Foreign journalists jailed in Iraq have first contact with lawyers

Journalists Marlene Förster and Matej Kavčič, imprisoned in Iraq, had their first contact with lawyers after almost a month.

"On May 15 and 16, respectively, a first contact took place between the lawyers of Matej Kavčič and Marlene Förster, the two journalists detained in Baghdad. For both, this was the first official lawyer contact since their arrest on April 20, 2022, and it took place in the context of a judicial hearing. At the same time, more than 42,000 people are petitioning for the journalists' release," reported the Free Marlene and Matej initiative.

Judicial hearing held

The conversation between Matej Kavčič and his lawyer took place on Sunday, May 15, in connection with a judicial hearing. The lawyer was able to attend the hearing and provide legal assistance to his client.

The following day, Marlene Förster and her legal counsel had their first official meeting, which was also attended by employees of the German embassy. Subsequently, a judicial hearing took place, which was also attended by her legal counsel.

According to Lydia Förster, it must be assumed that Marlene Förster is still being pressured by the Iraqi authorities to disclose information, sources and research of her journalistic work.

Yesterday's contact with the German Embassy and her lawyer followed more than two weeks in which both tried in vain to gain access to Marlene Förster. Even after Marlene Förster received approval from the Iraqi court for a personal phone call with her mother on May 11, the German embassy was unable to obtain visits. Lydia Förster had to inform the German authorities personally about the telephone call with her daughter, as they are obviously not in sufficient contact with the Iraqi authorities.

Commenting on the news that her daughter has now had the opportunity to see her lawyer, Lydia Förster said, "I am glad that finally, after almost a month, there has been direct contact between the lawyer and Marlene. Why it took so long, despite the many requests from the German embassy, remains a mystery to me."

In connection with the hearing on May 16, it became clear that the current investigations of the Iraqi authorities concern suspicions of illegal entry and espionage. However, there is still no written confirmation of the grounds for the investigation.

Lydia Förster stated that the rumors of the accusation of supporting terrorism are now off the table, adding: "Nevertheless, it is clear that the Iraqi state is trying to criminalize free journalism in connection with the situation in the Şengal."

Reporting on the escalating situation in Şengal is necessary

Malte Buchholz underlines the necessity of his friend's reporting, saying, "For weeks, the situation in Şengal has come to a head. Bombardments by Turkish combat drones and attacks by the Iraqi military have become a terrible part of people's daily lives."

There were also attacks by the Turkish Air Force during the time of the two journalists' stay. On the night of February 1 to 2, 2022 alone, 22 locations in Şengal were bombed by Turkish F16 fighter jets and armed drones.

Marlene Förster was able to send a short message to her friend in Germany by phone, writing, "Just briefly. Last night the bombing started. I could see it from my place. Today I was out all day and there were drones and planes overhead all the time. It was quite a mess."