Mass hangings.. TV station closed .. Democracy reaches Baghdad

From Postman Patel

Al-Arabiya, is an independent Dubai based Arabic language satellite news station with offices in over 40 major cities. It was launched in 2002 in opposition to Al Jazeera. It was originally funded by Saudi-controlled pan-Arab satellite TV pioneer MBC, Lebanon’s Hariri Group, and other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. It was set up as an all-news channel to compete directly with Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV.

The Iraqi Government have issued an order to close the station down in Baghdad. The station was able to broadcast live the entry of police to close their Baghdad city centre studios.

The order apparently was issued by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Cabinet and said TV stations should uphold the code of media ethics (?) , or else the government would take legal action against them.

In November 2003, the U.S.-Paul Bremer’s Governing Council banned Al-Arabiya from reporting from Baghdad after it aired an audio tape, said to be from Saddam Hussein, who was still at large at the time. 46 Coalition troops had been killed that month, there had been a loss of a Chinook helicopter and Bremer had just returned from a pep talk with Cheney from Washington.(See BBC Online report at the time)This action was approved by Bremer but curiously in his book “My Year in Iraq” forgets to mention it.(see WAPO report)Charles Heatly, a spokesman with the U.S.-led administration said, “Ambassador Bremer fully agreed with and supported the Governing Council’s decision.”

Shortly after, Saddam was found and captured and they were allowed to continue, famously they interviewed the leader of the free world and Commander in Chief of the occupying forces in May 2004. (White House transcript)

Just over a year ago in August 2005 Iraq ( Prime Minister Iyad Allawi) re-introduced the death sentence. Common during Saddam’s rule, capital punishment was suspended by the occupying US authorities in 2003. “This law is to help protect the Iraqi people in the face of an onslaught of indiscriminate murder. I think it may help,” said, Minister of State Adnan al-Janabi adding that it would remain in force until the security situation was deemed more stable.

This was condemned by the UN, European states and human-rights groups. “If the Iraqi government has reintroduced the death penalty we will lobby them to abolish it as we would do with other states that have the death penalty,” a Foreign Office spokesman said at the time.(To date la Beckett remains silent on the matter)

The first 3 victims were members of Ansar al-Sunna, an insurgent group, who were executed on September 1st 2005 after confessing to their crimes in a televised trial broadcast in May from al-Kut, in southern Iraq.

The men were identified as Bayan Ahmad al-Jaf, 30, a Kurdish taxi driver, and two Sunni Arabs, Uday Dawoud al-Dulaimi, 25, a builder, and Taher Jassim Abbas, 44, a butcher. They were found guilty of kidnapping and murdering three policemen and abducting, raping and killing Iraqi women.

The Iraqi authorities took over responsibility for the overcrowded Abu Ghraib prison at the weekend where there are said to be hundreds of prisoners who have received a death sentence. There are also reports that several gallows have been recently installed. On Wednesday a mass execution of 27 people took place. (Daily Telegraph 8/8/06)

An Iraqi Justice Ministry official said two of those hanged had been convicted of terrorism charges, and the other 25 ‘ including a woman ‘ were convicted of murder and kidnapping. In confirming the hangings a spokesman called the dead prisoners, “terrorists”, a name normally reserved for insurgents who have attacked coalition or Iraqi forces.

News of the executions was made public by Prime Minister al-Maliki when attending a ceremony to hand control of Iraq’s military to the recently elected government from American control.

The verdict on Saddam Hussein is expected this month and he faces a death sentence, he has asked to face a military firing squad rather than hanging.