Iraq parliament strips outspoken liberal MP of immunity

Iraqi lawmakers are seen before opening session of the new Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, Iraq, September 3, 2018 in this still image taken from a video. (Reuters)
Updated 17 September 2019

Iraq parliament strips outspoken liberal MP of immunity

  • Fayeq Al-Sheikh Ali won a parliamentary seat last year after promising to counter Islamists’ efforts to ban alcohol in the country
  • In a television appearance last month, he railed against Iraqi politicians in general

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament stripped an outspoken liberal lawmaker of his immunity from prosecution Tuesday following accusations he praised Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, despite his long history of opposing the executed dictator.
A constant critic of Iraq’s endemic corruption, Fayeq Al-Sheikh Ali won a parliamentary seat last year after promising to counter Islamists’ efforts to ban alcohol in the country.
In a television appearance last month, he railed against Iraqi politicians in general, saying: “Let them hear me: Ahmad Hassan Al-Bakr’s shoe is cleaner than all of them put together.”
A leading member of the Baath party, Bakr served as Iraq’s fourth president from 1968 to 1979, overseeing a period of economic revival before Saddam took over.
In contrast to current “lowly” politicians, Bakr and Saddam had distributed land freely, Sheikh Ali said.
The MP had himself gone into exile in the 1990s because of his opposition to Saddam and returned after the dictator was ousted in the US-led 2003 invasion.
But a host of MPs, most of them Islamist, said the comments amounted to “glorifying the Baath” — a punishable offense in post-Saddam Iraq — and voted on Tuesday to lift his parliamentary immunity.
One MP, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the move was also triggered by a personal spat with Hanan Al-Fatlawi, a former Shiite MP known for her divisive sectarian rhetoric.
“The immunity was lifted after a request from the public prosecutor over multiple charges, including glorifying the Baath and disputes” with Fatlawi, the lawmaker said.
The pair have traded barbs on Twitter that escalated so dramatically that Fatlawi’s tribe had to intercede.
In response to parliament’s move on Tuesday, Sheikh Ali — who has 140,000 followers on Twitter — posted a link to a traditional Kuwaiti song that translates to: “Happy Now.”


Bethlehem Nativity Church reopens after coronavirus closure

Updated 26 May 2020

Bethlehem Nativity Church reopens after coronavirus closure

  • The church was built over the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born
  • The Palestinian Authority has reported some 400 cases of the coronavirus in the West Bank

BETHLEHEM, West Bank: Bethlehem’s storied Church of the Nativity reopened to visitors on Tuesday, after a nearly three-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The church, built over the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born, was closed on March 5 as the first cases of the virus were reported in the West Bank.
The church is one of Christianity’s most sacred shrines and the closure came ahead of the busy Easter holiday season that typically draws tens of thousands of visitors and worshipers.
Bishop Theophylactos, a Greek Orthodox cleric, called the reopening a day of celebration for Bethlehem since “all the people now can enter the church and pray like before.”
The Palestinian Authority has reported some 400 cases of the coronavirus in the West Bank, with two deaths. Most of the cases were traced to Palestinians who worked inside Israel, which has been coping with a much larger outbreak.
Israeli authorities have begun to gradually reopen schools, houses of worship and markets as the spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed. Israel’s Health Ministry has reported over 16,700 confirmed cases of the disease and 279 deaths. More than 14,000 have recovered.