Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council has acquitted former Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi from terrorism-related charges, for which he had been sentenced to death in absentia, forcing him to flee in 2013.
Issawi’s dispute with former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki began after Iraqi authorities arrested nine of his guards on terrorism charges, in light of demonstrations in Ramadi against the government's policies at the time.
He was released Tuesday on bail, the Council announced in a statement, adding that his objection to the charges against him were in line with provisions of Article (247) of the Criminal Procedure Law.
“A date has been set to hold an open trial,” the statement read, pointing out that the court will review evidence in the case and discuss it with the administrative and investigative authorities in the presence of the accused, the defense attorney and the parties that filed the complaint.
Legal expert Ahmed al-Abadi, also Issawi’s lawyer, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “under Iraq’s law, rulings issued against the accused in absentia are cancelled as soon as he surrenders. He is put on trial anew.”
“Issawi said he was ready to appear before Iraq’s judiciary because he knew he was innocent.”
In regards to the other changes against Issawi, Abadi said a lawmaker paid the former minister’s bail, and he is awaiting the next trial in July on charges related to financial and administrative corruption.
Meanwhile, dozens protested the court’s decision and organized a sit-in outside the Council’s headquarters.
Political figures from the Fatah bloc, State of Law Coalition and Hikma movement said Issawi’s return is part of a political deal that paves the way for the return of all those wanted by the Iraqi judiciary, including former vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, upon external pressure.
Prominent Sunni leader, Atheel al-Nujaifi, who also faces charges, told Asharq Al-Awsat that accusing Issawi in the first place was “an unrealistic and unbelievable issue.”
“The cases fabricated against him were not based on any objective evidence,” he stressed.
He noted that Issawi’s acquittal was expected, stressing that it would spark rage among some Sunni leaders, who have taken advantage of his absence to appear in the political scene.