Iraq suspends Diwaniyah governor amid corruption inquiry

Move against Zuhair Al Shaalan welcomed by Iraqi public

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, pictured, has suspended Diwaniyah governor Zuhair Al Shaalan. AP
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Iraq suspended the governor of the city of Diwaniyah on Tuesday while a corruption investigation is carried out.

Zuhair Al Shaalan was suspended by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani over “an investigation on suspicion of administrative and financial corruption, which the competent courts are reviewing”, Mr Al Sudani’s office said.

In recent years, the southern city has been at the centre of demonstrations by pro-reform activists.

The unprecedented protests began in October 2019 and lasted for months until social restrictions were imposed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of Iraqis called on authorities to provide adequate public services and better employment opportunities.

Protesters accuse the political establishment of rampant corruption and are demanding an end to a political system that is divided along sectarian and ethnic lines.

Some Iraqis used social media to support the move to suspend Mr Al Shaalan.

“Diwaniyah governorate has been suffering from mismanagement by the governor, Zuhair Al Shaalan, who proved that he is the worst governor in the country,” Nawres Shibani, an activist from the southern city, said on Twitter.

“Very little has been achieved during his time in office.”

Ameer Salaam, a Diwaniyah university student, said Mr Al Sudani must appoint a new governor who “cares enough” about his city and people.

Iraq's Integrity Commission, which deals with corruption, issued an order against Mr Al Shaalan on Tuesday on charges of violations and damage to public funds.

The commission based its charges on the Iraqi Penal Code, which says: “Every public official or agent who intentionally causes damage to the funds or interests of the entity in which he works or is connected shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years.”

Since the US-led invasion of 2003, corruption has been rife in Iraq. Billions of dollars sent to the government for reconstruction purposes were misused by authorities.

In 2007, the former head of the Integrity Commission, Radhi Hamza Al Radhi, told the US congress — after fleeing Iraq — that $18 billion had gone missing.

Since then, that figure may have become as high as $320 billion, according to Iraq’s Parliamentary Transparency Commission.

Updated: January 10, 2023, 3:47 PM
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