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Iraqi sentenced to death for anti-regime activist's killing

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An Iraqi court has sentenced a man to death over the 2019 killing of an activist who had taken part in anti-government protests that year, the judiciary said Tuesday.

A wave of nationwide protests against endemic corruption and rampant unemployment in late 2019 raged for months before winding down under the shadow of coronavirus restrictions and a harsh crackdown.

A bomb attached to Thaer al-Tayeb’s car exploded as he returned from a rally in the capital Baghdad, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council said in a statement. He succumbed to his wounds on December 25, 2019.

The criminal court in the southern Qadissiya province sentenced Kifah al-Guraiti to “the death penalty” for Tayeb’s murder, the judiciary said.

The order has to be signed by Iraq’s president before Guraiti may be executed, and he has 30 days to appeal.

More than 600 Iraqi protesters were killed and tens of thousands wounded during the demonstrations.

Some activists died in targeted assassinations, including former government adviser Hisham al-Hashemi who was shot near his home in July 2020.

Outgoing prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi has repeatedly vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In November last year, two people were sentenced to death over the killing of a teenager who joined the protests.

Several hundred demonstrators gathered Tuesday in Baghdad and the southern city of Nassiriya to mark three years since the protests, weeks after rallies across Iraq on the anniversary of the demonstrations drew thousands.

In June, the United Nations mission in Iraq denounced an “environment of fear and intimidation” that has stifled freedom of expression.

The UN noted in a report the “persistent impunity with respect to targeted attacks against protestors” as well as against people “seeking accountability for these attacks, and activists and critics espousing views critical of armed elements and affiliated political actors”.

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