Home Page > News Item > IRAQ: Journalist, playwright, film-maker and member of Iraqi PEN murdered

RAN 50/11 22 September 2011

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is appalled by the murder of prominent journalist, playwright, filmmaker and member of Iraqi PEN Hadi al-Mahdi, who was shot dead at his home in Baghdad on 8 September 2011. It calls for an independent and transparent investigation into his murder, so that those responsible can be brought to justice, and for full protection to other journalists and writers who face politically motivated threats and attacks.

According to PEN’s information, Hadi al-Mahdi, aged forty-four, was shot twice in the head at his flat in Baghdad, ahead of a planned protest he was due to attend in the city’s Tahrir Square on 9 September 2011. He hosted a popular radio talk-show To Whoever Listens which was aired three times a week on the independent radio station Radio Demozy, and on which he was known for his outspoken criticism of the government. He had been receiving threats since 25 February 2011, when he was arrested after calling for peaceful anti-government protests. In the days leading up to his murder the threats escalated, and he wrote the following message on his Facebook page just hours before his killing:

I have lived the last three days in a state of terror. There are some who call me and warn me of raids and arrests of protesters. There is someone who is saying that the government will do this and that. There is someone with a fake name coming on to Facebook to threaten me.

He is said to have stopped broadcasting his show about two months ago, reportedly out of fear for his safety. Hadi al-Mahdi spent six months in prison in the late 1980s for his play Farewell, Strange Old World, which was a re-telling of Machiavelli’s The Prince. He lived in exile in Europe throughout the 1990s, returning to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

In August 2011, Iraq’s Parliament passed a new law on legal protections for journalists who face ongoing politically motivated threats and attacks. However, the law does not provide for their physical protection.

Please write immediately:
Expressing outrage at the murder of prominent journalist, playwright, filmmaker and member of Iraqi PEN Hadi al-Mahdi, who appears to have been targeted for his critical views;
Calling for an independent and transparent investigation into his murder, so that those responsible can be brought to justice, and for the provision of full protection to journalists and writers facing ongoing politically motivated threats and attacks.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS TO:
Prime Minister
Nuri Kamil al-Maliki
Convention Centre (Qasr al-Ma’aridh)
Baghdad,
Iraq.
Salutation: Your Excellency

President
Jalal Talabani
Convention Centre (Qasr al-Ma’aridh)
Baghdad,
Iraq.
e-mail: questions@iraqipresidency.net
Salutation: Your Excellency

Please send a copy of your appeal to the diplomatic representative for Iraq in your country.

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: cathy.mccann@pen-international.org

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