KRG was unaware of PUK handover of terror suspects to Kirkuk authorities: Interior Ministry
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced on Thursday that it did not have knowledge of the handover two days earlier of detainees held on terror charges by local authorities from Sulaimani province to their federal counterparts in the disputed province of Kirkuk.
The KRG “was not aware of this subject, not at the time of the detention or during transfer of the suspects,” read a statement by the regional Ministry of Interior, which reported that the total number of detainees transferred to Kirkuk authorities had been 176.
The majority of the prisoners are from the Dibs, Hawija, and Daquq districts of Kirkuk province, according to a document purporting to show the list of detainees that had previously been in the custody of officials belonging to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the leading political faction in Sulaimani. The list also includes persons from Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces. (See document below)
Some were captured in 2015 when the so-called Islamic State still controlled parts of Kirkuk, including Hawija.
The latest move comes following an apparent agreement between the PUK—which controls its own counterterrorism agency—, the Kirkuk provincial government, Kirkuk Operations Command, and Sunni Arab tribes in Kirkuk.
The governor of Kirkuk is controversial figure Rakan Saeed, whom Baghdad installed following the late 2017 assault by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias on the province that led to the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.
Speaking to Kurdish language radio broadcaster Voice of America recently, senior PUK official in Kirkuk Hamasour Dwshiwani said that the transfer was meant to prevent the continued killing of Kurdish citizens and the burning of their farms, which have seen a recent increase.
Dwishwani did not explain how the transfer of custody of prisoners, some of whom had been arrested as many as five years ago, could reduce the chances of violence against Kurdish residents or acts of arson against farmers' land in Kirkuk.
The regional government’s chief concern appears to be that Sulaimani authorities circumvented official KRG channels of coordination with Iraqi officials on such a significant action.
“The subject of coordination with federal authorities has its procedures and mechanisms which have been organized according to law by the Kurdistan Regional Government and the federal [Iraqi] government,” the interior ministry added in its statement.
“The handover of these suspects has been carried out outside these mechanisms.”
The office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) representative to Kirkuk said in another statement addressing the issue that it, along with KRG, were unaware that PUK even retained “secret detention facilities” which are believed to hold terror suspects.
“None of the detainees were handed to the judicial establishment of the [Kurdistan] Region,” it noted, adding that individuals and agencies responsible must be held accountable.
“There cannot be any indifference shown toward a [political] party that operates above the official judicial institutions of the region.”
Editing by John J. Catherine