From the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ):

Iraqi Kurdish police arrest journalist Bahroz Jaafer over criminal defamation suit filed by Iraq’s president

Kurdish authorities in Iraq should immediately release journalist Bahroz Jaafer, drop all charges against him, and allow the press to cover and write critically about politicians without fear of detention or legal action, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, police arrested Jaafer, a columnist for the independent news website Peyser Press, in the northeastern Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah and transferred him to the Azmar police station, where he remains in detention, according to news reports and a statement by the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, a local press freedom group.

Authorities charged Jaafer with criminal defamation, according to the Metro Center. If tried and convicted under Article 433 of Iraq’s penal code, Jaafer could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to 100 dinars (about 8 US cents).

The arrest was sparked by a defamation complaint filed by the lawyer of Iraqi President Barham Salih, in response to a column by Jaafer criticizing the president, according to those reports.

“Iraqi authorities should develop a thicker skin and stop resorting to the criminal code to stifle critical reporting and commentary,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Iraqi President Salih should immediately drop the defamation complaint against journalist Bahroz Jaafer, and local authorities should release him unconditionally.”

On August 29, Jaafer published a column titled “How much longer will the president be driving the wrong side?” in which he criticized Salih, also an ethnic Kurd, for allegedly failing to support Iraqi Kurdistan amid disputes with the national government over land, oil, and the autonomous region’s budget.

Karwan Anwar, head of the Sulaymaniyah branch of the government-funded Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate, told local broadcaster Rudaw that Jaafer, a member of the syndicate, is required to remain in detention until a hearing scheduled for September 30, unless he is granted bail beforehand.

The Iraqi president’s media office did not immediately reply to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app. Dindar Zebari, the Kurdish regional government’s coordinator for international advocacy, did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.

(Source: CPJ)

The post Iraqi Kurdish Police Arrest Journalist for “Defamation” first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Two individuals have been charged with bribery offenses in connection with Department of Defense contracts as part of the Fraud Section’s ongoing efforts to combat corruption and fraud in contracting on U.S. military installations overseas.

Mark Alan Fryday, 37, and Lara Jumaah Mohammed, 30, both residing in Erbil, Iraq, were charged in an indictment filed in the District of Columbia with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery of a public official.

“This alleged bribery and kickback scheme sought to undermine the efforts of the Department of Defense to lawfully contract overseas,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt. “Corruption undermines our military’s readiness and affects the wellbeing of our servicemembers, and the Department of Justice will continue to work to protect our men and women in uniform from corrupt and fraudulent conduct around the world.”

“My office is committed to protecting the integrity of government contracting and in particular stamping out corruption that threatens the U.S. military and its installations abroad,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin of the District of Columbia. “This indictment, and our partnership with the Fraud Section on this case, is part of that effort.”

“Contractors who do business with the Department of Defense should take notice of these investigations. This type of egregious conduct will not be tolerated” said Stanley Newell, Special Agent in Charge for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Transnational Operations Field Office. “DCIS and its law enforcement partners remain steadfast in our commitment to defend the integrity of the Department of Defense contracting process by rooting out fraud and deceit of this sort, and ensuring that the perpetrators are held accountable.”

“We are committed to maintaining the integrity of the procurement process,” said Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Criminal Investigation Command’s (CID) Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “This indictment sends an unmistakable message to other companies around the world – that we will be relentless in rooting out corruption at any level.”

The indictment alleges that Fryday and Mohammed offered bribes to a U.S. Army official at Erbil Air Base in Iraq. Fryday and Mohammed allegedly owned companies based in Erbil that sought contracts to supply goods and services to U.S. military forces there. In early 2020, Fryday and Mohammed allegedly offered to pay an Army contracting official a kickback equivalent to 20 percent of the value of any contract that he awarded to their companies. Fryday and Mohammed also allegedly offered an upfront cash payment in exchange for the award of a contract to supply equipment that was due to be awarded in late March 2020.

As part of the Fraud Section’s on-going efforts to combat corruption and fraud in contracting on U.S. military installations overseas, two additional individuals have been previously charged. Roy George Varkey, 56, of Kuwait City, Kuwait, was charged with two counts of bribery in an indictment filed in the District of Columbia on Dec. 19, 2019, for his role in offering bribes to an employee of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. military facility in Kuwait, in late 2019. Xavier Fernando Monroy, the former Director of Operations of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command Office in Busan, Republic of Korea, was charged by complaint on May 20, 2020 in the District of Columbia for allegedly participating in a bribery conspiracy and lying to federal investigators.

