PUK leader Bafel Talabani bestows awards on Wahab Halabjayee, head of the PUK's Counterterrorism Group, and other senior CTG officials, a day following an Erbil court's in absentia death sentence on several PUK officials, including Halabjayee."

Live: PUK leader honors Halabjay following death sentence verdict

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KDP and Komal officials respond to recent Erbil court ruling

Following the recent ruling by an Erbil court, which sentenced the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's Counter Terrorism Group head and commanders to death in absentia, more reactions are emerging from the KDP and the Kurdistan Islamic Group, commonly known as Komal.

A KDP official questioned the stance of Komal leaders during a press conference, asking why they didn't feel shame for their alleged involvement in violent acts, while criticizing the court's verdict against individuals deemed as terrorists. Marewan Qarani, deputy leader of the KDP in the Iraqi Parliament, voiced his support for the Erbil court's decision in a conversation with Bas News. Qarani deemed the ruling legitimate and backed by evidence from the Kurdistan Security Council. He suggested that the criticism from Komal leaders stemmed from their inability to provide any evidence refuting the court's decision. 

In response to the ensuing controversy, Komal President Ali Bapir's office issued a clarification. The statement explained that Bapir's comments were not specifically related to the death sentence of Hawkar Jaff, but were aimed at the monopolization of the judicial system.

As previously covered in this live blog, the Erbil court's decision and questions surrounding the politicized nature of the judiciary system in the Kurdistan region continue to fuel debate.

Violent clash in Sulaymaniyah results in 12 injuries, 18 arrests

A violent altercation in the Chwarbakh neighborhood of Sulaymaniyah resulted in 12 injuries and 18 arrests, according to Sulaymaniyah Police spokesperson Sarkawt Ahmed. 

Emergency response teams promptly transported the injured individuals to Shar Hospital in Sulaymaniyah, as confirmed by Saman Nader, head of the emergency center in the city. Of those injured, two sustained gunshot wounds while 10 others were injured with knives or caning rods.

Reports indicate the clash involved a group referred to as "Qaraj" by some Kurdish media outlets and Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, officials. The term, a derogatory label applied to the Roma community, perpetuates negative stereotypes and contributes to the marginalization of the Roma community in Middle Eastern society.

The motives behind the violence remain unclear and the incident is still under investigation. The clash occurred in close proximity to the city's main library.

Deputy Prime Minister Expresses Concern Over Kurdistan Region Party Disputes

KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani has voiced concern over ongoing disputes between the PUK and KDP, according to a report from PUK Media. 

Talabani met with Jessica Svärdström, Swedish ambassador to Iraq, during which he expressed worries that these party disputes could destabilize the region's politics and economy. He suggested the disagreements, potentially between KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and PUK leader Bafel Talabani, could further endanger the future of the Kurdistan Region.

Talabani called on political leaders, particularly from the KDP and PUK, to address these issues directly, engage in dialogue, and prioritize the region's needs over party politics. Known as the more moderate of the two brothers leading the PUK, he emphasized that the upcoming Kurdistan Parliament elections must be fair and transparent to mitigate ongoing internal strife. 

Talabani suggested that improving internal stability could also enhance the Kurdistan Region's bargaining power in negotiations with Baghdad.

After a brief period of stability following, KDP-PUK relations have begun to deteriorate again. Disputes over the Iraqi budget bill, the election law, and recent death sentences are threatening the November elections. While both the KDP and PUK have stated they wish for the elections to occur as planned, neither appears to be making significant compromises to ensure this happens.


Legal expert voices concern over politicized judiciary in Kurdistan region

A prominent judicial figure in Kurdistan believes that political parties in the region are engaging in the politicization of the judiciary, which ultimately leads to humiliating and undermining the system. Judge Latif Mustafa, a former Gorran MP and respected judicial figure, made these remarks in reference to today's press conference held by Ali Bapir and Saadi Pira.

During a press conference today, Bapir and Pira expressed their shame to discuss judicial decisions in the region, citing a perceived undermining of the courts. Mustafa contends that the current politicization of the judiciary system in Kurdistan is primarily driven by the ruling political parties in the region.

