19 October 2004

Sacked Iraqi judge likens Govt to Saddam

One of Iraq's leading judicial champions has been sacked, fanning concerns the US-backed Government is adopting strong-arm tactics reminiscent of the old regime in its war against insurgents.

Central Criminal Court's chief investigating magistrate, Zuhair al-Maliky, said the authorities had given him no reason for his dismissal, which came after repeated clashes with state security agencies over arbitrary arrests and other suspected abuses.

It was the US-led coalition that originally gave Mr Maliky the task of investigating alleged abuses by Iraq's fledgling security apparatus.

The judge insisted he was unrepentant about his crusade for due process by the security services.

'Nobody is above the law,' he told AFP.

'That's the mistake Saddam [Hussein] made. When he made some people above the law ... that was the disaster for Iraqi society.'

A former US official confirmed Mr Maliky had been engaged to probe alleged bribery and brutality by members of the police major crimes unit, back in April, two months before the caretaker government took power.

'There was a lot of cases of torture, illegal detention and corruption,' recalled Mr Maliky, adding that his investigation resulted in the arrest or conviction of at least 20 policemen.

Five of the cases involved the use of electric shock on detainees, leaving one man partially paralysed, he added.

Just another quickstep in the march to freedom.

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