Monday, November 24, 2008

Mithal Al-Alusi acquitted after visit to Israel

Two men from states nominally at war with Israel visited the Jewish state. One, from Iraq, has been acquitted of his 'misdemeanour' - the other, from Iran, has not been heard of for some weeks.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

"An Iraqi MP prosecuted for visiting Israel where he attended a conference at the International Institute for Counterterrorism was acquitted on Monday.

"In September, Mithal al-Alusi's fellow lawmakers had voted overwhelmingly to strip him of his immunity and allow his prosecution for visiting an enemy state - a crime punishable by death under a 1950s-era law.

"Nevertheless, an Iraqi court ruled that there was no explicit law against visiting Israel.

"There is no law preventing any Iraqi from traveling to any country," Alusi's lawyer Tariq Harb told Reuters. "Alusi will regain all his rights."

"Because he had visited Israel, many Iraqis assume Alusi was the real target of assassins who killed his sons in 2005, while he escaped unharmed.

"Alusi has a German passport, allowing him to travel without visa restrictions imposed on other Iraqis. Lawmakers accused him of humiliating the nation with a trip to the 'enemy' state.

"He said he went to Israel to seek international support for Iraq as it struggles against terrorism, and insisted that the outcry reflects Iranian meddling in Iraq's internal affairs - an accusation often leveled by Sunnis like himself against Iraq's mostly Shi'ite neighbor.

"Alusi, 55, has a long history of clashes with authority and has spent half his life in exile.
He was sentenced to death in absentia in 1976 - he was studying in Cairo at the time - for allegedly trying to undermine Saddam Hussein. He went to Syria and Germany, returning in 2003 after the dictator was overthrown.

"Even in exile, he caused a commotion, leading a group that stormed the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin in 2002 to protest against Saddam's regime. A German court convicted him of hostage-taking and other charges, but he appealed and never served his full sentence of three years.

"In 2004, he was expelled from Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress for his earlier visit to Israel, also for a terrorism conference.

"In February 2005 came the ambush. Asad Kamal al- Hashimi, a former culture minister in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death last month on charges he planned it. Hashimi remains a fugitive."

Read article in full

Meanwhile, the mysterious disappearance in Iran of Hossein Derakhshan, a Canadian-based blogger who visited Israel in 2005, has been worrying Brian Whitaker at The Guardian. Derakhshan has not updated his blog since 1 November, fuelling speculation that he has been arrested as an Israeli spy. Others argue, however, that a report from an Iranian news agency has not been confirmed. Derakhshan's blogging in recent months shows that he was becoming increasingly disenchanted with the West.

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