He further asserts that this politicization has prompted other political parties and influential figures to seek for their rights through the Federal Court in Baghdad. Mustafa believes that the current state of the judiciary system is significantly contributing to the destruction of the Kurdistan region.

Yesterday, The Erbil court sentenced Wahab Halabjay, head of the PUK's CTG, along with two other high-ranking CTG officials and three PUK officers, to death in absentia in relation to the 2022 killing of CTG official Hawkar Jaff in Erbil, as alleged by Jaff's family at a press conference.

The verdict reached today by Erbil's courts is not the first instance of such a ruling. Previously, an Erbil court decided on the presidency of PUK. According to the court's decision, Lahur Talabany is still recognized as the co-chair of PUK, although this decision was rejected by PUK, who cite federal court verdicts in their favor.

On the other hand, the Sulaymaniyah court has also shown signs of politicization in its support for PUK. As a result, the decisions made by the courts in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah are often influenced by political interference.

The utilization of legal institutions was particularly evident during the period of PUK and KDP's dispute over the Commission. The Chronicle of Kurdistan, a publication controlled by the Minister of Justice responsible for circulating Parliament and Government laws and regulations, disseminated the text of the 2023 10th Law of the Kurdistan Parliament. This law pertains to the reactivation of the Kurdistan electoral commission and instatement of its commissioners.

The Chronicle of Kurdistan's cover was posted on the official Facebook page of the Minister of Justice, currently held by KDP's Farsat Ahmad Abdullah.

As we analyzed previously, "security disputes," particularly surrounding the assassination of Hawkar Jaff in Erbil in 2022, have been a central point of contention between the KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). These disagreements reportedly comprised part of the May agreement between the two factions.

Iraqi MPs Push for Parliamentary Vote on Contentious Budget Law

Several Iraqi MPs are collecting signatures in an effort to convene a parliamentary session to vote on the week's budget, according to a document obtained by al-Sumaria News.

This move comes amidst unresolved disputes over the KRG's share of the Iraqi budget, as stipulated in Articles 13 and 14 of the budget law.

The PUK and the KDP are currently negotiating with other Iraqi political parties and the parliamentary Finance Committee regarding these controversial articles in the proposed budget law.

Earlier, the PUK's team leader in the Iraqi Parliament affirmed that amendments to Articles 13 and 14 of the Iraqi Budget bill, specifically concerning the Kurdish Region, pose no threat to its constitutional autonomy.

Contrarily, the KDP has voiced concerns that the proposed budget law might encroach upon KRG's sovereignty by enabling Iraq to oversee border crossings.

Subtly criticizing the amendments on Twitter, the KDP's KRG Prime Minister stated they "violate the agreement with al-Sudani's Government." This comment implies that the KDP may apply pressure on the incumbent government in Baghdad should the amendments remain unchanged.

Iraqi forces 'lift blockade' on Makhmour refugee camp

The military blockade enforced by Iraqi forces on the Makhmour refugee camp has been lifted, ending a 16-day standoff, according to a Sunday evening announcement from the Makhmour Democratic People's Assembly.

The resolution follows extensive negotiations with Iraqi authorities, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of the military and ended the residents' two-week-long isolation.

This is not the first blockade on the Makhmour refugee camp. In 2021, there were similar attempts to restrict the camp's residents, with efforts made to surround the camp with wire fences. On May 20, another attempt to encircle Makhmour with wire fences was made by the Iraqi authorities, using construction equipment, armored vehicles, and military personnel, effectively isolating the camp and blocking all movement. However, the residents of Makhmour resisted and protested against the blockade.

Yusuf Kara, Co-chair of the Makhmour Camp People's Assembly, alleged that the actions of the Iraqi army were under the influence of the Turkish government and the KDP. Kara claimed that both the Turkish government and the KDP have vested interests in evacuating the camp, despite the Kurdish residents' steadfast adherence to Iraqi law.

