An Iraqi political party, linked to a powerful militia, has announced plans to run in the country's general elections for the first time while calling for the withdrawal of US troops.
The Huqooq Movement is the political wing of Kataib Hezbollah, the most high-profile Iran-backed militia in Iraq. They have been accused of targeting protesters during the October 2019 demonstrations.
"We are not radicals, instead, we've identified a problem and are seeking to restore rights through political means under the umbrella of the constitution,” Hussein Mounis, the party’s leader said during a press conference to announce their electoral programme.
Mr Mounes, who also used to go by the name of Abu Ali Al Askari, was the spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah.
He said the party has "the ability to achieve" its goals, which includes political and economic demands "with which we’ve defended the homeland and expelled anyone who wanted evil for this country.”
Kataib Hezbollah has been accused of targeting US forces stationed across the country.
The group has continuously demanded the withdrawal of 2,500 American troops stationed in Iraq and opposes Western influence in the country.
Mr Mounes stressed that the party’s “ambition now is to pass a law in the House of Representatives that American forces should leave the country," referring to a law passed in early 2020.
“There is an occupation that we seek to expel from our land,” he said, adding the party’s demand for the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.
Iraq’s electoral laws prohibits political parties from having armed wings. The development comes as militia leader Qais Al Khazali, head of Asa’ib Ahl Al Haq, accused international bodies of rigging the general elections.
Iraqis are expected to head to the polls on October 10 to elect a new parliament in what is seen as one of the most important voting process in the region.
"There is strong will to rig the upcoming elections which must be prevented. Voters should be able to express their opinions freely and not give in to pressure,” Mr Al Khazali said.
On Sunday, Iraq’s High Electoral Commission announced a decision to expel the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a subgroup of Kataib Hezbollah, from the special voting system. This means fighters must return to their home districts to cast their ballot.
Mr Mounes said IHEC's decision is robbing “the rights of fighters to choose who represents them and protects them from those who seek to weaken their power and confiscate their votes".