The head of Iraq’s electoral commission said after his release on Sunday that his detention on suspicion of corruption was due to just one of many often-frivolous court cases brought against the body.
Faraj al-Haidari, the head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), was released along with Karim al-Tamimi, another member of the body who was detained with him on Thursday, on bail of 15 million Iraqi dinars ($12,500) each, Haidari said.
In an interview with AFP in the heavily fortified Green Zone following his release, Haidari said his and Tamimi’s arrest “was not a good act, and does not serve the democratic political process.”
“Insulting IHEC like that harms the political process as a whole, and endangers its independence, and the pressures on IHEC mean a retreat in the democratic political process and even a retreat in elections, he said.
Haidari complained that IHEC, which is responsible for organising all elections in Iraq, has been hit with a barrage of court cases.
He said that Hanan al-Fatlawi, an MP from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, had pursued a large number of complaints against IHEC that eventually wound up with the Iraqi judiciary.
“For the last 6 months… the judiciary was sending warrants of investigation every day to the employees,” Haidari said.
“More than 500 employees and IHEC officials went to the courts for that, and 70 percent or 80 percent of those cases were refused by the courts and were considered as trivial, and make no sense,” he said.
Haidari said the case for which he and Tamimi were detained on Thursday was over bonuses paid to some employees of the property department in Bayaa in south Baghdad who divided land for IHEC.
“When those four or five employees finished all the administrative process for the land, IHEC decided to give bonuses for them,” of 100,000 to 150,000 Iraqi dinars ($83 to $125) each.
The case was dropped several months ago, but Fatlawi appealed it when parliament was discussing an extension of the terms of current IHEC members, which are to expire on April 28, he said.
A judge then ruled there was reason to move forward with the case, but Haidari said he believes the bonuses were within IHEC regulations and had received the necessary approvals.
Haidari’s arrest sparked condemnation from a number of leading Iraqi political factions, which accused Maliki of orchestrating a slide away from the electoral process and towards dictatorship.
“The situation is tense among all political factions,” Haidari said, adding that the solution is for “State of Law to change its policy toward IHEC specifically, and toward all political factions in general.”
Maliki has said he was not aware of the arrest operation, but Haidari said he must have known about Fatlawi’s actions.
“The prime minister knows it was (Fatlawi) who raised those complaints, and he could have prevented her from doing so.”