"After a series of meetings, the most recent one being in Baghdad, we have successfully reached an agreement to address these issues through dialogue. As a result, the Iraqi army has withdrawn from the Makhmour Refugee Camp, leading to the conclusion of our resistance," stated Kara.

Situated roughly 60 km southwest of Erbil, the Makhmour Refugee Camp, officially recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), serves as a shelter for approximately 13,000 Kurdish refugees fleeing from Turkey.

"Iraq is quietly falling apart," warns Michael Knights

Michael Knights of the Washington Institute provides insightful analysis of Iraq's seemingly tranquil façade in a compelling piece titled "Iraq is Quietly Falling Apart." Despite outward indicators of diminished violence and a functioning government, Knights sounds the alarm on rising Iranian influence seeping into Iraq's political system. This stealthy takeover, masquerading as stability, could unbalance Iraq's politics in the long haul.

As the US focuses on de-escalation in its rivalry with China, it could confront significant long-term costs and the potential need for re-engagement. Knights advocates for sustained US involvement with Iraq, the world's third-largest oil producer. He warns that instability in Iraq could precipitate unrest across the Middle East, irrespective of the ongoing great-power competition.

The Coordination Framework’s subsequent monopolization of all branches of the Iraqi government is unprecedented in the country’s post-2003 history. It is ruling with a level of unchecked authority that Iraq has not seen since the days of Saddam Hussein. Sudani is a puppet: while the prime minister is an experienced public sector manager and a hard worker, he leads Iraq in name only and is openly disparaged by Tehran’s allies in Baghdad. The real powers are three warlords, each closely tied to Iran, at the top of the Coordination Framework: U.S.-designated terrorist Qais al-Khazali, the head of the Iran-trained Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia; former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; and the leader of the Iran-founded Badr Organization, Hadi al-Amiri.

Michael Knights

Erbil governor meets with brother of slain Hawkar Jaff amid rising tensions

Erbil's Governor, Omed Khoshnaw, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), met today with Mohammed Jaff, the brother of the late Hawkar Jaff, in the wake of death sentence verdicts passed by an Erbil court.

According to a statement issued on the Erbil Governorate's website, Mohammed Jaff expressed his gratitude to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Erbil courts, and security forces for their roles in the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of those responsible for his brother's murder.

As we analyzed previously, "security disputes," particularly surrounding the assassination of Hawkar Jaff in Erbil in 2022, have been a central point of contention between the KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). These disagreements reportedly comprised part of the May agreement between the two factions.

However, with the seeming dissolution of this agreement, the Jaff family finds itself in the midst of ongoing disputes while seeking resolution. Mohammed Jaff, maintaining his PUK membership, specifically aligns with Lahur Talabany's faction. This alliance could ultimately prove advantageous to Talabany, especially considering the escalating tensions between the KDP and PUK.
AFP reported that Greece announced on Sunday its plans to aid dozens of asylum seekers. They've been stranded for days along its river border with Turkey, according to Greek officials.

The move follows a lack of intervention from Turkish authorities. A video, yet to be verified, suggests the stranded group are Yazidis, a primarily Iraq-based Kurdish-speaking religious minority. As per the video, the group of approximately 80 has been stuck on a river islet for about six days. Several need medical attention.

In recent years, thousands of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have sought refuge in Greece from Turkey, hoping to reach Western Europe. However, intensified Aegean Sea patrols have pushed many to cross the river border instead, turning to traffickers for further road transport.Greece is currently under interim governance, led by Prime Minister Ioannis Sarmas, a senior judge. It is preparing for national elections on June 25. Sarmas' office disclosed its appeal to Turkey on Sunday, urging coordination to prevent illegal crossings."

Low water levels in the Evros River are aiding illegal crossings," a statement from Sarmas' office revealed. It added that about 80 immigrants are on a river islet within Greek territory.Another group, almost 140 asylum seekers, was apprehended inside Greek territory on Thursday. They had crossed the same river.

