Iraq Issues Arrest Warrants Against Officials Calling for Ties With Israel

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Iraqis attend the conference of peace and reclamation organized by US think-tank Center for Peace Communications (CPC) in Erbil, yesterday.
Iraqis attend the conference of peace and reclamation organized by US think-tank Center for Peace Communications (CPC) in Erbil, yesterday.Credit: Safin HAMED / AFP

An Iraqi court issued arrest warrants against several attendees of a conference in the city of Erbil on Friday, in which more than 300 people called for normalization with Israel, including leaders of local communities.

The Iraqi Presidential Palace and the Prime Minister's Office in Baghdad issued statements on Saturday condemning the conference, as did Iraqi Shiite and Sunni organizations.

The conference, a first of its kind in Iraq, was held in the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and sponsored by an American organization. Iraq's government stated that the conference "does not represent the public opinion in Iraq or the opinion of the residents whom the participants sought to represent with their remarks."

A statement from Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council said that arrest warrants had been issued against Wissam al-Hardan, a former militia leader who opposed Saddam Hussein's regime, member of the Iraqi parliament Mital al-Alusi and the conference facilitator, Sachar Atai, who worked as a clerk at the Ministry of Culture.

The announcement states that the administration intends to issue additional arrest warrants as soon as details of other participants at the conference emerge. Iraqi law makes it possible to impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of supporting, aiding and abetting ideas that support Zionism, as well as against anyone suspected of being part of Zionist institutions.

The AFP news agency quoted a statement read by Atta at the conference, which said "We demand to be included in the Abrahamic agreements," a reference to the Abraham Accords. Atta said that they too wanted the diplomatic relations with Israel that these agreements led to with other Arab states. "No force, local or not, has the right to prevent this call," he added.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the conference on Saturday, tweeting that "Hundreds of Iraqi, Sunni and Shiite public figures gathered to call for peace with Israel."

He noted that this call for peace "comes from below and not from above, from the people and not from the government, and of particular importance is the recognition of the historical injustice done to the Jews of Iraq. The State of Israel reaches out to you in peace, in return."

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