Trial by Press Conference

The strangest of press conferences was broadcast live on Al-Iraqiya today.

In what looks like a reaction to the terrible incident in Abu Ghraib in which more than 30 people were killed Ministry of Interior spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf, paraded two alleged Qaeda members in front of Iraqi journalists.
He sat them beside him and basically interrogated them live on air. This was accompanied by a powerpoint slide show on his laptop of photos of the things they’ve done. All journalists present were promised a copy of the PowerPoint presentation!

presser2.jpg presser1.jpg

On of the men who allegedly were al-Qaeda members said he didn’t kill anyone but was the driver during a number of assassinations. They would get told who their target is by their leader, a man they called Abu Hawraa. 

The other man – excuse me for not taking down names, was in shock by the time I grabbed a pencil it was too late.. anyway the second man called to sit beside the Interior Ministry spokesman said that when they joined they swore to follow and obey so they never asked questions. They were told this person works with the Americans, that person is a spy for the Americans go kill him and they’d go. No questions asked.

The general asked one of the alleged members of this Qaeda cell to name the names of people he’s killed and the guy did. Live on air, I dread to think that someone heard the name of a relative or a friend this way. 

My mom and aunt were watching this with me. My aunt’s first comment was "Ya Allah,  he looks like a nice kid, what made him do these things?" 

We of course don’t know if they did ‘these things’. They have not been brought in front of a court yet and they’re still under investigation according to the general. But I guess they needed to show that they’re on top of things after the last two incidents in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib.

After the general finished his presentation there were questions form the Iraqi journos. One of them asked do you feel remorse for what you’ve done? To which the kid answered yes.. the general looked at him and said "that doesn’t sound very genuine, are you really feeling remorese".. how bizarre. 

I know it is important that we see our government doing something about all the madness around us. And it’s great that they’ve achieved  this modest level of security in Baghdad but really, how different is this display from what Saddam’s henchmen used to do. 

They’re criminals. Try them, stick them in jail and let them rot till kingdom come. But this feels wrong. Many here would disagree though. Many Iraqis want to see faces, who are these people who terrorised, kidnapped and killed. The government delivers. I am most probably in the minority in thinking this is creepy and wrong.

Talking of jail, one interesting fact that did emerge was that one of these guys was held for two years at Camp Bucca, the US detention centre in southern Iraq, then released. None of the journos bothered to ask whether he was actually involved in any terrorist activity before being detained by the coalition forces or was his time in Bucca where he was recruited.

The press conference concluded with the promise of juicier catch to be put on display soon.. including the groups religious leader. 

It’s not the first time this has been done on Iraqi TV – there used to be a daily programme of terrorist confessions – and clearly not the last.