Greece, likely to see a return of its conservative government post the June 25 elections, plans to expand the existing border fence. The aim is to add 35 kilometers (22 miles) to the 38-kilometer fence within a year, reaching 100 kilometers by 2026.
Iraqi PM receives Damascus visit invitation

Syria's foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, has extended an invitation to Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani to visit Damascus, according to a statement released by the Iraqi premier's office. The invitation surfaced during Mekdad's Sunday visit to Baghdad, where talks focused on humanitarian aid and the fight against illegal drug trafficking.

The invitation symbolizes Syria's diplomatic resurgence following the Arab League's decision to end its suspension from the 22-member bloc, marking a comeback for President Bashar al-Assad's regime after years of civil war. Iraq maintained its alliance with Damascus throughout the wider Arab boycott, keeping ties open and collaborating closely during Syria's internal conflict, particularly in combating the Islamic State group."

Iraq was one of the initiators of Syria's return to the Arab League," said Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein during a joint press conference with Mekdad.The issue of Syrian refugees, many of whom have found asylum in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey following the Syrian civil war, was also addressed. Approximately 250,000 of these refugees live in camps within the Kurdistan region, as disclosed by Hussein. The two officials also discussed plans to deliver humanitarian aid to war-stricken Syria.

Other pressing matters discussed during Mekdad's visit involved drug trafficking and water scarcity. Both countries are battling the proliferation of the amphetamine-like drug captagon and severe water shortages. An emerging security issue stems from the captagon trade across the Syria-Iraq border, leading to the seizure of over three million captagon pills by Iraqi guards in March. Concurrently, dam construction in neighboring countries and climate change impacts have severely diminished water flows in both nations.

The Statement from PM's office:

Prime Minister Mohammed S. Al-Sudani Receives Syrian Foreign Minister

Today, Prime Minister Mr. Mohammed S. Al-Sudani met with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Faisal Mekdad to discuss strengthening bilateral relations. The talks covered various aspects of cooperation and avenues for further development between the two nations.

The Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs extended greetings from President Bashar al-Assad and extended an invitation to Prime Minister Al-Sudani to visit Damascus. The visit aims to explore additional opportunities for collaboration and coordinate efforts to enhance security and stability in the region.

The Prime Minister emphasized the significance of Syrian territorial integrity for Iraq and the interconnectedness of Iraqi national security with Syria's security. Furthermore, he expressed complete readiness to support the Syrian people in overcoming their challenges and hardships.

Mr. Faisal Mekdad expressed his country's support for Iraq's regional role and its efforts to strengthen ties among Arab nations and regional countries. He emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts to address shared challenges, such as combating drug trafficking and terrorism, as well as addressing the refugee situation.

NGM leader warns of consequences for noncompliance with court ruling

The New Generation Movement (NGM) leader, Shaswar Abdulwahid, warned that the Kurdish authorities' failure to comply with a recent federal court ruling to dissolve the Kurdistan Parliament could lead to further dissolutions of institutions.

During an episode of NRT TV's Tawtwe talk show—NRT TV is owned by Abdulwahid himself—he told host Karzan Osman that ruling political parties cannot disregard institutions in Baghdad, the international community, and court rulings. Abdulwahid, his sister Srwa Abdulwahid, and other figures spearheaded the lawsuit that resulted in the regional parliament's dissolution.

Abdulwahid alleges that KDP leader Masoud Barzani sought interference from several Iraqi leaders in the court's ruling, though this claim has not been verified by NRT English.

Abdulwahid further stated that the KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) find themselves at a crossroads: uphold the Kurdistan Region's integrity through elections or risk its destruction. Abdulwahid underscored his commitment to fostering strong institutions in the Kurdistan Region as part of a federal, constitutional, and democratic Iraq.

Addressing potential "dictatorial moves," such as extending the parliamentary tenure in the Kurdistan Region, Abdulwahid indicated that the NGM would petition Baghdad to intervene. This position extends to defending democracy within the Region if Baghdad itself were to lean toward dictatorship.

Additionally, Abdulwahid discussed the recent amendment to the Iraqi budget bill introduced by the parliamentary finance committee, which he believes the KDP and PUK oppose as it may curb corruption within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

He maintains that the bill earmarks specific proportions of the budget for salaries and projects, a provision rejected by the KRG. Abdulwahid also criticized Kurdish political parties for their perceived lack of support for the Kurdish cause and budget allocation in the Iraqi Parliament.

