Politics

Policemen behind killing of Iraqi protestors suspended

By Khalid al-Taie

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Rifles and bullets used to attack demonstrators near Baghdad's Tahrir Square on July 26th are seen in this photograph. [Photos courtesy of the Iraqi Interior Ministry]

Three policemen implicated in the killing of protestors in Baghdad's Tahrir Square earlier this week have been suspended, Iraq's Interior Ministry said Thursday (July 30th).

Clashes broke out Sunday night in nearby Tayaran Square between security forces and protestors decrying power cuts amid a heat wave, for the first time since Mustafa Kadhemi assumed the office of Prime Minister in May.

After two protestors were killed in the violence, Kadhemi gave security services 72 hours to announce the results of an investigation into the incident.

"According to eyewitnesses and forensic data, hunting rifles killed" two protestors, Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanemi told reporters on Thursday.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi on July 29th paid a surprise visit to the al-Muthanna Airport prison in Baghdad to ensure that no protestors were imprisoned there. [Photo courtesy of the Prime Minister's Media Office]

The minister gave the names of three policemen and displayed the arms and ammunition they had purportedly used, AFP reported.

Hunting rifles were in the personal possession of the three, "who decided on their own account to make use of them", he told reporters.

They have confessed to using the weapons and have been suspended from their duties, al-Ghanemi said, adding that judicial proceedings were underway.

An investigation had been opened because the federal police had deployed "to fire live rounds in the air", he said, contravening orders not to use live fire by the prime minister, who heads the armed forces.

Al-Ghanemi called on demonstrators to ensure the protests remain peaceful.

Meanwhile, Kadhemi made a surprise visit to the central investigation prison in al-Muthanna airport, Baghdad, on Wednesday night.

The visit was to check on "the status of prisoners and to ensure that there were no protestors or prisoners of conscience there", said a government statement.

'Positive step'

The investigation into the demonstrators' killing is "the first case whose results are announced to the public in a transparent way and within a short period of time", a human rights activist who asked to remain anonymous told Diyaruna.

The new government pledged that it would not allow violence against protestors and will ensure freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protests, he said, "which the Iraqi constitution guarantees as a fundamental right".

When the violence occurred earlier this week, the government quickly took action against the perpetrators in a gesture "not seen in previous governments since popular protests broke out last October", he said.

The government announced on Thursday that 560 people had been killed in protests since October, a tally it said included those killed early this week.

"I hope the government's action will not end here," said the activist, calling for investigating all past violations against protestors, which are blamed on armed factions operating outside the control of the state and backed by Iran.

The militants behind the killing of protestors "should be investigated and each of them should be exposed as soon as possible", he added.

The government should also guarantee the safety and security of the protestors, as they represent a powerful force that supports state agencies seeking to eliminate corruption and enforce the rule of law, he said.

The Iraqi government announced Thursday it will treat all 560 people killed in protests as martyrs and compensate their families with 10 million Iraqi dinars (around $8,400).

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