ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi court sentenced in absentia the former Governor of Nineveh Province, Atheel al-Nujaifi, to three years of imprisonment and banned him from traveling abroad as well as seized his assets.
Iraqi judicial authorities issued an arrest warrant against Nujaifi, the brother of the current Vice-President of Iraq, Osama al-Nujaifi, on charges of “communicating” and “collaborating” with Turkey.
The Iraqi Parliament in May 2015 removed Nujaifi from his post as the Governor of Nineveh following the fall of Mosul and the province into the hands of the Islamic State (IS) in mid-2014.
Nujaifi leads the Nineveh Guard, which consists of volunteers who previously served as officers and soldiers in the Iraqi army and who were later trained by Turkish troops in a camp on the outskirts of Mosul to fight the jihadist group.
The Iraqi federal government was strongly opposed to Nujaifi’s personal military units and the presence of Turkish troops near Mosul, which eventually created tensions between the two countries.
Last year, the Central Investigative Court issued a warrant to arrest Nujaifi on charges of “communicating with a foreign country,” accusing him of helping uninvited Turkish troops to enter Iraq.
“The court decided to sentence Atheel (Nujaifi)... to a three-year term of imprisonment based on the provisions of the Iraqi Penal Code,” the court’s arrest warrant document read.
The court also banned Nujaifi from traveling to abroad and called for the seizure of his assets by the government.
Nujaifi, a Sunni leader from Mosul, was sentenced following a complaint from the Shia Waqf bureau according to the court statement issued in absentia on Jan. 21 and can, therefore, be appealed.
“I will continue to follow the legal context in challenging and rejecting this injustice,” Nujaifi said on his official Facebook page.
“Despite the escalation of sectarianism and the fall of Mosul, the powerful and extremist forces in Baghdad did not learn anything and did not change its policy while changing faces. They also do not care about the effects of sectarian provocation and are putting great efforts into overcoming the law.”
Nujaifi has repeatedly criticized the Iraqi government’s policies, often describing them as sectarian in nature, which led to the fall of Mosul.
Editing by Nadia Riva