KRG PM urges elections this year

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani stressed today that "the elections should be held at their designated time this year," without specifically referencing the election law or overseeing commission.

In a meeting with Swedish Ambassador to Iraq Jessica Svärdström, Barzani reiterated the "importance of respecting agreements between all parties involved and ensuring the fulfillment of the financial and constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region."

While discussing the Kurdistan Region's internal situation, Barzani emphasized the necessity of conducting parliamentary elections, asserting that "the elections should proceed as scheduled this year."

It's noteworthy that KDP leaders have previously emphasized the need for elections this year, but no practical agenda or national consensus exists on this issue.

These comments come as the Iraqi Federal Court ruled the extension of Kurdistan's parliamentary term "illegal," nullifying all laws enacted by the parliament during that extended period. This includes the so-called 'reactivation' of Kurdistan's electoral commission claimed by the KDP.

Despite the court's May 30 ruling, the KDP contends that the current KRG cabinet has not assumed an 'interim' status, a view conflicting with the PUK stance, exacerbating tensions between the two parties.

As reported by the Iraqi al-Sabah newspaper, the PUK argues that the KRG cabinet is indeed interim, a position the KDP strongly disputes. Saad Hamawandi, an advisor to the KDP President, asserts that the Federal Court's decision "does not negatively affect the KRG." He argues the cabinet's term hasn't yet expired, necessitating more time to transition to an interim government.

However, Yousif Zozani, a senior PUK member, contends that the KRG cabinet has already assumed interim status following the court's ruling. He recommends a thorough investigation into the cabinet's authority, including their powers' scope and limits.
Full statement regarding today's meeting from KRG Premier's office:

Pleased to welcome today Jessica Svärdström, the Swedish Ambassador to Iraq. We discussed developments in Iraq and advancing cooperation between the Kurdistan Region and Sweden.

Regarding relations with the federal government, we stressed the need to respect the agreements between the sides and provide the financial and constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region.

We also discussed the internal situation of the Kurdistan Region and the importance of holding parliamentary elections and reiterated that the elections should be held at its time this year.

Ambassador Svärdström stated that despite the challenges, the reforms and development in the Kurdistan Region continue.
We also emphasized cooperation in improving and advocating for women's rights in the Kurdistan Region and the importance of equal opportunities for women in different sectors.

Iraqi parliament set to vote for budget bill "this week"

Let's get back to the controversial budget law and its latest developments as the Iraqi Parliament is expected to hold a vote on the proposed law during this week. Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Muhsin al-Mandalawi  announced that the parliament will convene this week to vote on the proposed budget law.

The PUK and KDP are currently engaged in discussions with Iraqi political parties and the Finance Committee of parliament regarding the articles 13 and 14 of the proposed budget law. As a result, Atwan Atwani, the Head of the Committee, has stated that they have requested to postpone the parliamentary meeting until next week.

Previously, PUK team lead in Iraqi Parliament reaffirmed its stance that amendments to articles 13 and 14 of the Iraqi Budget bill, which specifically concern the Kurdish Region, pose 'no threat' to its constitutional autonomy.

The KDP has expressed apprehensions that the proposed budget bill infringes on KRG's sovereignty by granting Iraq oversight over border crossings.

The KRG Prime Minister obliquely criticized the amendments on Twitter, stating they "violate the agreement with al-Sudani's Government." This suggests the KDP might exert pressure on the incumbent government in Baghdad if the amendments remain intact. Bashir Haddad, former Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament from the KDP, didn't dismiss the possibility of "withdrawing from the Iraqi government and the political process in Baghdad" if the amendments remain.

