Iraq's President Barham Salih has withdrawn a pardon for a former provincial governor's convicted drug trafficker son, following public outrage.
On Monday, Mr Salih's office said the January 10 presidential decree pardoning Jawad Luay Al Yassiri — son of Luay Al Yassiri, a former governor of Najaf province in central Iraq — “did not comply with the strict controls“.
Jawad Luay Al Yassiri and two friends were arrested in 2018 driving into Baghdad with about six kilograms of hashish and 7,000 pills, as well as money and a pistol.
In March that year, the Baghdad Criminal Court found them guilty of drugs trafficking and sentenced each to 15 years in prison.
Mr Salih’s decree — which was leaked on Saturday night — unleashed anger among Iraqis. They accused the president of undermining efforts to fight the growing drug trafficking and abuse in the country.
Mr Salih issued a statement saying the pardon was based on a recommendation by Prime Minster Mustafa Al Kadhimi.
Critics claim Mr Al Kadhimi made the move in order to cement a political alliance, amid an ongoing process to form a government.
‘’Even though the presidential pardon formally conformed with the legal and constitutional procedures, it was not carefully examined and it did not comply with the strict controls approved by the presidency,” a presidency statement said on Monday.
Mr Salih “ordered the immediate withdrawal” of the pardon and the “arrest of the convicted persons”, it added.
It is still unclear whether the those pardoned are in Iraq or abroad.
Iraqis criticised an alleged backroom deal involving the governor, who resigned a day before the pardon was requested by Mr Al Kadhimi.
Iraq’s constitution allows the country’s prime minster to make a recommendation to the president to issue pardons for those charged with specific crimes.
Mr Kadhimi’s office has not issued any clarification.
Since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq has seen a major increase in drug trafficking and use with gangs growing more powerful and organised.