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Hisham al-Hashimi: Iraq court sentences to death killer of prominent analyst

Hashimi was shot outside his home in July 2020 by gunmen after receiving threats from Iran-backed paramilitaries
An AFPTV screen grab from a video made on 11 February 2019 shows jihadism expert Iraqi Hisham al-Hashemi speaking during an interview in Baghdad (AFP)

A Baghdad criminal court has sentenced to death a former police officer convicted of killing prominent analyst Hisham al-Hashimi, a critic of powerful militias whose murder in 2020 sparked anger in Iraq and abroad.

Hashimi, an expert on militant groups and a former government adviser, was shot dead outside his home by gunmen on a motorcycle in Baghdad.

Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council said in a statement on Sunday that "a death sentence has been issued against the criminal Ahmed Hamdawi Oueid [al-Kenani] for the murder of security expert Hisham al-Hashimi".

It said Kenani, a 36-year-old police lieutenant, was sentenced under Iraqi counter-terrorism laws and he could appeal the ruling.

Media were not allowed access, but a lawyer who attended the court session said that Kenani did not say anything in the court in response to the judge's ruling, according to Reuters.

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Hashimi's family supported the ruling but expressed concern that it could be overturned on appeal.

The well-respected academic was popular with many anti-government Iraqis and his killing sparked outrage and created a climate of fear among activists in Iraq. The murder was also condemned by several Western countries and the United Nations.

Hashimi had advised the US-led coalition during its years-long battle against the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

A year after his death, then Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said the culprits, including Kenani, had been arrested. 

State television aired Kenani’s confession shortly after, where the alleged mastermind of the attack said he shot Hashimi with a pistol.  

Kenani was a supporter of the armed group Kataeb Hezbollah, one of the Iran-backed paramilitaries that the academic had frequently criticised.

Hashimi, who had thrown his support behind the anti-government demonstrations that broke out in 2019, reportedly received multiple threats from armed groups.

A series of killings, attempted murders and abductions targeted dozens of activists in Iraq in the aftermath of the protest movement.

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