After being stripped of immunity, MP claims Iraqi speaker abused his power

The Iraqi parliament announced on Monday that it had stripped a lawmaker of his legal immunity as he faces charges of corruption and extortion.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi parliament announced on Monday that it had stripped a lawmaker of his legal immunity as he faces charges of corruption and extortion.

Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi was responsible for making the decision, according to a statement signed by him and directed to Iraq's Higher Judicial Council (HJC).

The MP in question is Talal Zubaie, himself the former chairman of parliament's Integrity Committee. He is part of the Sunni al-Qarar (Decision) coalition, which is under the parliamentary Islah bloc, an alliance led by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon Coalition.

Halbousi’s move came at the request of the HJC in late July. The statement claimed that parliament had received several “corruption” complaints against Zobaie while he was heading the Integrity Committee in the previous term.

This marks the current term of Iraqi parliament’s first instance of lifting the immunity of one of its own members, with Halbousi claiming he had followed proper procedures. Article 63 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that the action can be taken against a lawmaker if he/she is facing felony charges and "Council of Representatives members consent by an absolute majority to lift his immunity," but also states it can be carried out "with the consent of the speaker of the Council of Representatives."

On Tuesday, Zubaie criticized the decision in a statement, as reported in local Iraqi media, claiming that Halbousi had exceeded his authority with the amount of information he had included in the response letter to the judiciary.

“He was supposed to answer the document according to what was requested," it read, but Halbousi "violated the law” by going further to include that the legislature had received complaints against Zubaie.

Zubaie also asserted Halbousi was abusing his position's authority by only approving the HJC’s requests against him only while ignoring “more than ten others.”

Related article: Iraq issued arrest warrants for 11 ministers, officials suspected of corruption

Successive Iraqi federal governments have failed to effectively confront the nation's rampant corruption. The current administration, which ran on a reformist platform, continues to struggle to address the widespread mismanagement of public funds while facing strong resistance to such efforts from within its own institutions.

The embattled Middle Eastern nation continues to rank high on integrity watchdog Transparency International’s list for corruption, fraud, and mismanagement of state institutions, some of the most significant challenges facing the country since the fall of the former regime in 2003.

According to the organization’s 2018 Corruption Index, Iraq ranks 168th, the 12th most corrupt country out of a total of 180. 

Editing by John J. Catherine