ARBIL, Iraq - Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdish region on Friday called for the release of the electoral commission head and another member arrested on corruption charges, saying the move by Baghdad authorities threatened the country's democratic process.

The central government and Arbil have long-running disputes over political autonomy, oil rights and contested territories and tensions have escalated recently following a clash over oil exports.

The head of the Independent Electoral High Commission (IHEC), Faraj al-Haidari, and member Karim al-Tamimi were arrested on Thursday on charges they had given bonuses to some employees of the body, charges they denied.

Their arrests signaled an apparent move by Baghdad for more government control of independent bodies and a statement by a Kurdish presidency spokesman said it showed the central government was disregarding democratic procedures in Iraq.

"The decision of the authorities in Baghdad to issue a detention order against Faraj al-Haidari and Karim al-Tamimi amounts to a gross violation and dangerous infringement of the political process," the statement said.

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