A member of the Kurdish peshmerga force will be tried for the murder over the weekend of a prominent Iraqi journalist at a Baghdad checkpoint, a judicial spokesman said Wednesday.
Mohammed Bidaiwi, Baghdad bureau chief for the US-funded Radio Free Iraq, was on his way to work Saturday near the presidential complex when he was shot dead during a heated argument with the officer.
“It was decided to send the defendant to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, based on article 406 of the Iraqi Penal Code,” judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar said in a statement.
The killing has sparked an uproar in Iraq, as it saw a member of the security forces of the autonomous Kurdish region fire on an Arab journalist.
The trial, a date for which has yet been set, marks a rare instance of a journalist’s killing being taken to court.
Bidaiwi had been Baghdad bureau chief for Radio Free Iraq since 2006 and was also an associate professor of journalism at Baghdad’s Mustansiriyah University.
The broadcaster was established in 1998 and is a branch of US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, broadcasting in Arabic from Prague and Baghdad.
The so-called Talabani Compound, where the shooting occurred, lies just outside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which is home to the prime minister’s residence, parliament and the US and British embassies.
It is named after President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, who has been in Germany for more than a year receiving treatment for a stroke.
Until Saturday’s shooting, it was secured by peshmerga members, but Iraqi police have now taken over responsibility for securing it.
Iraq remains one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists and is routinely criticised for its poor record on media rights. It frequently scores towards the bottom of press-freedom rankings, and tops the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Index, which tracks unsolved murders of journalists.