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World News /20 Oct 2015

Baghdad Targets Trade Minister in Corruption Investigation

By John Bugnacki for Peace Ambassadors for Iraq

According to a judicial spokesperson, Baghdad has issued arrest warrants against Iraq’s Trade Minister Malas Abdul Karim al-Kasnazani and his brother Nehru. The father of Abdul Karim and Nehru is the leader of the largest Sufi order in Iraq, the Kasnazani order.

The judiciary has transferred the case to a special anti-corruption court in Baghdad, and neither Abdul Kareem nor his brother have commented on the corruption charges.

The judiciary’s public statement does not identify the accusations that Abdul Karim and his brother currently face. However, two officials at the Trade Ministry’s legal section have stated that the charges are related to accepting bribes, receiving illegal benefits, and the abuse of power.

More specifically, Iraqi media has reported that the accusations are related to government contracts that Abdul Karim may have awarded, without tender, to firms in Jordan that are linked to his brother Nehru.

The Arrest Warrants Within the Scope of Abadi’s Reform Campaign

During the previous week, the judiciary issued several other arrest warrants against former officials at the Electricity Ministry and the Baghdad municipality on similar charges.

The arrest warrants are a part of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s reform campaign aimed at cracking down on corruption. Iraqi citizens have engaged in widespread protests against the government because of the lack of reliable public services, the largest cholera outbreak in years, the country’s worsening economic climate, the stalled fight against the Islamic State group (ISIL), and the general lack of transparency and accountability on the part of government officials.

Faced by unlivable conditions and the constant threat of violence from insurgent groups and foreign-backed militias, many Iraqis are simply departing from the country and joining the steady outward stream of refugees from the Middle East.

Since the beginning of the campaign in August, Abdul Karim is the highest-level official to face legal action. However, as the Iraqi government carries out Abadi’s reform plan, there are ongoing concerns that the reforms are either not fulfilling the promise of Abadi’s original proclamations or that the reforms are not proceeding in the correct manner.

For example, the Iraqi government recently opened up the heavily-guarded International Zone of Baghdad, also known as the Green Zone, and made it accessible to the public. At the same time, the government has done so in the midst of a very fragile security situation with many costly bomb attacks still occurring in crowded civilian areas. Moreover, many of the proposed reforms have yet to be implemented and, without international scrutiny, could end up as a way for existing political elites to consolidate power.

As such, the international community should act to keep the Iraqi government accountable and support long-term, inclusive solutions to the obstacles to peace in Iraq.

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