Iraq’s top Chaldean patriarch threatens international lawsuit against militia leader
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, on Monday threatened to sue the Iran-backed militia leader Rayan al-Kildani at an international court if the Iraqi government fails to take necessary measures against the US-blacklisted military figure.
The Patriarch’s remarks to Kurdistan 24 come amid a war of words between the Christian clergyman and al-Kildani over numerous offenses, including the stealing of properties belonging to Christians.
The militia leader is “self-aggrandizing and wants to become a leader,” the clergyman told Kurdistan 24 on Monday morning.
“How can he criticize the church, and Kak Masoud Barzani (President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party); he is like a father to us in age, experience, and position,” the Patriarch added.
The religious leader accused al-Kildani of “seizing the property of Christians” in the Nineveh Plains, as well as domineering the affairs of the religious minority.
“If the Iraqi government does not put an end [to this], we will sue him in international courts,” Sako said. The parliamentary quotas are “held by” al-Kildani along with the Ministry of Immigration and Displacement, he added.
Al-Kildani is the head of Babylon Movement and its affiliate—Kataib Babiliyoun—the 50th Brigade of the Shiite militias, known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The U.S. Treasury designated al-Kildani for “serious human rights abuses,” on July 18, 2019.
“In May 2018, a video circulated among Iraqi human rights civil society organizations in which al-Kildani cut off the ear of a handcuffed detainee,” the Treasury noted.
Although the Movement presents itself as a Christian military unit of the PMF, most of its recruits are Shiite Muslims from Baghdad, Sadr City, Al-Muthanna, and Dhi Qar, according to Michael Knights, a Shiite militia expert at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy.
In 2017, al-Kildani founded the militia group, whose members were expelled from the Hamdaniya district by the PMF command and Prime Minister Office for stealing ancient artifacts from the Mar Behnam Monastery and homes.
The group, whose scope of control is in northeastern Mosul, had been previously accused of launching rocket attacks against US and Kurdish forces.
In a phone call with Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Sunday, the Kurdish premier expressed support for the Christian community across the country, including Nineveh Plains.