A Baghdad court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for the vice-president of Iraqi Kurdistan on charges of ‘provocation’ against Iraq's armed forces, the judiciary said.
Kosrat Rasul had referred to the Iraqi army and federal police as ‘occupation forces’ in a statement on Wednesday, the court said.
In the statement, Rasul, who is also vice-president of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two main Kurdish parties, criticised his own group for not having resisted the entry of Iraqi federal forces into the disputed northern city of Kirkuk on Monday.
‘The court considers these comments as provocation against the armed forces, under Article 226 of the penal code,’ an offence which can carry a jail term of up to seven years or a fine, said a judiciary spokesman.
Rasul, who is close to Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, entered Kirkuk with his peshmerga fighters on Sunday but pulled out without a fight.
Barzani, who is head of the PUK's rival the Kurdistan Democratic Party, on Thursday denounced the warrant as a ‘political decision that clearly shows the reality of Baghdad's authoritarianism’.
The judiciary in the Iraqi capital last week also ordered the arrest of three senior Kurdish officials responsible for organising a September 25 independence referendum in defiance of Baghdad.
Iraq's supreme court had ruled the vote unconstitutional and ordered it called off.
The arrest warrants are likely to prove toothless as Baghdad's security forces do not operate inside Iraqi Kurdistan, but they could stop the officials leaving the northern region.
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