Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ayham al-Sammarae

I've dug a bit more into a case I first learned of yesterday, in which former Iraqi Minister of Electricity Ayham al-Sammarae, whose daughter is a former classmate, friend, and loyal Badger from the University of Wisconsin, has been convicted of corruption on questionable grounds and sentenced to two years in prison during which many fear he will be assassinated.

Al-Sammarae was first appointed Minister of Energy under Paul Bremer, and continued under the interim government. He is a Sunni, and has played a key role in trying to mediate between the U.S. and Sunni insurgents. This earned him the enmity of the Ja'afari government, which prevented him from attending last year's Cairo conference, for which he had organized a Sunni delegation. As noted in the e-mail I posted yesterday, he has also been outspoken against Shi'ite militias and their targetting of Sunnis.

He surrendered voluntarily to the court when charged with corruption, even though he was in Jordan at the time and could have remained at large. As he is an American, the U.S. Embassy sent observers to his trial. When he was sentenced, concerns about the regularity of the process and his safety in prison caused him to be taken into custody by American forces, but he was quickly handed back over to the Iraqis. I'm told Muqtada Sadr's people were the most vocal in demanding this, and it came about the same time that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insisted the U.S. halt its operations against Sadr's militia in Baghdad.

As noted before, the court which convicted him has itself been accused of corruption, which in Iraq wouldn't surprise me. In any case, it seems clear that this is the political side of the Iraqi Civil War, with the Shi'ite militias determined to silence a critic and influential Sunni leader whose promotion of peaceful solutions threatens their own agenda for the country. As they often are, corruption charges are simply a means to this end.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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