News and Comment by The Kurdistan Tribune:
Zana Hama Salih, deputy governor of Sulaymani, was today found dead in his jail cell. Security officials are claiming that he committed suicide but, when Zana’s wife visited him this morning, he seemed well and told her that he was expecting to be released tomorrow.
This afternoon, however, Zana’s family was summoned to the jail and told that he had killed himself. When they saw his body it showed signs of torture or of a final struggle, with bruising on his neck and elsewhere. According to the Sbeiy website, Zana’s relatives are saying they will not bury him until his body is clinically examined in Baghdad.
Zana was arrested on 7th April, accused of involvement in corrupt irregularities in the sale of agricultural land under Iraqi law article 307. It is estimated that $460 million has been stolen from the proceeds of local land sales to businesses and private companies since 2006. However, while Zana Hama Salih admitted taking bribes he maintained that the main culprits were other government officials including local Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leaders.
The case of Zana Hama Salih has shocked the people of Sulaymani because of the corruption and dishonesty of local PUK officials. Indeed, for a period security officers were unable to take Zana into custody because his relatives and supporters were protesting and blocking the main roads of Sulaymani.
Yesterday an official close to the PUK leadership confirmed to KT that even Jalal Talabani – the PUK’s founder and the president of Iraq – was opposed to the jailing of Zana Hama Salih. Talabani told this official it was mistaken because, if Zana was guilty, the whole PUK leadership in Sulaymani should be jailed.
The three opposition parties – Gorran, the KIU and the Islamic League – have called on the Kurdistan parliament to set up an urgent inquiry into Zana’s death.
This tragedy will deepen the PUK’s internal crisis. However, it has so far gone unreported by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) media, probably reflecting the fact that it is a matter of no concern to the KDP authorities in Erbil.
It appears that there were two schools of thought inside the Sulaymani security office. One group wanted to take Zana to trial and put everyone involved in the case in court. Another group wanted to get rid of Zana because they knew that he would name the PUK officials involved in theft and bribery.
During his first court appearance Zana threatened to name everyone involved in the case and afterwards he was placed in solitary confinement. It appears that the second group inside the security office has now succeeded in silencing him.
It is imperative that his cause of death be verified by an independent medical committee.
There is every reason to suspect that Zana Hama Salih has been executed by the local PUK leadership. If so, they must be exposed and brought to justice.