9 August 2004

Coalition of the nation-building

Judge: Warrants issued for Chalabi and nephew
Iraq has issued an arrest warrant for Ahmed Chalabi, a former governing council member, on counterfeiting charges and another for Salem Chalabi, the head of Iraq's special tribunal, on murder charges, Iraq's chief investigating judge said Sunday.

The warrant was a new sign of the fall of Ahmed Chalabi from the centers of power. Chalabi, a longtime exile opposition leader, had been a favorite of many in the Pentagon but fell out with the Americans earlier this year.

His nephew, Salem Chalabi, heads the tribunal that is due to try Saddam on war crimes charges.

"They should be arrested and then questioned and then we will evaluate the evidence, and then if there is enough evidence, they will be sent to trial," said Judge Zuhair al-Maliky.

The warrants, issued Saturday, accused Ahmed Chalabi of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars -- which had been removed from circulation following the fall of Saddam's regime last year, he said.

Ahmed Chalabi appeared to have been hiding the counterfeit money amid other old money and changing it into new dinars in the street, he said.

Police found the counterfeit money along with old dinars in Ahmed Chalabi's house during a May raid, he said.

Salem Chalabi was named as a suspect in the June killing of the Haithem Fadhil, director general of the finance ministry.

Both men were reportedly out of the country Sunday.

Government shuts down Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad
Reporters Without Borders today denounced as a "serious blow to press freedom" the Iraqi interim government's order to the pan-Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera to close its Baghdad office for a month and called for an immediate explanation.

"We are extremely concerned about persistent episodes of censorship in Iraq," it said, noting that the government has obstructed Al-Jazeera's work before.

Interior minister Falah al-Naqib told the US TV network CNN that the 7 August order was aimed at protecting Iraqis and that the government did not want Al-Jazeera or anyone else endangering civil peace in Iraq. The minister had said a few days earlier that some stations were encouraging kidnapping by showing pictures of hostages under threat of execution.

Reporters Without Borders strongly protested against a month-long ban in February on Al-Jazeera covering the activities of the then transitional Governing Council.

The Council had also shut down the local operations of the satellite TV station Al-Arabiya on 24 November last year until it promised in writing not to encourage terrorism.

Iraq Transitional Administrative Law
Article 13
(A) �Public and private freedoms shall be protected.

(B)� The right of free expression shall be protected.

Not only is Ahmed Chalabi, once the trusted white knight of the coalition, now wanted for counterfeiting, but his nephew, the director of the tribunal to try crimes against humanity, is charged with murder. meanwhile the TAL's guarantee of press freedom is being ignored. All in all, not a terrific few days for the glorious and inevitable progress of democracy in Iraq. And that's without mentioning the recent dead in Najaf.

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