London, Asharq Al- Awsat – The family of Abdul Majid al-Khoei, the former secretary-general of the Imam al-Khoei Foundation in London who was assassinated in 2003 in Najaf has threatened to internationalize this case if the Iraqi judiciary fails to take legal action against Moqtada al-Sadr, whom the family consider to be “the prime suspect in the murder of al-Khoei.” Al-Khoei was killed in the holy city of Najaf on 10 April 2003 at the hands of followers of Moqtada al-Sadr.
Haidar al-Khoei, who is the son of the late Imam, spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat in London on Wednesday, following news that Moqtada al-Sadr had returned to Najaf after spending almost four years in Iran. Haidar al-Khoei told Asharq Al-Awsat that “our family trusts the Iraqi judiciary. However the Iraqi judiciary and government are facing an important practical test today to undertake legal proceedings and enforce the law by arresting Moqtada al-Sadr, as an arrest warrant was issued for him by an investigative judge in Najaf in 2004. If this does not happen, we will be forced to go to the United Nationals, on the basis that the Imam al-Khoei Foundation has a seat at the UN, as a non-governmental organization. We will also go to human rights organizations and the European judiciary. We are also relying on the leaders of sisterly and friendly Arab and Islamic states to activate this case.”
Al-Khoei added: “We have verified that a leading figure in the Sadrist movement, a member of the Iraqi parliament, has requested one of the investigative judges in Baghdad to change the course of the case, via false witnesses, in order to steer the blame away from the leader of the [Sadrist] trend [Moqtada al-Sadr] and instead implicate other members of the [Sadrist] trend. This is in order to move closer to al-Sadr, and also win the internal conflict within the Sadrist movement, between the Mullahs and other members. We will disclose the name of this member of parliament, as well as those of the investigative judge, and the false witnesses, who have been involved in perverting this case.”
He went on to say “we have kept the original copy of the investigation, and the case file, in addition to video footage of the death of my father. There are also dozens of witnesses who have vowed to testify before the judiciary.”
Al-Khoei categorically denied that “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s involvement in the process of falsifying the case file, and we have confirmed that this file was not included in the coalition deal between the Sadrist trend and al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc.”
Al-Khoei also called on the Iraqi Prime Minister to involve himself in this case, saying “we call on the [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Nouri al-Maliki] who heads a bloc called the ‘State of Law’ to apply this slogan in practice. It is imperative to apply laws when dealing with my father’s murder case, whether the suspect is a [religious] cleric, or the leader of a political movement with ministers in the cabinet. If the law is not applied in this case, how can the people of Iraq respect the law?”
Al-Khoei also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “our family will continue to wait for legal proceedings to be enforced. We recall that the judiciary pressed charges against Saddam Hussein, and he was a former President. Thus, the fact that al-Sadr has ministers in the cabinet does not give him the right to close this file, which concerns the murder of the son of one of the most famous cleric in Shiite history, Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei”.
For his part, a senior Iraqi judicial source confirmed that “an arrest warrant, especially in a criminal case, does not have a statue of limitations [in Iraq] even if it was issued more than 100 years ago. This is the case whether this arrest warrant is issued against Moqtada al-Sadr or anyone else, as the Iraqi Law of Criminal Procedure does not place a statue of limitations on arrest warrants, but considers all such warrants to be active until they have been applied.”
The judicial source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, also stressed that “No Iraqi government or official has the right to nullify an arrest warrant, or close a murder case, regardless of the name, or names, or number of the defendants”.
The judicial source also revealed that “[Abdul Majid] al-Khoei’s death is considered to be a murder, and as such it is a major criminal case. The case does not have a statue of limitations and no official is entitled to close this, unless authorized to do so by the judiciary. To the best of my knowledge, the Iraqi judiciary has not issued any order to close this case. Even if the victim’s family dropped the charges, and I do not believe al-Khoei’s family would consent to this, there is still a public right [to prosecute], which cannot be waived.”