An indictment or complaint is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is the nation’s leading prosecuting authority for complex procurement fraud and corruption cases.

The investigation is being conducted by DCIS and the CID’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. Trial Attorney Michael P. McCarthy of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric S. Nguyen of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.

More here.

(Source: U.S. Department of Justice)

The post US Charges Two over Alleged Bribery in Iraq first appeared on Iraq Business News.

By Christophe Michels, Managing Director of the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Engineer Rasmi Al Jabri passed away suddenly yesterday on a walk outside his home in Erbil. He will be missed by his family, his tribe and his many friends, colleagues and admirers.

Rasmi was born 1939 in the city of Qurnah in Southern Iraq, where the two great rivers meet and where, it is said, the Garden of Eden once stood. His long and beautiful life encompasses the rise and fall of Iraq in the 20th century and the struggle for Iraq following the war of 2003. Rasmi was a true patriot who cut across political, ethnic, and religious divisions, which all rather seemed strange and artificial to him. He was a man of exceptional integrity with wonderful humour. He loved being part of the community he happened to be in and spoke to all people around him treating them with equal respect, be they ministers, mullahs, taxi drivers or waiters.

Rasmi was constantly on the move in Iraq, in the Middle East, Europe, and Canada, but he never left his home country for long. This happened only once to complete his studies as chemical and petroleum engineer in Birmingham. He loved and admired the United Kingdom and he fully dedicated his last years to building ties between Iraq and the UK. His work with IBBC was purely voluntary and his achievements were so great that you could not have advertised for someone to do the same.

He started with IBBC as an early member representing his company the Basrah Engineering Group (BEG). After a few years he decided to hand BEG over to his associates and to fully engage with IBBC. He first joined our Executive Committee, and soon afterwards became our Iraq Representative to finally join the IBBC Board and become Deputy Chairman.

He worked tirelessly at resolving problems of our Members in Iraq, but his real delight was to organise large delegations of Iraqi businessmen from all regions of Iraq to attend events in London. This effort culminated in over 400 Iraqi businessmen coming to the UK thanks to his efforts last year alone. There is an argument to be made that these businessmen did little business during their visits but this missed the fundamental point that having them leave Iraq and visit the UK was a crucial achievement in itself. It opened a first door to the wider world for many of them and at the same time created a unique feeling of cohesion and patriotism between these large and diverse groups of Iraqis, who found themselves visiting a western country often for the first time.

For more than a year now Rasmi has been working closely with our Baghdad office manager Muhanad Al Khatab, particularly when it comes to the organisation of these Iraqi delegations. I know that Muhanad who had deep sympathies for Rasmi and resembles him in many ways will continue this important work in the years to come.

In July of last year Rasmi, Brigadier James Ellery and myself visited Ramadi following an invitation of our friend and former MP of Ramadi Jaber Al Jabri. When we arrived at Jaber’s residence we found the great reception hall filled with maybe 50 or 60 dignitaries representing the tribes and the political and academic elites of Anbar. For 2 hours Rasmi spoke to all present about IBBC, the United Kingdom and Iraq, and why we had come to visit, and he listened and responded to all the comments made and questions asked. It was a very lively discussion which Rasmi mastered completely on his own talking to these important people whom he had never met before. Our excursion to Ramadi was indeed successful with the Governor of Anbar visiting IBBC in the UK only a few months later.

The day of Rasmi’s demise I spoke with him as I did almost every day and told him that one of our Members was in advanced discussions with Anbar governorate to engage in a major infrastructure project. This news pleased him, but did not surprise him, after all was it not the logical thing to happen?

Sayyid Rasmi whom I have never seen wearing a black turban and who in bars and cafes amused himself and others by ordering a gin and tonic without gin, will be deeply missed. It was a true privilege and blessing to have known him so well.

The post Rasmi Al Jabri, 1939 – 2020 first appeared on Iraq Business News.

By John Lee.

