Iraq court sentences man to death for murder of two journalists

Ahmad Abdessamad, 37 and Safaa Ghali, 26, were fatally shot while driving home after covering anti-government protests.

Protesters chant slogans as they participate in a memorial march for two slain journalist [File: Hussein Faleh/AFP]

Iraq’s supreme court has 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.

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

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

It did not provide further details about his affiliation with any groups.

The charged man 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 authorising his hanging must still be signed by Iraqi President Barham Salih. He has 30 days to appeal.

Demonstrations erupted in October 2019 in Baghdad and across Iraq’s Shia-majority south, railing against government graft and a lack of jobs.

Approximately 600 people died across the country 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 organisations have accused the government of failing to bring the killers to justice.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has repeatedly pledged to track down the gunmen.

Source: AFP