An arrest warrant for Kurdish political leader Rebwar Talabani has been issued by the central Iraqi government. Talabani is a high-ranking member and authority figure in the Patriotic union of Kurdistan (PUK) political party. The arrest warrant was issued because Rebwar Talabani was responsible for the organization of the Kurdistan independence referendum that ended catastrophically for the autonomous Kurdistan region. The investigation falls under Iraq’s provisional Code of Criminal Procedure 331.

The arrest warrant was issued on Sunday according to a document released by the Kirkuk Investigation Court who was tasked with looking into the September 2017 referendum’s events. Rebwar Talabani is the acting leader of the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC), a role he has filled since 2014. Talabani was the KPC’s primary member to proactively urge all of Kirkuk’s public administrative buildings to fly the national flag of Kurdistan next to the Iraqi flag, something that was made official in March of 2017 through a majority vote. He also pushed to include the Kirkuk territory in the independence referendum as well, a bold move to officially claim Kirkuk for Kurdistan over Iraq. Kirkuk was traditionally Kurdish owned prior to the Saddam regime and later reclaimed by the Kurds, and Peshmerga military forces, after the city fell to the Islamic State in 2014.

Rebwar Talabani vehemently denied the accusations made against him by the Iraqi government during a press conference later held in Erbil, he claimed the charges were baseless and politically motivated. He claimed the Turkmen Movement was behind the arrest warrant through collaboration with Iraq. He claimed the judge who was responsible for issuing the warrant did so to seek “self-popularity,” and Talabani vowed that legal action would be taken.

President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, released a statement that expressed the KDP’s support of Talabani. The statement assured that the Kurdish people and their political parties would stand behind Talabani in the face of the charges. This is a significant move that demonstrates Kurdish unity given that the KDP and PUK are age old rivals who even fought a civil war against each other at one point. The statement claimed that the warrant was issued because of Talabani’s “national and patriotic positions” and that “President Barzani also supports [Talabani] with all his power.”

Featured image: The parliament of Kurdistan. By Jan Sefti [CC BY-SA 2.0