Iraqi PM admits validity of some demands by Sunni protestors: statement

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-1-3 9:56:00

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki admitted Wednesday that some of the Sunni protestors' demands are justified, but warned that his forces could intervene if their rallies threatened the country's unity.

"We are closely following the demonstrations in the provinces, demanding a number of demands, which we think that some of them are valid," Maliki said in a statement posted on the website of his office.

For more than a week, thousands of Sunnis have been taking to the streets to hold anti-government demonstrations in several Sunni-dominated provinces protesting against marginalization by the Shiite-led government as well as targeting the Sunni community by arresting hundreds of their sons.

The demonstrators also accused the Shiite-dominated security forces of arresting women instead of the wanted male of their family members.

Maliki's statement said that he has responded positively to some of the demands when he ordered to speed up the prosecutions of hundreds of detainees who have spent months and years in prisons without trials.

"The Supreme Judicial Council formed 11 new judicial panels which will work day and night to accelerate the prosecutions of the detainees and to release those whose hands were not stained with the blood of innocents," the statement said.

Maliki also assigned a joint panel of judiciary and Sunni clerics to study the cases of female prisoners and to decide how many of them would be eligible for release.

Maliki's statement said that the other demands of the protestors cannot be met because the cabinet as well as Maliki himself are not authorised to abolish laws legislated by the parliament.

Sunnis believe that the laws of anti-terrorism are used by Maliki to pursue political rivals, such as the Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, while the Accountability and Justice law was enacted to prevent Saddam Hussein's Baath party members, particularly Sunnis, from participation in the political life.

Maliki also distanced himself from the delay of the long- awaited amnesty law, which he said that the "parliament did not approve the amnesty law yet." But the Sunnis believe that the Shiite lawmakers in the parliament were behind the delay of the controversial amnesty draft.

The statement warned that Iraqi security forces will confront those who "threaten Iraq's interests, its sovereignty and unity."

"We also warn of politicizing the demonstrations to serve foreign agendas as well as political and factional accounts," the statement added.

The protests were first sparked more than a week ago after Iraqi security forces arrested chief of the Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi's protection force and nine bodyguards over charges of terrorism.

At the end of last year, an arrest warrant was issued against the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi on charges of running death squad and dozens of his bodyguards were arrested.

Soon after the US troops fully withdrew from Iraq late last year, Iraq plunged into serious political row as Maliki sought to arrest his political rival Hashimi, a leading member of the Sunni- backed Iraqia bloc, over terror charges.

Posted in: Mid-East

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