Iraq election commission chief released from jail-official

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2012 11:54 AM
Iraq election commission chief released from jail-official

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's electoral commission chief and another member were released on bail on Sunday after spending three days in jail on corruption charges, in a case that has stirred political tensions in the country's fragile power-sharing government.

Faraj al-Haidari, head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), and Karim al-Tamimi were arrested on Thursday on charges they had given illicit bonuses to some IHEC employees, charges they have denied.

The arrests came as Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's critics worry he is seeking to tighten control over independent government bodies.

"An investigative judge ordered the release of both Faraj al-Haidari and Karim al-Tamimi on bail," said Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, a Supreme Judicial Council spokesman.

Haidari, a Kurd, confirmed to Reuters by telephone that he and Tamimi had been released on a bail of $12,900.

Maliki won a court ruling in January 2011 that put IHEC and other independent bodies like the central bank under more cabinet supervision, alarming critics who saw it as an attempt by the premier to consolidate more power.

A political crisis erupted in December when Maliki's Shi'ite-led government sought an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges he ran death squads and the ouster of Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Hashemi himself has denied any wrongdoing.

Maliki has said the charges against Hashemi were brought by the legal system and his supporters say he is following democratic norms, not abusing them. But many Iraqi Sunnis fear Maliki was trying to sideline them from government.

The crisis has been complicated by renewed tensions this month between Baghdad's central government and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government over who controls oil and disputed territories and over how much rights regions have to autonomy.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Additional reporting by Raheem Salman; Editing by Serena Chaudhry and Maria Golovnina)