Babylon & Beyond

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IRAQ: Iraqi lawmaker wins in fight over Israel visit

November 24, 2008 |  9:00 am

Iraqi lawmakers, who have become enraged with fellow parliament member Mithal Alusi for his visits to Israel, now have another reason to be angry with the fiery politician. Alusi hired Iraq's leading constitutional lawyer to fight the legislature's attempt to punish him for visiting the Jewish state, and today, he won.

That means Alusi, a secular Sunni Muslim who frequently criticizes Iraq's Shiite-led government, no longer faces prosecution for traveling outside Iraq or for having visited Israel, most recently in September when he attended a terrorism symposium at an academic institute. Upon his return from Israel -- his third trip there since 2004 -- Iraq's parliament erupted in angry debate over what to do about Alusi, who has accused many leading Iraqi politicians of being stooges of Iran.

The session ended with a vote to strip him of his parliamentary immunity and to pursue criminal charges. Alusi immediately threatened to fight the decision in court. His lawyer, Iraqi constitutional expert Tariq Harb, took up the case two days later. Reached by phone today, Harb said the trial lasted two months before the supreme federal Court and that he based his case on a provision of Iraq's Constitution, Article 44. It guarantees Iraqis freedom to travel where they want.

"Removing the immunity is violating the constitution and the Iraqi law," said Harb. This morning, the court found in favor of Alusi, who was reported to be traveling and unavailable for comment.

"I am happy for two reasons here," his lawyer said. "One is because I won the case. And the second is that this proves the Iraqi judiciary is independent, and there is no influence of the executive, legislative or government authorities on it. We have a courageous and daring judiciary," he said.

-- Saif Rasheed and Tina Susman in Baghdad