Judge approves transfer of Peregraf freedom of information lawsuit to Erbil

04-10-2022 04:17


A court in Sulaimaniyah on October 4 held a second hearing in a freedom of information lawsuit brought by Peregraf’s editor-in-chief against the Kurdistan Region’s political leadership and granted a request by the defendants to transfer a portion of legal proceedings to Erbil.

The case is designed to test the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) commitment to transparency and freedom of information. Using the Right to Obtain Information Act (No. 11, 2013), Peregraf is seeking data about how the offices of Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, and Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Rewaz Fayaq spend public funds.

Unlike the first hearing last month, lawyers for President Barzani and Prime Minister Barzani appeared before the judge. They requested that the case be transferred to a court in Erbil, arguing that the defendants work and live in the Kurdistan Region’s capital.

Erbil is politically controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), of which the two Barzanis are senior leaders.

Karzan Fazil, a lawyer and head of the Democracy and Human Rights Development Centre (DHRD), is representing Peregraf’s Editor-in-Chief Surkew Mohammed urged the court to reject the request, given the burden that traveling to Erbil would put on him. The defendants are able to hire counsel and defend themselves easily in any place in the Kurdistan Region.

The judge, however, approved the request by the high-profile defendants, citing Articles 38 and 78 of the Civil Procedure Code, and ordered the case transferred to a court in Erbil.

The next hearing for the lawsuits against the president and prime minister is scheduled for October 18 in Erbil.

A lawyer for Speaker Fayaq did not join the transfer request, so that lawsuit will stay with the Sulaimaniyah court. He did, however, submit a petition to dismiss the case.

The judge granted a motion by Peregraf’s lawyer to study and respond to the petition.

The next hearing related to that lawsuit will take place on October 20 in Sulaimaniyah.

In mid-May, Peregraf sent requests to the offices of the president, prime minister, and speaker seeking information about how they have spent public funds since June 10, 2019, when the current term of the Kurdistan presidency began, but received no response.

On June 28, Peregraf sent letters through Sulaimaniyah’s notary office, which is part of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Justice Ministry, formally requesting the information under procedures outlined in the Right to Obtain Information Act (No. 11, 2013), but again received no response.

Peregraf then filed lawsuits against President Barzani and Prime Minister Barzani on August 4 and Speaker Fayaq on August 24.

An initial hearing took place on September 6, but neither the president or prime minister sent lawyers. Speaker Fayaq’s lawyer requested a postponement to study the case, therefore, the judge has previously postponed the lawsuit to October 4.