Eleven years in detention without charge. Could it now get worse?

Can you remember what you were doing in February 2000? I’ve been racking my brains and I really haven’t a clue. Gabrielle was at Number one in the charts with ‘Rise’, apparently – any idea how that goes? And do you remember Finland’s election of Tarja Hinonen, the country’s first female President? No, me neither (so thanks to Wikipedia). My point, for those not paying attention at the back, is that it’s a long time ago.

Yet Walid Yunis Ahmad, who faces trial this Thursday in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, has been detained continuously since then. He was finally charged with a crime six months ago – and we at Amnesty believe that those charges were fabricated.

In the intervening 11 years, he has been allowed visits only from his wife. He has also, reportedly, been subjected to torture and kept for long periods in solitary confinement.

At first his family had no idea what had happened to him. For three years he ‘disappeared’: and n such a dangerous part of the world, this must have been particularly distressing for his family.

Ahmad was arrested, by the Asayish security services, a body we’ve described as ‘a law unto itself’, on 6 February 2000 in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region. He was given a lift home from a meeting of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan, a legal opposition party, in a car that allegedly contained explosives. He has always denied any knowledge of the explosives. The driver of the car was also detained but released without charge.

The charges against him are based on information said to have been given to an investigative judge by "secret informants" whose identities have not been disclosed. Ahmad’s defence lawyer will not be able to question them in court.

The evidence given by the "secret informants" relates to two separate and unrelated incidents nine years after the arrest of Ahmad, when explosives were discovered in Dohuk in 2009. No arrests have been made in relation to these incidents and those who reported the discovery of the explosives have reportedly denied any knowledge of Ahmad.

Amnesty is concerned that his trial this week, on trumped-up charges, is an attempt to justify his long detention. We’re urging the Kurdistan Regional Government to drop the charges and release him immediately. He should also be given reparation for the years in detention without trial, and the torture that he suffered.

Worryingly, it also looks like the authorities may not take time served into account, as his detention was ‘irregular’, ie outside the law. Sadly for Walid Yunis Ahmad, it could be a long time still before he gets justice and his liberty.

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