Maverick legislator faces outrage in Iraq over his trip to Israel

  • Article by: NICHOLAS SPANGLER and MOHAMMED AL-DULAIMY , McClatchy News Service
  • Updated: September 14, 2008 - 7:17 PM

BAGHDAD - Parliament on Sunday suspended legal immunity for secular Sunni lawmaker Mithal Alusi, opening him up to possible felony charges for traveling to Israel last week to participate in an international counterterrorism conference.

"Are you holding me accountable for not hiding secrets? For being honest? For not walking behind the curtains?" he demanded of his colleagues Sunday. "It is better than visiting in secret."

Alusi is the only Iraqi politician in recent years to publicly visit Israel, a country declared an enemy of state by Iraqi law, and he used the occasion last week to accuse Iran of sponsoring terrorism and interfering in Iraqi affairs. At the end of his appearance, he called for relations with Israel and other nations to fight terrorism.

"Partnership between Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey and the U.S. will ensure that we have the correct information and can respond fast," the Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.

Alusi is a maverick figure in Iraqi politics and a staunch nationalist who advocates American-style democracy and continued cooperation with the U.S. military to limit Iranian influence in the region. A former expatriate, in 2002 he briefly seized Iraq's embassy in Berlin. German commandos stormed the building, and he spent 13 months in prison.

His first visit to Israel, in 2004, got him booted from Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress; he ran as an independent and won a seat in parliament anyway. Two of his sons were killed in 2005 in an apparent attempt on his life.

Ali al-Adeeb of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party opened Sunday's session by suggesting Alusi's recent comments might be "part of an undisclosed plan to subdue our proud society to gradually accept what it rejects by principle." Ayad al-Samarrai, of the Iraqi Islamic Party, called Alusi's visit a betrayal of his oath of office because "the Zionist entity is described as an enemy of the state of Iraq in Iraqi law."

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