Iraq: Third Week of Unlawful Detention of Iranian Dissident in Camp Liberty

On Monday, 16 March 2015, Mr. Safar Zakery, a truck driver and a member of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran residing in Camp Liberty near Baghdad International Airport, was hit by an Iraq SWAT Humvee in a suspicious road accident. Traffic police at the site to investigate the matter immediately said the SWAT Humvee was responsible for the accident.

Despite the fact that Safar Zakery was innocent, the Karkh investigative court – under the influence of three Iraqi army intelligence officers in contact with the Iranian regime’s embassy and in charge of Camp Liberty’s management team – had Mr. Zakery illegally arrested and imprisoned.

The illegal arrest and continued detention of Safar Zakery are under orders issued by Iraqi national security advisor Falih Fayyadh. He is implementing his policies through his three agents by the names of Sadeq Mohamed Kadhem, Major Ahmed Khozeir and Captain Heidar Azzab Mashi, all having major roles in the crackdown and massacre of Ashraf and Liberty residents from 2009 onward.

These three individuals, under the pretext of being members of the Iraqi management team supervising Liberty, are currently imposing an all-out medical and logistical siege on this camp. They are using any and all opportunities to increase pressure on the residents. The three Iraqi intelligence elements, summoned by the Spanish National Court were the main elements in this suspicious and politically motivated case. They are also in close cooperation with Judge Mousawi.

Mr. Safar Zakery
Mr. Safar Zakery

What makes this road accident suspicious of being a plot against the camp residents is the fact that the Iranian regime’s embassy in Baghdad has been involved in this case. Dana’i Far, Iran’s ambassador in Baghdad, is himself a senior commander of Iran’s terrorist Quds Force. Involving Quds Force commanders in a simple traffic violation case – that are usually resolved everywhere in the world by paying bail before court hearings – was made possible through Judge Naser Mousawi. This makes it clear that imprisoning Mr. Zakery is a plot to abduct a camp resident and place psychological pressure on other residents.

After Mr. Zakery was abducted, he continues to be held in prison despite an international campaign effort, especially a US Embassy request and a UNHCR letter to the case judge emphasizing Mr. Zakery is considered a ‘protected person’ and a ‘person of concern.’

During the past two weeks, none of the follow-ups and protests filed by lawyers, and letters written by Liberty residents’ legal advisors and representatives, along with the daily exchanges with representatives of the UN and US Embassy, or UNHCR measures have been effective and Mr. Zakery illegally remains in prison.

From Monday, March 30 when all the promises and pledges made by Iraqi officials on releasing Mr. Zakery proved to be hollow, Liberty residents held a rally in the camp protesting the abduction of Safar Zakery. In these rallies, they emphasized that UNAMI, the UNHCR and US Embassy have legal and moral responsibilities vis-a-vis the residents’ safety and security, and called for Mr. Zakery’s immediate release.

“Safar is innocent and according to the Baghdad traffic police officer that came to the scene after the accident, the Humvee driver was responsible for the incident, whereas the Humvee driver has not been arrested or appeared in court for even a single day. In fact, this shows the case is aimed at harassing us and is politically motivated,” said a Liberty resident taking part in the rally.

“Judge Nasser Mousawi presiding over this case has handed over Mr. Safar Zakery’s dossier to the Iranian regime’s embassy in Baghdad. This is in contravention of International Law. Safar Zakery received a ‘protected person’ card from the US government, and back in 2011 was recognized by the UNHCR as an asylum seeker enjoying the protection of international laws. Therefore, transferring Zakery’s case to the terrorist Quds Force or the mullahs’ embassy comes with political intentions and his life is in grave danger.”

In this regard, the Liberty residents’ representative wrote to US and UN officials on 17 and 18 March: “We are profoundly worried about the safety and security of Mr. Zakery and the meddling of the Iranian regime in this case.”

Camp Liberty residents protesting the illegal holding of Mr. Safar Zakery
Camp Liberty residents protesting the illegal holding of Mr. Safar Zakery

The continuation of this detention comes at a time when none of the passengers of the HUMVEE are in the hospital and the two individuals who were injured have been released from hospital.

All signs show that the illegal detention of Mr. Zakery is politically motivated and it seems that some individuals in the Iraqi Government intend to raise doubts about his legal status and turn this into a political case.

Like other Liberty residents, Mr. Safar Zakery entered Iraq legally and his stay in this country has always been legal. It is worth noting that Mr. Safar Zakery, 60, is suffering from various illnesses. After waiting in line for 3 years, he is scheduled to undergo a surgery at hospital next week (5 April 2015).

Camp Liberty residents protesting the illegal holding of Mr. Safar Zakery
Camp Liberty residents protesting the illegal holding of Mr. Safar Zakery

On 25 December 2011, the Iraqi Government signed an MOU with the UN and as with the other Liberty residents, took up responsibility for the protection of Mr. Zakery until his transfer to a third country. In 2009, when the Maliki government took 36 Ashraf residents hostage, Iraqi judges announced in a verdict that the entrance and stay of Ashraf residents was legal. Therefore, any doubts raised about his legal status are a mockery of international laws and commitments and are only aimed at justifying this hostage taking.

The current trend of events and withholding from releasing this political and absolutely innocent refugee raises this question that was this accident and arrest and refraining from releasing Mr. Safar Zakery a coordinated scenario from the very beginning which was carried out by the Iranian regime’s terrorist Quds Force and its local proxies?

Shahriar Kia

Shahriar Kia is a member of the Iranian opposition (PMOI /MEK). He is a human rights activist and political analyst on Iran and the Middle East.