Iraq pardons all except killers
* Allawi announces 30-day amnesty
* Bans Al Jazeera for one month
BAGHDAD: Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on Saturday signed a long-awaited amnesty law that would pardon Iraqis who had committed minor crimes, but not those guilty of killing.
Announcing the limited amnesty for Iraqi insurgents, Allawi extended an olive branch to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose loyalists have staged an uprising in several cities. Allawi said there was no need for emergency laws to stabilise Iraq, adding he was getting “positive messages” from Sadr.
But he cracked down on Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera, banning it for a month for allegedly inciting violence.
“We do not feel that there is a need for emergency law, the situation is still under control despite what the media is trying to propagate,” Allawi told a news conference.
A senior Iraqi official, appearing with Allawi, said the amnesty would last for 30 days and those eligible for it need to turn themselves in at police stations. He said it would not apply to insurgents who have murdered, raped, looted or been involved in destroying government buildings.
Those eligible for the amnesty include people in possession of light arms and explosives, those who hid intelligence about terrorist groups and people who helped those groups commit crimes, Allawi said.
The amnesty would forgive those who committed the covered crimes from May 1, 2003, just after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The prime minister reiterated his commitment to Iraq’s political transition, saying a national conference would go ahead on Aug. 15 to choose a council to oversee the interim government, followed by elections in January.
Allawi said he had no casualty figures from the fighting but said the Najaf troubles were fomented by common criminals who were hiding behind Sadr’s name. He said Iraqi forces had captured 1,200 criminals involved in the unrest.
Allawi said a commission had been monitoring Al Jazeera for the past four weeks to see whether it was inciting violence and hatred, and that the decision had been taken “to protect the people of Iraq”.
“It’s regrettable and we believe it’s not justifiable,” Al Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said. “This latest decision runs contrary to all the promises made by Iraqi authorities concerning freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
Another government official at the press conference said the station had “encouraged criminals and gangsters” in Iraq. Ballout denied the charge and said the television would continue to cover events in Iraq despite the closure. agencies