Security forces release alleged confessions of 20 detained during Piramagrun demonstration

04-01-2022 10:34
The Asayish publishes video of alleged confessions of Piramagrun defendants.


The security forces in Piramagrun town on January 4 released a video showing the purported confessions of 20 young men accused of involvement in property destruction during a protest in November, specifically that they set fire to the local library.

However, with their cases still working their way through the courts, the decision to publish the video appeared to prejudice the outcome, raising rule of law and due process concerns.

Sulaimaniyah governorate was rocked by protests in late November and early December, with university students demanding that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) resume payment of maintenance stipends that were suspended in 2014 as part of austerity measures.

The protests in Sulaimaniyah city devolved into violence over the course of several days between November 21 and 24 as the security forces, which are affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), used tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators at the University of Sulaimaniyah and to disperse a march in the city’s downtown.

On November 24, as the security forces chased demonstrators away from Sulaimaniyah’s politically symbolic Saraa Square, youths in Piramagrun, located 32 kilometers (20 miles) to the northwest, allegedly set fire to several government offices in the town.

In a statement accompanying the video, the General Asayish Directorate claimed that setting the fires was organized, if opportunistic, but provided little detail about who was ultimately responsible.

"According to the scheduled plan to ruin security and create chaos, [the defendants] took advantage of the demonstrations by residents of Piramagrun town to attack the town's cultural and enlightenment institutions and services," the Asayish said.

According to the Asayish, defendants set fire to the town’s library, the Children's Cultural Centre, local government offices, the offices of the traffic police, and the National ID office, most of which were located in the same complex in the town.

"The defendants confessed to the charges before the Asayish investigation judge. They are currently detained by the judge's order under Article 342 of the Iraqi Penal Code and investigations are ongoing," it added, referring to a federal statute criminalizing arson.

In the video, the defendants are shown wearing orange uniforms, which is unusual and appeared designed to cast them as guilty. Detainees in the Kurdistan Region typically wear street clothes rather than uniforms.

The statement did not explain why they were dressed that way.

The Asayish also alleged that the defendants were part of "some designated groups," without identifying any specific groups or who had organized them.

Peregraf contacted Yassin Samia, a spokesperson for the Sulaimaniyah Asayish, for clarification, but did not receive an answer by press time.