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November 07, 2004

THE IRAQI JUDGE WHO KNEW TOO MUCH--AND WAS FIRED FOR IT

There is an article in today's Le Monde that tells us so much about the real nature of the illusory Iraqi "democracy" that Bush keeps prating about, I decided to translate some of its principal findings, not a word of which has yet appeared in the U.S. press.

Judge Zouheir Al-Maliky, 42, had the confidence of the American provisional government, so much so  that it made him the first investigating magistrate in post-Saddam Iraq. In April 2004, he was asked to investigate suspected cases of brutality by the criminal brigade of the Iraqi police. That invrestigation proved his downfall.

According to a decree signed by the Americans in April, the role of the provisional government's intelligence services was supposed to be limited to harvesting information. But, says the judge, there are at least 110 people under detention by the police and the intelligence services, detentions which are utterly illegal. Worse, these prisoners have been subjected to extraordinarily brutal treatment , even torture.

"I visited the headquarters of the criminal brigade," which are under the control of the Interior Ministry, the judge says. "I questioned more than 15 prisoners. The conditions of their detention are deplorable, and the police are acting like Nazis. They use all sorts of barbaric methods, like electric shock, to make their prisoners talk --one man remains partially paralyzed by this torture. Having been myself detained on numerous occasions by the Hussein regime, I consider these illegal detentions to be a personal challenge. I know the suffering they represent. I issued an order for the Minister of the Interior and the chief of intelligence to appear before me. I indicted 20 agents of the security services, of whom 5 were guilty of torture. After an intense struggle, I was able to secure the liberation of 52 of the illegally detained."

The problem, says the judge, is that "with the intensification of guerilla warfare, the Americans lost interest in these goings-on. " And the Allawi government refuses to obey the injuctions of the court. "When I protested that the permission of a judge is necessary for these people to be imprisoned, the government set up a new judge and a special tribunal that will follow its orders. To do this, the Allawi government uses a law concocted by Saddam Hussein in 1971, which is no longer in force today, and which permits them to arrest and detain who they want, when they want."

According to Judge Al-Maliky, the more than 110 people currently imprisoned illegally are all accused of being Iranian spies. "I do not say that there are no Iranian agents in Iraq, and I'm well-placed to know that foreign fighters operate on our territory. Several of my investigations have proved that. But, in these particular cases, I can certify that those detained are ordinary Iraqis, men linked to religious Shiite parties of the Supreme Council of the Isalamic Revolution, or are Iraqi Hezbollah, or are Iraqis expelled during the Iraq/Iran war and who returned after the fall of Saddam."

On October 18, the Minister of the Interior Falah Al-Nakib admitted, before the provisional parliament, a few cases of "arbitrary detention" which the government promised to "work to end."  The next day, Judge Al-Maliky was fired, without explanation, by the Judicial Council.

Judge Al-Maliky has not only lost his envied position as the senior investigating magistrate of Iraq, he has lost his confidence in the current government, and in the hope of a better future for his country. "I can't tell how much I feel deceived," he says. "Under the old Saddam regime, I said: okay, it's a dictatorship which acts like a dictatorship. But today, we hear talk about a free and democratic Iraq, in which no one is supposed to be above the law. But this government tortures, just like before under Saddam."

"I've also investigated huge corruption scandals--involving millions of dollars, linked to reconstruction contracts--in which are implicated very important officials of the muncipality of Baghdad, as well as the Ministers of the Interior, of Information, and of Transport. One of these investigations was responsible for my firing...."

"Saddam Hussein planted bad seeds in our country. Now the Iraqis think they can act like he did. When I tell them that what they're doing is illegal, they are sincerely surprised. They have been content to simply take up once again the style, the methods, and a mentality in which they were raised for more than 30 years. This is quite frightening for the future. I wanted to stop history from repeating itself. I failed. The same abuses are being repeated--it's just like what happened when the Ba'th arrived in power in 1968. Some people take power, others try to oppose their abuses. The latter are shunted aside. The situation will continue to get worse until, finally, a new Saddam emerges...."

This Le Monde account of the firing of Judge Al-Maliky--who is now reduced to being an ordinary lawyer in an obscure Baghdad office-- underscores how little value can be placed in the elections scneduled to be held in two months in Iraq, now that the Allawi government has placed the entire country under martial law. And the judge's story makes a mockery of Bush's claims that the puppet government, stamped "approved by Washington," is building genunine democracy in Iraq. That government's complicity in the coming bloody full-scale assault on Fallujah will seal its image with the Iraqi people, making it clear that the only way its principal figures can win an election is by stealing it--which, as the judge's account makes clear, they are providing themselves with the "legal" weapons to do.

Tom Dispatch has a sharpeyed piece by the excellent Dilip Hiro on the just-begun attack on Fallujah--which, he notes, "will act as a catalyst, uniting disparate resistance groups throughout Iraq. It is also expected to increase resentment among Iraqis and swell insurgent ranks." This is a point DIRELAND made last month, but it bears repeating. Lenin's Tomb also had intelligent comments on Fallujah in a Saturday post....

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