The New Generation Movement (NGM) believes that the current amendments benefit the Kurdish people and KRG employees, as they include a clause obliging the KRG to repay 10% of the deducted salaries of employees. Additionally, NGM believes the budget will enhance transparency concerning oil exports and revenue. The KDP was reported to be unhappy with the provision as it was adopted at the time. The KRG's PM said in a speech last week that they're not against paying back deferred salary but against using it as a political tool without setting aside funds for it at the federal level.
Overnight drone attack in Mawat district reportedly kills one, injures another

A drone attack overnight in the Mawat district reportedly resulted in one death and one injury. The drone, suspected to be Turkish, targeted the Qalarash valley near the Galala village.

Pro-PKK Roj News reported the incident. According to the Kurdistan 24 website, both victims were PKK fighters traveling between villages on motorcycles.

A drone attack targeted the same area in the Sulaymaniyah province last month, although no casualties were reported at the time.

In recent years, Turkey has launched numerous military operations against the PKK and its affiliated groups, not only within its borders, but also in neighboring countries like Iraq and Syria.
A member of the PUK leadership suggested that the state of the Kurdistan region itself swayed the Federal court's decision regarding the illegality of extending the Parliamentary term.

At a press conference following a meeting with the Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal), Saadi Ahmed Pira, a PUK leader, expressed concerns about changes within the region and Iraq, saying they're not all positive for Kurds. He called for preventing external interference in Kurdish internal politics to avoid exacerbating the situation.

Pira stressed the necessity of closer and more intensive discussions, declaring, "we need to have intensive discussions." He championed unity as the solution to the problems they're facing, adding, "The solution for the problems is the need for unity, and this way we can achieve great achievements." He urged for increased efforts to secure Kurdistan's rights and entitlements in Baghdad.

Pira underscored the importance of leveraging the international stance of the Kurdish people, suggesting that "the only one that can risk our position, security, and our situation is ourselves."

On articles 13 and 14 of the Iraqi budget, Pira said they are "still under discussion."

In the same press conference, President of Komal Ali Bapir stated, "We are in a different condition following the Federal court's decision. We will abide by the Iraqi constitution in relation to the elections." He also "called for justice in the region."

This visit by PUK senior officials and their meeting with another regional political party mark the first visit following the Federal court's decision. The PUK's relationship with the KDP remains murky, particularly due to disputes over the amendment of the Kurdistan Regional Government's share in the Iraqi budget and disagreements over the election law.


French journalist rejects detainment denial by PUK Asayish forces

French journalist Benoit Drevet contested the denial of his arrest by the Sulaymaniyah Asayish, insisting that he was detained overnight in a room at the security station. Despite numerous requests, Drevet said he was prohibited from making contact with anybody during his confinement.

In addition to detaining Drevet, the security forces reportedly also held his local aid and three family members, including a child, for several hours at the security station.

Drevet, a freelance journalist based in the Kurdistan Region, was documenting the impact of Turkey's airstrikes — ostensibly aimed at PKK fighters — on civilians in the region on Friday when he and his assistant were purportedly arrested. He said their belongings were seized and they were barred from contacting the French consulate, countering claims from PUK's Asayish denying the arrests.

Drevet alleges that he was detained for 17 hours, during which his camera's content was searched. His passport, camera, and cell phone were confiscated while he was held overnight at a local Asayish station. He was released the following morning.

Drevet reported frequent encounters with Kurdish security forces telling him, "You are our guest and this is for your security", hinting at similar past incidents.

The Asayish, in their statement, argued that Drevet and his aid were "removed from the location for their own safety" due to presumed Turkish drone flights overhead, often associated with airstrikes. Drevet, however, questioned this reasoning, asking why he was held overnight if safety was indeed their primary concern.

"I am now free, and I can speak because of the French intervention via the consulate. But what if I were Kurdish? I don't know," Drevet said. "Many journalists have been and continue to be detained here for the wrong reasons, sometimes for a very long time, and put in jail for nothing."

Kurdistan is becoming increasingly dangerous for journalists. Last year, during an attempted protest by the NGM opposition party, a Voice of America journalist was detained in a similar manner, her phone searched without due process. The Metro Center for Journalists Rights and Advocacy recorded 431 “violations” against 301 journalists in 2022 alone.

PUK leader dons CTG uniform in show of support following Erbil court verdict

Following a verdict by the Erbil court, Bafel Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), donned a Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) uniform less than a day later to show his full support for the group's commanders and honored those convicted by the court.

