimidation and other irregularities in this case that have not yet been fully or transparently resolved within the Iraqi system," Reeker said.[/B]
The two were alleged to have formed a private Shiite militia that would storm into Baghdad hospitals and snatch wounded and sick Sunni Arabs from their beds, issue death threats to doctors and gun down family members visiting patients.
Reeker said "many parts of the trial process appeared credible to outside observers and several participants in the investigation, and the trial demonstrated noteworthy determination and courage that the charges be fairly heard.
"The very fact that the charges were investigated and brought to trial reflects modest progress toward the rule of law," he said.
The trial was seen as a test of the commitment by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, head of a Shiite-led government, to crack down on Sunni and Shiite extremists alike.
Zamili and Shammari were arrested early last year but there had been doubt they would be brought to trial.
The crimes were committed, according to the chargesheet, from late 2005, through 2006 until March, when Zamili was arrested. Shammari was detained the following month.
[B]The two men are linked to the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political movement at the time had been put in charge of the health ministry by Maliki.[/B]
They were accused of allowing hundreds of Mahdi Army militiamen to work at the ministry and use its vehicles, including ambulances, to kidnap and kill Sunni Arabs.
[B]Salah al-Obeidi, a top aide of Sadr, said the verdict proved there was an "unfair campaign" against the movement's leaders.
"The charges were fabricated. There are groups conspiring against the Sadr followers,"[/B] Obeidi told an AFP correspondent in Najaf, the Shiite holy city in central Iraq that houses the movement's main office.
[B]"The decision of the court confirms what we have been saying that detaining people from the Sadr movement is a political issue without any legal evidence,"[/B] he said.
Several Sunni politicians and the US military have accused the Mahdi Army of sectarian killings.
The military says most of these killings are carried out by "rogue" militiamen who have broken away from the main Sadr militia.[/QUOTE]
Once again, its obvious the Iraqi govt will protect murderers like these two men, so long as they are Shia.
Couple this with the Iran/Ahmedinejad red carpet love fest, i cant help but ask again, why are we supporting this govt? Why are we asking our troops to put their lives on the line for these people??