Bafel Talabani greets the press following the conclusion of his party's congress
He's asked a question on why the leadership council membership was presented to delegates as a single list of names that they had to vote yay or nay on. His response is that "this is something that happens in all countries and is very normal."
The concept he's referring to is slate voting and it's a huge overgeneralization to claim it happens in 'all countries'. It happens in some legislative or local elections and closed list systems. Some student unions also adopt slate elections. But for a party leader to submit a slate filling an entire leadership body and have a bunch of handpicked delegates conduct a binary vote generally isn't customary in democratic parties across the world.
The KRG has chosen the moment Guhdar Zebari was sentenced to prison for 'unlicensed firearm possession' to put out a sincere-sounding PSA on how unlicensed firearm possession is subject to prosecution.
PUK congress delegates have elected their leadership council and this whole ordeal can now be put to bed.
This came hot on the heels of the internal rulebook being approved earlier today. It had been a matter of intense internal debate that delayed the conclusion of this congress by two whole days.
1. October 2023 13:59
International outcry intensifies as Guhdar Zebari handed further six month sentence
The third sentence handed down to journalist Guhdar Zebari by a Erbil courts has elicited international concern. The court once again extended Zebari's imprisonment today, this time by an additional six months under Article 15 of the Weapons Law.
This marks the third such sentencing for Zebari, pushing his total incarceration duration to six years and six months.
Following the trial, CPT Iraqi Kurdistan tweeted: "Journalist Guhdar Zebari was sentenced to 6 more months prison time during a trial in Erbil today. CPT observed the trial and is concerned about the verdict and the handling of evidence in the pre-trial investigation."
Amnesty International has also been vocal about the unjust treatment of Zebari and fellow journalist Sherwan Sherwani. In a letter addressed to Dindar Zebari in August, the coordinator for international recommendations for the Kurdistan Regional Government, Amnesty expressed its concern. Dindar Zebari, for his part, said last month that "no one has been detained for political views in Kurdistan."
Both journalists were set for release in August and September respectively. However, new charges were levied against them. For Guhdar Zebari, the recent charges stem from an antique hunting weapon found in his sister's house. Zebari's lawyers have argued charges are trumped up, emphasizing that "it was not illegal at that time for the weapon to be unlicensed."
The continuous imprisonment and subsequent trials of journalists in the Kurdistan Region, including Zebari and Sherwani, are becoming emblematic of a larger, worrying trend. Over the past three years, an estimated 80 journalists and activists have been detained, primarily for their journalistic activities and expressions of free speech.
Zebari's previous sentencing, where he faced charges for merely altering his car's emblem, further underscores the perceived punitiveness of the Erbil courts. Bashdar Hassan, a legal representative for the Badinan detainees, told Peregraf that the emblem charge was a pretext, an "excuse" for further detention.
Despite accusations that he practically handpicked the 600 congress delegates, despite closing the door on many political rivals within the party to attend, and despite many of the less sycophantic PUK leaders deciding to boycott or swerve what is only the fifth congress in the party's 48-year history, Bafel Talabani is still struggling to ram through his proposed changes to party bylaws and internal regulations.
We caught a whiff of trouble when the third day went on far longer than anticipated, with no confirmation of bylaws passing or the election of leadership council members (which should conclude the congress). Then it extended into Saturday.
Now it's Sunday. As of last night, media outlets close to the PUK were saying there are still 20 articles of the internal rulebook left to pass, with acrimonious debate among the few distinct blocs that still remain extant within the party.
Some things never change, even when everything does.
In other news, a senior Iraqi security delegation led by Iraq's National Security Advisor Qasim Al-Araji, which includes KRG Minister of the Interior Reber Ahmed, is in Iran. They aim to 'conclude' the joint security agreement that Iran demanded from the KRG and Iraq regarding the presence of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in the Kurdistan Region.