Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki following the killing of a journalist by a presidential guard on Saturday in which he vowed to "avenge his blood" has overshadowed the incident and caused a stir among politicians.
“It will be my responsibility to avenge this killing, and blood can only be expiated by blood,” said Maliki as he arrived at the scene of the shooting.
Hamid Mutlaq a member of the parliamentary defense and security committee criticized this comment, saying, “Iraq can not be ruled based on blood for blood because it won't get us anywhere.”
Though some Iraqi and Kurdish officials have said that the killing was “an individual act” and shouldn’t incriminate the entire presidential guard unit, the Iraqi prime minister has personally taken up the case and promised to punish those responsible.
Others believe that the Iraqi prime minister is using the death of Muhammad Bidaiwi, a university professor and head of Radio Free Iraq as a means to get back at the Kurds amid political disputes with Erbil.
In a statement, the Change Movement (Gorran) warned of politicizing the incident and inciting nationalist and sectarian feelings, while demanding a fair trial for the Kurdish officer charged with killing Bidaiwi.
Shortly after the shooting, interior ministry forces arrived at the gates of the presidential compound to arrest the Kurdish guard, which led to a tense standoff between both sides. However, it was reported that the guard was eventually handed over to the Iraqis after talks between Iraq’s First Lady, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed and Prime Minister Maliki.
“The guard has been handed over to the court so that the law takes care of the case,” Jabbar Yawar, chief of staff of the Peshmerga Ministry told Rudaw.
On Sunday there was a call by some Iraqi politicians to expel the Kurdish presidential guards from Baghdad and handing over the task to Iraqi forces. But Brigadier General Kahdar, the commander of the presidential guards told Rudaw that they would only leave on orders from the presidential office.
Kahdar said that the guards are under the Iraqi defense ministry and not the Ministry of Peshmerga as claimed in the media.
“The Bridges 1 and 2 have been in Baghdad for 10 years and have played an effective role in enforcing the law in Baghdad,” he said.
Kahdar said that the presidential guards are hailed as the best military force in Baghdad and that they have been praised by the office of PM Maliki for providing security in the capital.
Kahdar’s version of Saturday’s incident dismissed initial claims that Bidaiwi was killed after he had refused to stop at the presidential checkpoint.
“The journalist who was killed had wanted to drive on the wrong lane of the presidential guard checkpoint, but an officer did not allow him and it later led to a quarrel between him and the officer and the officer killed the journalist,” Kahdar explained.
For his part, Qassim Mashkhati, a Kurdish member of parliament accused the Iraqi authorities of ‘hypocrisy”, saying that they should have taken the case of other journalists killed in the past as seriously.
“The killers of Kamil Shiaa, Hadi Mahdi and Muhammad Abbas who were killed in front of the cameras, should have been talked about too and caused the same uproar,” he said.
Meanwhile in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, a group of Peshmarga officers, civil society and human rights activists gathered in Shanaidar Park to condemn Maliki’s talk of “revenge and blood” and to demand a fair trial for the Kurdish presidential guard.