London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Secretary General of the Al-Khoei Foundation, an Islamic charity institute in London, has revealed that his organization has authorized a panel of international judges to follow up on the murder case of Abdel-Majid al-Khoei, the former secretary general of the institute who was murdered in Al-Najaf on 10 April 2003. Muqtada al-Sadr, the hard-line Shiite cleric, and his followers have been accused of committing this murder. Jawad al-Khoei stressed that no side, including the current Iraqi government, has the right to close the investigation. He criticized the performance of the current government in the areas of services and security and held it as well as the terrorists to blame for the tragedy that took place on the Bridge of Imams. Al-Khoei also faulted some Islamic parties for exploiting the name of the religious authority in Iraq.
In his first interview to an Arab publication since his appointment as assistant secretary general of the Al-Khoei Foundation, Al-Khoei told Asharq al-Awsat that the institute "has delegated a panel of international judges to follow up on the murder case of Abdel-Majid al-Khoei and his two companions” Haydar al-Rafi”i and Mahir al-Yasiri in Al-Najaf". Al-Khoei added, "We have full confidence in the justice and fairness of the Iraqi judiciary that had investigated the murder and issued clear orders for the arrest of the culprits Muqtada al-Sadr and some of his followers. We know and we have been assured by the central criminal court that the case is still pending and has not been closed. Our designation of the panel of international judges to contact the Iraqi judicial quarters and to follow up on the case does not mean that we doubt the integrity of our judicial system but to avoid the temporary political conditions that are obstructing a decision on this case". The assistant secretary general of the al-Khoei Charitable Institute criticized the interim Iraqi government”s official release of some of the defendants in the crime. He said, "The release of some of the defendants that had been officially charged by a fair Iraqi judicial body does not mean the closure of this case or that this is the end of the road. Everyone knows that Abdel-Majid al-Khoei was the first Iraqi martyr after the fall of Saddam Hussein”s regime. He sacrificed his life for Iraq and the Iraqi people. He was on a humanitarian mission to help the people of Iraq. This subject cannot be ignored. Overlooking or tolerating the culprits in light of these emergency political conditions does not mean closing the case. We insist – along with political leaders and movements inside Iraq – on proceeding with this case so that the culprits would get the just punishment they deserve in accordance with the Iraqi criminal laws".
Al-Khoei cautioned the Iraqi government or any other quarter against closing the case. He said, "I do not think that the Iraqi government would dare take such a step as drastic as closing this case. It is a case in which blood has been shed. If the government were to do so, it would mean that it is disregarding the judiciary and contradicting its stance that Iraq is a state of institutions. It would be violating the laws of a state that respects and upholds the independence and integrity of the judiciary. The Iraqi government would be demonstrating that it is following the same methods used by the former regime when it canceled the role of the judicial establishments and acted arbitrarily and on its own as it flouted the laws". Al-Khoei said, "Muqtada al-Sadr has not been arrested yet due to emergency political circumstances but these circumstances will inevitably disappear. Anyone who claims that he is not involved in the criminal murder of Al-Khoei should go to the courts and prove his innocence. However, fearing to take such a step and resorting to mediations to shut the case proves that he is involved in the crime. Evasion, mediation, and intimidation do not mean anything to us. The case involves the blood of an innocent man. We are fully confident that the integrity of the Iraqi judiciary will eventually triumph as long as Iraq is governed by a democratic and constitutional regime. We wish to prove that the Iraqi judiciary is independent and that the laws are enforced. We reassure everyone that this case is not closed and that no one can close it and oppose the judiciary".
Al-Khoei criticized the performance of the Iraqi government, especially in regards to services and the bad security situation in Iraq. He said, "We hold the Iraqi government and the terrorists responsible for the tragedy that transpired on the Bridge of Imams. The government should have exerted more efforts to organize the march of more than two million Iraqis the majority of which were Shia”s instead of restricting them to one passage, namely the Bridge of Imams. The Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry should have exerted more efforts to guide and direct the citizens and to open more passages to the tomb of Imam Musa al-Kazim". Al-Khoei hailed the role of the Iraqis, especially from the area of Al-A”zamiyah, who rushed to rescue the victims and to the divers that exerted arduous efforts to rescue more victims. He said, "This is Iraq and these are the Iraqis. They demonstrated that there are no sectarian or regional differences among them, especially if the matter concerns innocent lives. Everyone showed their Iraqi character and the depth of their relationship with other fellow citizens". Al-Khoei also commented on the role played by the religious authority – represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani – that blessed and endorsed one list in the former elections. He said, "The religious authority blessed all the Iraqis. It acted as a father for all – Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and non-Muslims. Its involvement in political affairs is always in favor of Iraq and its people but some Islamic parties exploited the blessings of the religious authority that enjoys the love and respect of all the Iraqis".
The assistant secretary general of the Al-Khoei Foundation denounced the Iranian authorities for seizing real estate belonging to the institute in Iran. He said, "These real estate properties belong to the institute and are in the service of Muslims in Iran. They consist of a housing city, mosques, hospitals, educational institutes, and other properties that exceed $200 million in value. They were built in the days of Ayatollah Imam Abu-al-Qasim al-Khoei and are the responsibility of the institute”s secretary general. However, the Iranian government seized these properties when my uncle Abdel-Majid al-Khoei was the institute”s secretary general. He was charged with 10 frail counts that had nothing to do with the laws in force. He was primarily accused of not believing in the doctrine of Velayet-e Faqih. This is a frail charge pertaining to an ideological and juristic doctrine that is not political. I am a Shiite that obeys my imam or my supreme religious authority. I emulate Al-Khoei in that I do not approve of the Velayet e-Faqih. therefore, this is not a political charge for which I am tried in the courts". Al-Khoei added that he has confidence in the Iranian judicial system that has been looking into this case for more than two years. He said, "We have full confidence in the Iranian judicial system that is distant from political influences and that will deal with the issue with full integrity".
Al-Khoei talked about the programs and activities of the Al-Khoei Foundation. He said that the institute has 10 main branches throughout the world and is a member of the United Nations. He said, "We follow in the footsteps of Abdel-Majid al-Khoei, especially pertaining to interfaith dialogue as well as dialogue among the Muslim sects and schools of thought. We conduct our own cultural programs and we are very interested in carrying out programs inside Iraq. We will build a huge headquarters for the institute in the city of Al-Najaf where we have branches there as well as in Karbala and Baghdad. We are waiting for the security situation to improve so we could relocate the institute”s headquarters from London to Iraq". Al-Khoei also said that he would meet with the Pope in the Vatican next month. He said, "I will have the honor as an Iraqi to meet with His Holiness the Pope".