Amnesty International has called on the authorities in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to immediately release a man who faces trial on fabricated terrorism charges this week after being held in detention for 11 years.
Walid Yunis Ahmad, also known as Abu Khubeib, will stand trial on Thursday. Although he has been detained continuously since 2000, no charges were brought against him until about six months ago when he was accused of ordering terrorist attacks in Dohuk from his prison cell. He was charged under the anti-terrorism law of 2006 and could be jailed for up to 15 years.
"Walid Yunis Ahmad is now facing possible prolonged imprisonment on trumped up charges after having been detained, effectively illegally, for more than 10 years by the Asayish, the Kurdistan Region's security police," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. "We are concerned that his trial now is an attempt both to justify his long detention and to extend it."
"We are urging the Kurdistan Regional Government to drop the charges and release him immediately, and provide reparation for his years in detention without trial and torture and other ill-treatment."
Concerns have been heightened by reports indicating that if convicted, the trial court would not take into account the long period he has already spent in detention when imposing a prison sentence. This is because for at least 10 years he was detained irregularly, in breach of Iraqi law.
"Walid Yunis Ahmad now risks being punished with further imprisonment as a direct result of his illegal detention by the Asayish. This is nothing short of turning justice upon its head."
Walid Yunis Ahmad was arrested on 6 February 2000 by the Asayish in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, after he was given a lift in a car that allegedly contained explosives as he made his way home from a meeting of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan, a legal opposition party. He has always denied any knowledge of the explosives. The driver of the car was also detained but released without charge.
The charges against him are based on information said to have been given to an investigative judge by "secret informants" whose identities have not been disclosed. Walid Yunis Ahmad’s defence lawyer will not be able to question them in court.
The evidence given by the "secret informants" relates to two separate unrelated incidents nine years after the arrest of Walid Yunis Ahmad when explosives were discovered in Dohuk in 2009.
No arrests have been made in relation to these incidents and those who reported the discovery of the explosives are reported to have denied any knowledge of Walid Yunis Ahmad.
During his detention Walid Yunis Ahmad has been visited by his wife, under strict security, but not others and there is no trace of the letters he is alleged to have written from prison.
Following his arrest in February 2000, he was subject to enforced disappearance for three years before his family found out where he was being detained and is reported to have been tortured, kept in solitary confinement and moved from prison to prison.
He is now held at the Asayish prison in the city of Duhok. Amnesty International delegates visited him in prison in Erbil in June 2010.