Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi has promised to release protesters arrested for involvement in popular demonstrations.
Announcing a series of new government measures following his first Cabinet meeting, Mr Al Kadhimi said all those who had been arrested for participation in the protests would be released with the exception of those suspected of involvement in killings.
“The detainees will be released except for those involved in the blood of the Iraqis. We will hold the negligent accountable and provide compensation to those affected,” the former Iraqi intelligence head said in a televised speech.
Mr Al Kadhimi’s government has also announced the creation of a committee to investigate attacks on protesters that took place from October onwards.
Addressing the grievances of the widespread protest movement that has swept Iraq in recent months is one in a long list of problems for the new Iraqi leader.
He has promised to consult with the protesters where the previous administration had sought to shut down demonstrations. Protesters were motivated by chronic unemployment, government corruption and the unfettered influence of neighbouring Iran on domestic Iraqi affairs.
The onset of the coronavirus outbreak and plummeting oil and gas revenues have entrenched the already formidable problems facing the new government.
The administration announced a series of measures including the release of funds earmarked for the payment of pensions and the approval of a draft law to allow domestic and foreign borrowing to address some of those financial problems.
Mr Al Kadhimi also reiterated his government’s key priority of creating a safe and secure environment for early elections to take place and support for the work of Iraq's electoral commission.
As such, the government requested expedited passage of the new electoral law and directed all ministries and official bodies to provide all necessary support to the electoral body.
Mr Al Kadhimi secured the premiership on Thursday, after two previous candidates failed to gain approval.
He has gained the tacit backing of the United States and Saudi Arabia and is seen as a figure that stands apart from the influence of Iraq’s powerful, Iran-backed popular mobilisation forces (PMF).
Further burnishing his credentials as a leader who will stand up to the armed groups, Mr Al Kadhimi also reinstated and promoted Lt Gen. Abdul Wahab Al Saadi, the former commander of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism forces.
Lt Gen Al Saadi played a crucial role in the liberation of Iraq from ISIS from 2015 onwards. However, he was removed from his position last year as a concession to the PMF because of the counter-terrorism head’s close relations with the US.