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Iraqi lawyer and activist killed after home invasion in Nasiriyah

Lawyers association calls for investigation into 'hideous' murder of Ali al-Hamami
Lawyer and activist Ali al-Hamami (Facebook)

A senior lawyer and activist was killed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on Friday after unknown assailants broke into his home, according to officials and local media.

A member of the semi-official Iraq High Commission for Human Rights tweeted that Ali al-Hamami had died of "suffocation" on Friday after a group of men entered his house in the Shatra region of the city.

According to the Dhi Qar Bar Association, Hamami's mouth had been gagged with tape and his house had been robbed.

In a statement on Friday, the organisation condemned his killing as "hideous and criminal" and called for an investigation.

"A cowardly crime requires the security services to take all measures in order to expedite the disclosure of its circumstances and details," read the statement, according to Nas News.

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"In this regard, the [Bar Association] will follow up the matter immediately, in order to reach the causes of the assassination and prosecute the accused, and cooperate with the security and investigation authorities so that the criminals obtain their fair penalty."

Lawyers have been a particular target of violence in Iraq in recent years.

The Iraqi Bar Association website lists the names of 194 lawyers who have been killed in Iraq since 2003, when the US-led coalition overthrew former ruler Saddam Hussein.

In recent years, many activists have faced kidnapping and assassination by armed groups over their involvement in the anti-government protests that began in Iraq in October 2019.

More than 600 people have died in protest-related violence since then.

One of the deadliest incidents was on 28 November 2019 in Nasiriyah, when more than three dozen people died at the city's Zeitun bridge.

The city and the Dhi Qar province in general have been seen as the heart of the country's anti-government protests.

Anger at crackdown

Nasiriyah saw major protests taking place on Thursday and Friday, a day after numbers of activists in the city were arrested by the security forces.

Activists told the Rudaw news site that security forces fired tear gas and bullets at the protesters after they attempted to enter the central Habboubi Square, which has been the focal point for protests in the city.

"The demonstrators wanted to enter Habboubi Square in Nasiriyah and protest peacefully on Friday afternoon, but the security forces prevented them, which led to clashes," said Wali Jabar, an activist in the city, speaking to Rudaw.

"Security forces confronted the protests with tear-gas canisters and fire."

Analyst and author of the Musings On Iraq blog, Joel Wing, wrote last month that Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who assumed office in May 2020, had undermined his previous commitment to uncover the culprits behind the killing of anti-government activists by initiating a crackdown on protesters in Dhi Qar.

"The security forces' actions in Dhi Qar perhaps means the premier has changed his tune now that he is in power," he wrote.

"Instead of being the protector he originally proclaimed, he may now just want to put an end to the demonstrations for the trouble they cause him."