'The innocent die while the cowards rule': Iraqi activist shot dead in Baghdad

Salah Al Iraqi's last Facebook post was a grim foretelling of his death

TOPSHOT - Anti-government protesters draped in Iraqi national flags walk into clouds of smoke from burning tires during a demonstration in the southern city of Basra on November 17, 2019, as protesters cut-off roads and activists call for a general strike. Iraqis flooded the streets of the capital and southern cities in a general strike that bolstered the weeks-long movement demanding a government overhaul. Protesters cut roads in the oil-rich port city of Basra by burning tyres and in Hillah, south of Baghdad, students and other activists massed in front of the provincial headquarters. / AFP / Hussein FALEH
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An Iraqi anti-government protester was shot dead in east Baghdad by masked gunmen on Tuesday evening.

Salah Al Iraqi was well known for his active role in the rallies that erupted in Iraq's capital and the Shiite-majority south last year, slamming the government as corrupt, inefficient and beholden to neighbouring Iran.

Al Iraqi was killed in the Baghdad Al Jadida district. His death was confirmed by the Iraqi Network for Social Media, a collection of activists who reported on the protests.

He died on arrival at the nearby Sheikh Zayed hospital, a doctor and security source told AFP.

Baghdad Al Jadida is a few kilometres from Tahrir Square, the centre of protests in the capital from where Al Iraqi, always energetic, would broadcast live footage.

The network said he had been a target twice before Tuesday's shooting.

In his last post on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, Al Iraqi wrote: "The innocent die while the cowards rule."

Almost 600 people have lost their lives in protest-related violence since rallies began in October 2019, including young organisers who were shot dead.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, who came to power in May after street pressure forced his predecessor to resign, pledged to protect rallies and arrest those responsible for past violence.

But last week, eight local and international rights groups said they were worried about "the lack of accountability for the extrajudicial executions that have taken place this year, targeting individuals for their peaceful expression".

The authorities' failure to bring the perpetrators to justice was "perpetuating and further entrenching decades of impunity that have left brave individuals without the most basic protection", said the groups, which include Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

HRW on Tuesday gave as an example the recent case of Arshad Fakhry, 31, who has not been heard from since he was detained by unidentified armed men in November.

HRW said Mr Al Kadhimi's government "has precious little to show for these promises and disappearances have continued".

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