Talabani's Facebook page reported his visit to the CTG headquarters earlier today. He commended the CTG as Kurdistan's primary anti-terror force during a meeting with several of its commanders, including Halabjay, and lauded their efforts in counteracting threats to regional security.

"Your dedication to preserving stability and protecting the populace is a testament to your loyalty," Talabani stated, pledging to work with allies to fortify the CTG forces.

Talabani bestowed an award on the CTG in the meeting's closing moments to recognize their "contributions and sacrifices for the prosperity of Kurdistan."

The PUK's reaction to the court ruling wasn't confined to Talabani's show of solidarity. During a press conference post-meeting with the Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal), Saadi Pira, a PUK leadership member, expressed his disdain for the verdict, claiming it politicized and undermined the regional judiciary system. Pira cited past instances where the Erbil court has handed down death sentences.

The Erbil court recently sentenced Wahab Halabjay, head of the PUK's CTG, along with two other high-ranking CTG officials and three PUK officers, to death in absentia in relation to the 2022 killing of CTG official Hawkar Jaff in Erbil, as alleged by Jaff's family at a press conference.

Those convicted alongside Halabjayee were:

  • Karzan Mohammed Rashid, Head of Intelligence, PUK's CTG
  • Louay Mohammed Raza, Commander of CTG's regiment in Garmyan
  • Wrya Khalid Ali, Officer
  • Lashkir Mohammed Hassan, Officer
  • Assi Rashid Hussein, Officer

Hawkar Jaff, a CTG colonel associated with ousted PUK co-president Lahur Sheikh Jangi Talabany, was ousted from the CTG in a purge led by Talabani in 2021. On October 7, 2022, Jaff was killed when a sticky bomb detonated on his vehicle as he left his home in Erbil. The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC), controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), implicated the PUK's CTG and Halabjayee in the assassination.

Full statement by Bafel Talabani:
Bafel Jalal Talabani, President of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, met with Wahab Halabjaei, Director General of Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) and a number of Counter-Terrorism commanders.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Director General of Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) presented the future intelligence and military strategy for the CTG to protect the region, fighting terrorism and coordination with Iraqi forces and allies and stressed the continuity of operations and efforts to maintain stability in the region.

President Bafel Jalal Talabani acknowledged the CTG forces as the first counter-terror force in Kurdistan and their efforts to fight terrorists and thwart several plots to disrupt the security of the region. And he said, you are an example of loyal and hardworking commanders of Kurdistan and you have a history that you should be proud of. Your efforts to maintain the stability of the region and its beloved people testify to your loyalty and tirelessness.

President Bafel said that we will continue to work with our allies to expand and strengthen the Counter-Terrorism Group forces to become a stronger shield to protect Kurdistan.
At the end of the meeting, the PUK President presented an award to the Counter-Terrorism Directorate for their efforts and sacrifices for the sake of Kurdistan and the prosperity of its people.
Good morning from London and a warm afternoon greeting to those in the Kurdistan Region. Let's dive into today's developments:
  • Leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Bafel Talabani, has shown support for Wahab Halabjayee and several commanders of PUK's Counterterrorism Group (CTG). This act of solidarity comes just a day after an Erbil court sentenced Halabjayee, the CTG's leader, two top-ranking CTG officers, and three other PUK officers to death in absentia. This judgement ties to the alleged 2022 murder of CTG official Hawkar Jaff in Erbil, as claimed by Jaff's family in a press briefing yesterday. Stay tuned for updates on this matter.
  • The Finance Committee of the Iraqi Parliament is still deliberating over the Iraqi budget. Rumors suggest ongoing negotiations between various Iraqi parties and both the PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). These discussions revolve around amendments to Articles 13 and 14, which directly address the Kurdistan Region's stake in the proposed budget law.
  • The Iranian government continues to exert pressure on Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties and has been observed transporting heavy weaponry to its Kurdistan border. Simultaneously, Turkey maintains its drone strikes on border areas, asserting these actions target PKK fighters.