Monday, December 18, 2006

Al-Sammarae Freed

I've been following the Ayham al-Sammarae case mainly through the lens of personal connections, but here's another twist for those interested in the Iraqi legal system:
"A former Iraqi government official awaiting trial on corruption charges escaped from a Baghdad jail Sunday with the help of Western gunmen, an Iraqi official said Monday.

"The gunmen seized former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Sammarae from his cell at a police station inside the Green Zone, according to the head of Iraq's Public Integrity Commission, Judge Radhi Hamza.

"Another official with the Commission told The Associated Press that the gunmen were members of a non-Iraqi security company al-Sammarae had hired to protect him before his arrest.

"Al-Sammarae, who holds American and Iraqi citizenship, was scheduled to appear in court on Saturday but refused to present himself, saying he was 'very ill,' Hamza said...

"He was convicted on one of 13 charges of corruption against him and still faces trial on the other 12 counts, AP reported.

"The charges all concern an estimated $2 billion in missing funds for contracts on rebuilding the country's electrical infrastructure, AP said.

"Al-Sammarae has appealed his two-year sentence stemming from his conviction in October for wasting public funds during his 2004-2005 tenure under the interim government.

"The appellate court has not issued a final verdict, Hamza said."

My information actually suggests al-Sammarae was cleared, but that he was wanted in court to make a statement on his innocence.

UPDATE: American officials dispute the private security firm story.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune has the best coverage.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)


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