Iraqi MP acquitted for Israel trip

Mithal al-Alusi's fellow lawmakers had voted to allow his prosecution for visiting enemy state.

mithal alusi 88 298 (photo credit: AP)
mithal alusi 88 298
(photo credit: AP)
An Iraqi MP prosecuted for visiting Israel where he attended a conference at the International Institute for Counterterrorism was acquitted on Monday. In September, Mithal al-Alusi's fellow lawmakers had voted overwhelmingly to strip him of his immunity and allow his prosecution for visiting an enemy state - a crime punishable by death under a 1950s-era law. Nevertheless, an Iraqi court ruled that there was no explicit law against visiting Israel. "There is no law preventing any Iraqi from traveling to any country," Alusi's lawyer Tariq Harb told Reuters. "Alusi will regain all his rights." Because he had visited Israel, many Iraqis assume Alusi was the real target of assassins who killed his sons in 2005, while he escaped unharmed. Alusi has a German passport, allowing him to travel without visa restrictions imposed on other Iraqis. Lawmakers accused him of humiliating the nation with a trip to the 'enemy' state. He said he went to Israel to seek international support for Iraq as it struggles against terrorism, and insisted that the outcry reflects Iranian meddling in Iraq's internal affairs - an accusation often leveled by Sunnis like himself against Iraq's mostly Shi'ite neighbor. Alusi, 55, has a long history of clashes with authority and has spent half his life in exile. He was sentenced to death in absentia in 1976 - he was studying in Cairo at the time - for allegedly trying to undermine Saddam Hussein. He went to Syria and Germany, returning in 2003 after the dictator was overthrown. Even in exile, he caused a commotion, leading a group that stormed the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin in 2002 to protest against Saddam's regime. A German court convicted him of hostage-taking and other charges, but he appealed and never served his full sentence of three years. In 2004, he was expelled from Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress for his earlier visit to Israel, also for a terrorism conference. In February 2005 came the ambush. Asad Kamal al- Hashimi, a former culture minister in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death last month on charges he planned it. Hashimi remains a fugitive. After his expulsion from the Iraqi National Congress, Alusi formed the Iraqi Nation Party, which he has described as a "liberal, secular and democratic party" with 12,000 members. Sameer N. Yacoub, Vanessa Gera, Herb Keinon and AP contributed to this report