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Iraq to try election officials over fraud: judiciary

The suspects were the heads of election offices in several provinces [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 July, 2018

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Iraq will put on trial five election officials in connection with fraud, including vote buying, during the country's May legislative elections, a judicial official said on Saturday.

Five election officials will be put on trial in Iraq in connection with fraud, including vote buying, during the country's May legislative elections, a judicial official said on Saturday.

The suspects were the heads of election offices in Salaheddin, Kirkuk and Anbar provinces as well as those who oversaw the voting in neighbouring Jordan and Turkey, Judge Laith Hamza said.

All five have been sacked "and will appear before the courts" in connection with allegations of fraud, Hamza said.

The decision to put them on trial has been taken following recommendations made by a ministerial committee, which issued a 28-page report after reviewing a series of complaints.

Hamza said the committee recommended they be tried after coming across "(election) violations, fraud and corruption" in the districts which the five suspects headed.

According to the ministerial report, some of the alleged fraud involved "vote buying" on behalf of the Minister of Commerce Salman Ali and his brother Issam.

Iraq's May election were marred by allegations of fraud which prompted the supreme court to order a manual recount in several districts, including in the northern multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk.

The election was won by populist Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr's joint list with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.

The results were contested mainly by the old guard.

The supreme court also ratified a decision by the outgoing parliament to dismiss Iraq's nine-member electoral commission and replace them with judges.

The ministerial committee additionally recommended in its report that a new law be passed to ensure that in the future independent judges - rather that an electoral commission - oversee elections.

Earlier this month, an official at Baghdad International Airport told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that incumbent members of Iraq's parliament are reportedly fleeing the country en masse out of fears they will be prosecuted on corruption charges after a new parliament is sworn in.

"Last week around 45 parliamentarians from various blocs flew out of the county on one-way tickets," the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

"Some have travelled with their families to various countries such as Iran, Turkey, Egypt and other places," he said, adding they could likely be fleeing before their parliamentary immunity expires.

Earlier this month, parliament ordered a full recount of the vote, after results showed two-thirds of its members lost their seats.

Iraq has been riddled with corruption since a US-led invasion in 2003 installed a new government.

Funds have gone missing from public coffers for a decade-and-a-half with many politicians becoming overnight millionaires in a country widely perceived as being one of the most corrupt in the world.

Abdel Falah al-Sudani, a former trade minister, was recently sentenced to 21 years in prison after being found guilty of corruption weeks after Interpol handed him over to Iraqi authorities.

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