File photo of Sangawi speaking to reporters.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - A court in the city of Kalar exonerated a Kurdish military commander -- who had allegedly made threats against slain journalist Kawa Garmiani -- of ordering the murder.
The court said it had seen no evidence linking Mahmoud Sangawi, a military commander in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), to the December 2013 murder of Garmiani. The verdict still has to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
“No direct or indirect piece of evidence links Mr. Sangawi to the murder,” said the written verdict, in a case that made national and international headlines throughout last year.
One person has already been convicted for the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. But the slain journalist’s brother had accused Sangawi of ordering the killing, which the PUK commander had denied.
Karwan Ahmed, the murdered journalist’s brother, said the verdict had not come as a surprise.
“This was a show trial and we could foretell its outcome,” he told Rudaw, accusing the Kurdish justice system of being “corrupt” and “unfair.”
“The powerful in our country get around the justice system and this case is no exception,” Ahmed said. “The suspect also knew that he would be freed beforehand,” he added.
Garmiani was gunned down by a team of assassins outside his mother’s home in Kalar in early December 2013. He died at the scene.
Several suspects were arrested in the following days, including Sangawi, who was released on bail after 30 days in a Kalar jail.
Prosecutors had charged Sangawi of allegedly ordering the attack on Garmiani. The other suspects were later identified as close relatives of Sangawi, who denied any involvement.
Police investigators later found a voice recording on the murdered journalist’s cell phone, in which Sangawi had threatened Garmiani and warned him against continuing to “slander” him in his articles.
Garmiani was a freelance journalist and the editor of a local periodical.
In an article prior to the phone threat by Sangawi, Garmiani had promised his readers further investigative exposure of “corrupt local officials,” including Sangawi, whom Garmiani accused of illegally seizing plots of land.
Habib Jaf, who had led the defense team for Sangawi, said the court had found no evidence that could implicate his client in the case.
“The supreme court of appeals will also have their verdict soon on this case and after that the case will be discharged,” Jaf said.
“We will not drop the case until justice is served and the real perpetrators are sentenced,” Ahmed warned. “We will wait until courts are impartial in Kurdistan and punish criminals,” he added.
Sangawi has been commanding Peshmerga forces in Jalawla in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).