An Erbil court in Iraq on Sunday sentenced six people to death involved in the killing of Hawkar Jaff, a colonel in the counter-terrorism service.
A source told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “those sentenced include anti-terrorism chief in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Wahab Halabji and the head of the PUK’s intelligence unit, Karzan Muhammad, in addition to four others.”
The source said the court decision could escalate the already existing tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls Erbil and Duhok, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls Al-Suleimaniyeh.
Meanwhile, Kurdish news outlets quoted Mohammed Jaff as confirming that an Erbil court had sentenced six of the perpetrators of his brother’s assassination to death.
He added that the court has yet to decide on the fate of other perpetrators involved in his brother’s assassination next June 8.
In October, Jaff was killed and four others, two women and two children, were injured when an explosive device attached to the bottom of his car detonated facing his house in the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
The operation was conducted a few days after Jaff defected from the PUK amid internal division that led to the expulsion of Lahur el-Sheikh from the party’s presidency.
After Jaff’s assassination, several officials in Erbil said the PUK-supervised Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) was behind the attack.
Separately, the Kurdish security organization, Asayish, defended on Sunday its decision to arrest a French journalist and his female assistant on June 2, 2023, in the Sulaymaniyah governorate of Iraq.
The Asayish statement came in response to the strongly-worded condemnation issued Saturday by the French Consulate General in Erbil.
Asayish said that on June 2, its forces had warned the French journalist, Benoit Drevet, and his female translator, not to visit the Galala area, which is not safe, and had asked them to leave.
It added that the journalist and the translator insisted on staying. “The Asayish forces treated them with respect and asked them to leave the area where drones were flying,” the statement said.
“The Asayish forces treated the journalist with respect. He was transferred to the city of Sulaymaniyah, and the French consulate was informed of his safety,” it added.
In return, the French Consulate General in Erbil has issued a strong condemnation following the detention of the French journalist and his female assistant in Sulaymaniyah.
The consulate's statement expressed deep concern over the “repeated assaults on press freedom and journalists' rights within the Kurdistan Region.”
It also expressed gratitude to the authorities involved in handling the case.
In January, the Metro Center for Journalists' Rights and Advocacy in Kurdistan said in a press conference that 2,160 violations were committed against journalists from 2011 to 2020.