Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 29
July 6, 2012-July 16, 2012
White House Says Daqduq Issue Not Closed
The Obama Administration is requesting Iraq to review its case against Ali Musa al-Daqduq, a senior Hizballah operative currently in Iraqi custody. Tony Blinken, the National Security Advisor to Vice President Joseph Biden, stressed that the “process has not concluded” on Daqduq and that the White House is constantly urging Baghdad to prosecute and detain the Shi’a militant “for the crimes he committed on Iraqi soil, including any crimes against U.S. service-members.” On May 7, the legal case against Daqduq was dismissed by an Iraqi court, citing lack of evidence to convict him and ordered his release from prison. A Lebanese native, Daqduq was the mastermind behind a 2007 ambush in Karbala that led to the kidnapping and execution of five U.S. soldiers. The U.S. military captured him and two leading figures of the Iranian-backed Shi’a militant group Asaib Ahl al-Haq later that year. Daqduq was transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody last December, following the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Following the court’s decision, The Cable blog obtained an internal talking-points memo that was approved by Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, which read: “Daqduq should be held accountable for his crimes. Period. While we strongly oppose his acquittal, protections for the accused are built into all judicial systems, including our own. We transferred Daqduq to Iraqi custody out of respect for, and obligation to, the rule of law in Iraq, and while we disagree with this decision, we respect the independence of the Iraqi judiciary. We will continue to work closely with the Iraqi government to explore all legal options to pursue justice in this case.”
Last month, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta reiterated that assurances from the Iraqis suggest that Daqduq would remain in custody. “We’ve gotten a commitment from them that they would keep him incarcerated and that they would keep him in custody,” Panetta said. But in a ruling by the Iraqi appeals court on June 25, the five-judge panel concluded: “The defendant denied in the investigation and the trial any role in the crime, and his denial was not refuted by any hard evidence or any eyewitness account.” Daqduq’s lawyer, Abdul Mahdi al-Mitairi, argued that the Iraqi judiciary had the final say in the matter, and therefore, his client should be released given the decisions by the two courts. “The political pressure from the American side has prevented Daqduq’s release,” said Mitairi, “He has not been released yet because the Iraqi government seeks U.S. support and it doesn’t want to embarrass Obama ahead of the elections.”
Blinken stated that the White House is planning to file a request to Iraq’s appeals court to review its order to release Daqduq. But Abdul Sattar Bayrkdar, the spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, stated that charges were no longer pending and the ruling by the appeals court was definitive. In addition, Ali al-Musawi, who serves as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s media advisor, stated that he was unaware of any extradition request.