Last updated: 7 April, 2012

Iraqi head of controversial TV station to be tried

The head of Arrai TV, famed as the mouthpiece of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi before his death, will appear in an Iraqi court on May 13 on charges of “stealing state property,” his lawyer said on Saturday.

Former Iraqi member of parliament Mishan al-Juburi, 54, is accused along with his son Yazen, whose company allegedly failed to fulfil a contract to provide food for Iraqi forces guarding oil installations.

Juburi, a Sunni, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia for embezzlement in the case in 2007, but under Iraqi law is entitled to a new trial if he appears in court.

He has meanwhile been cleared of terror charges stemming from a video aired on his channel showing how to make bombs, “because the investigating judge did not find any evidence to indicate that he is supporting or funding terrorism,” his lawyer Tareq al-Maamuri told AFP.

The video was aired by a Syrian employee who was promptly dismissed, Maamuri said.

But Juburi still faces the embezzlement charge and had to pay 100 million Iraqi dinars ($84,000) in bail when he was in Iraq last month.

Juburi, who is currently in Syria, told AFP by telephone that he will return to Iraq next week, and that he plans to move his TV channel there.

“I will be present for my trial, and my son will come later,” Juburi said.

His channel, currently housed in a 250-square-metre (2,700-square-foot) hangar in his compound in Damascus, broadcast messages from Kadhafi while the Libyan leader was on the run last year before he was caught and killed.

With his tribal relations, Juburi negotiated the entry of US and Kurdish non-combat forces into the north Iraq city of Mosul in 2003, and became governor of Nineveh province, in which it is located, for a few months.

In March 2005, his candidacy for speaker of parliament was rejected by Shiite MPs, and a month later, Juburi, who said he wanted to “represent the insurgency in parliament,” escaped a suicide bombing targeting his convoy.

Juburi fled Iraq in 2007, four years after the US-led invasion, saying that American forces were after him. He founded Arrai (Opinion), since renamed Ash-Shaab (The People), the same year.