Germany’s new Consul General in Erbil, Klemens Semtner (pictured), has arrived in Erbil to take up his post.

According to a statement from the German Consulate in Erbil:

“Awaiting final agreement from the Iraqi government, he is ready to start working to strengthen relations with KRI.”

(Source: German Consulate in Erbil)

The post New German Consul General in Erbil first appeared on Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Kurdish authorities should cease harassing broadcaster NRT, release journalist Ahmed Zakhoy without charge, and allow the outlet to report freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said.

Yesterday, agents of the Asayish intelligence agency, affiliated with the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party, raided NRT’s office in the western city of Duhok, according to a report from the broadcaster and the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, a local press freedom group.

Agents in Duhok governorate also arrested NRT reporters Nihad Oramar, Shkeran Zebari, and Ahmed Zakhoy yesterday, according to the broadcaster’s report and NRT Duhok correspondent Taef Goran, who spoke told CPJ via messaging app.

Authorities released Zebari and Oramar without charge after a few hours, but Zhakoy remains in custody, according to Goran and that report. Goran added that officers confiscated Oramar’s broadcast equipment during his arrest and have not returned it.

Today, Asayish agents also raided NRT’s Erbil office and shut it down, according to the broadcaster and the Metro Center’s reports. NRT has continued working from its headquarters in Sulaymaniyah.

“Iraqi Kurdish authorities must free journalist Ahmed Zakhoy immediately and unconditionally, return any equipment confiscated in recent raids and arrests, and allow NRT to operate freely,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “This escalating harassment of NRT is unfair and undemocratic, and begs the question why authorities are so scared of the broadcaster that they have to shutter its offices.”

During the raids, Asayish agents forced all NRT employees out of the Erbil and Duhok offices and then chained the buildings closed, according to the broadcaster’s report and NRT Erbil Bureau Chief Rebwar Kakay, who told CPJ via messing app that agents did not provide any explanation for the raids or detentions.

Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s deputy minister for international advocacy coordination, sent a statement to CPJ today saying that NRT was suspended “for the meantime” for alleged incitement stemming from its coverage of recent civil unrest.

Last week, Asayish agents raided NRT’s Duhok office and held staffers inside for several hours, and also detained a crew covering protests in Erbil, as CPJ documented at the time. The regional government has repeatedly threatened and harassed NRT in recent months, according to CPJ research.

NRT is owned by Shasrwar Abdul-Wahid, the leader of the New Generation opposition movement.

(Source: CPJ)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) has announcd that Radiola Aerospace has joined as a new member.

In a statement, the IBBC said:

Having operated in Iraq since 2004, Radiola is well known in Iraq, and has been deeply involved in the provision of navigation and communication systems at Iraq’s leading airports, as well as validation and inspection of flight services.

Richard Thompson, executive director of Radiola explains ‘the company constantly pioneers and evolves their technical services to meet the highest standards in operations and testing and bring best practice from around the world to Iraq’s airports. ‘Our clients include both Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) as regulators, the General Company of Air Navigation Services (GCANS) , and local airport operators such as Erbil, Najaf and Suleymaniyah. Richard sees an ongoing relationship with Iraq as it expands its aerospace capabilities.

Richard says ‘ we joined IBBC to give us a more formal window into Iraq and consolidate the relationships with the key players in the country, and we look forward to evolving and adapting our technology to support all forms of aerospace services’.

Christophe Michels, MD of IBBC says’ we are delighted to receive Radiola as members and to strengthen the aerospace sector table grouping. We expect to add value to Radiola’s relationships and profile among the private and public sectors and learn from its technical leadership’

(Source: IBBC)

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq again breaks daily COVID-19 record

Iraq broke its record for daily confirmed COVID-19 cases again on Friday.

There were 4,013 new cases on Aug. 14. The highest numbers were in the capital Baghdad, Erbil in the Kurdistan Region and Basra in the south, according to the Ministry of Health.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

A new 300-megawatt steam power plant has been recently opened in Khabat, on the outskirts of Erbil.

The plant, built in partnership with South Korean companies POSCO and the Korean National Oil Company (KNOC), adds 10 percent to the region’s electricity capacity.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said that Kurdistan’s gas production will also increase in the near future as part of the KRG promise to provide 24 hours electricity.

(Source: KRG)