Updated 9/14 8:00 PM EST
Iraq’s Parliament announced that it has stripped outspoken Sunni MP Mithal al-Alusi of his legal immunity and also barred him from traveling outside of the country or attending future sessions of parliament today. It also says that it intends to see Alusi prosecuted for the crime of “visiting a country that Iraq considers an enemy”.
At issue is a visit last week by Alusi, the chairman of Iraq’s tiny Democratic Party, to a conference in Israel. During the appearance he gave a brief talk at the podium calling for increased cooperation between Iraq and Israel, and a joint intelligence network combining Iraq, Israel, the United States, Jordan, Turkey, and Kuwait.
Alusi also condemned Iran for meddling in Iraqi affairs, and accused the Iranian ambassador of attempting to bribe him in return for his party’s cooperation. This charge seems an incredible one, given Alusi’s long-standing reputation as a supporter of ties with Israel, his blaming of the sectarian strife on Shi’ite militias, and public criticism of of influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Alusi claims that it was his criticism of Iran that sparked the move by parliament.
Alusi faced similar legal troubles in 2004, when he was indicted by a US-established special court for a prior visit to Israel. Alusi was at the time a high ranking official in the Iraqi National Congress, but was expelled over the visit.
Though he was never convicted of the charges, he became a political outcast and faced numerous assassination attempts in the months that followed, including one which killed his two sons. That particular attack was allegedly masterminded by Iraq’s Culture Minister, Asad al-Hashemi, who was later sentenced to death for his involvement.
It is unclear what criminal penalties Alusi might face for his latest Israel visit. Iraq and Israel have technically remained in a state of war for 60 years, and contact with Israeli officials has been a controversial issue in Iraq. Earlier this year, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani caused a major stir when he shook hands with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a Socialist International meeting in Greece. President Talibani insisted the handshake took place in his capacity as vice president of Socialist International, not as a representative of the Iraqi government.
Alusi declared parliament’s decision a victory for both al-Qaeda and Iran, and claimed that Iraqi speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani had pressured him to apologize for the visit.