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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Iraqi journalists face arrest over false report in Saudi paper

Correspondents for Asharq Al Awsat under fire for report accusing Iranian pilgrims of sexual harassment.
Shiite pilgrims gather to commemorate the Arbaeen in Karbala, Iraq, on November 20, 2016. Alaa Al Marjani / Reuters
Shiite pilgrims gather to commemorate the Arbaeen in Karbala, Iraq, on November 20, 2016. Alaa Al Marjani / Reuters

Baghdad // A Baghdad court has issued arrest warrants for two correspondents with a Saudi newspaper over a false news report accusing Iranian pilgrims of sexually harassing Iraqi women.

A senior source in Iraq’s judiciary said the warrants, based on the penal code’s article 372 on religious hate crimes, were issued against the Asharq Al Awsat daily’s two Baghdad-based Iraqi journalists.

The article, published on Sunday in the London-based pan-Arab newspaper, caused an uproar in Iraq, where the prime minister and several other prominent figures issued public condemnations.

One of the two correspondents, Hamza Mustafa, denied any responsibility for the article and said he was resigning in protest.

Another journalist working for the newspaper in Baghdad, Maad Fayyad, said he had nothing to do with the controversial article.

The pair’s whereabouts on Wednesday were unclear.

Ziad Ajili, from the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, condemned the warrants as an “incitement to murder”.

The article was published as Arbaeen, a Shiite pilgrimage that commemorates the 680 AD death of Imam Hussein and is one of the world’s largest religious events, was peaking in the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala.

It quoted a purported World Health Organisation spokesman as saying that after last year’s pilgrimage more than 169 Iraqi women became pregnant out of wedlock.

The UN health agency has denied making any such assertion.

* Agence France-Presse