Iraqi man sentenced to death for murder of two journalists

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Iraq’s supreme court on Monday sentenced a man to death by hanging for the murder of two journalists covering anti-government protests in the southern city of Basra last year.

Ahmad Abdessamad, a 37-year-old correspondent for al-Dijla television station, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 26, were driving in their hometown of Basra in January 2020 when another vehicle pulled up, and gunmen opened fire, spraying the car with bullets.

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The condemned man, identified only by the initials “H.K.”, had “confessed to all the crimes”, the court in Basra said in a statement.

The court said he had killed the two journalists “with the aim of destabilizing security and stability and intimidating people for terrorist purposes.”

It did not provide further details about any group he belonged to.

He was arrested in early 2021 with four other members of a “network of 16 people responsible for assassinations”, a security official said at the time.

The decree authorizing his hanging must still be signed by Iraqi President Barham Saleh, and he has 30 days to appeal.

Demonstrations erupted in October 2019 in Baghdad and across Iraq’s Shiite-majority south, railing against government graft and a lack of jobs.
Around 600 people died across Iraq and tens of thousands were wounded in violence related to the protests.

Dozens of activists have died in targeted killings or been abducted since October 2019, in attacks sometimes carried out in the dead of night by men on motorbikes.

Iraqi human rights organizations accuse the government of failing to bring the killers to justice, but Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi has repeatedly pledged to track down the gunmen.

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