Freed Suspect Says Sulaimani Mayor Would Have Been Acquitted If He Had Lived

02/12/2012 RUDAW By SAMAN BASHARATI – SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Haji Hussein, a senior official freed without charge from prison over the Qularaisi lands case, said that former Sulaimani mayor Zana Muhammed Salih would also have been acquitted if he had not died in jail.

“I am happy to be released without any charges, but I am also sad for the death of Salih,” said Hussein, who was arrested at the same time as the former mayor on charges of graft and mishandling public land.

“I am sure he (Salih) would have been acquitted as well if he was alive. The mayor became a scapegoat,” said Hussein, who claimed he had been tortured in prison after refusing to acquiesce to a demand by Asayish to “give false information” against the late mayor. “We found it unfair to accuse an innocent person, therefore they tortured us,” Hussein told Rudaw following his release. Other officials, among about a half-dozen people arrested over the case, have also claimed they were tortured while detained by Asayish. In early February Salih was summoned by the courts to answer charges of bribery. A week later he was arrested and imprisoned for failure to comply with the summons, and days after was found to have died in his cell under mysterious circumstances.

An investigating committee concluded that he had “committed suicide.”

“Both of my shoulders have been broken because of torture and I am psychologically unwell,” Hussein told Rudaw, adding he would file torture-related lawsuits against a former Asayish director and five other Asayish members.

According to a 2010 law, anyone arrested on the basis of false information is entitled to demand financial and moral compensation from the government. But Hussein said the injustice done to him and Salih could not be compensated.

“Nothing in this world can compensate humans for a moment of unjust imprisonment. Who can now give the former mayor his life back? Our reputation before people who don’t know us has become that of briber and robber of city lands.  Asayish and the courts must restore our reputation,” he demanded.

All of the suspects, who included a police major and a colonel of the Peshmerga forces, have been acquitted and freed, except municipality official Ali Majeed.

Omar Hama Ali, Hussein’s brother who is also his lawyer, said that the charges against Majeed will include partial responsibility for Salih’s death. “The charges that were brought against the other suspects have now all been brought against Majeed. He will also be partially responsible for the death of the mayor,” Ali said. Sakar Jamal, the widow of the dead mayor, also said she had filed a lawsuit against a former Asayish director for her late husband’s death.”I knew from the start that this was a scenario intended to eliminate my husband. That is why I have filed a lawsuit against the former Asayish director of Sulaimani,” she said. “I am waiting for the decision of the court. I will never remain silent about the murder of my husband,” the widow added.