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Iraq frees pro-Iran militia commander arrested over activist’s murder

KARBALA, Iraq — The Iraqi justice system frees a commander of the state-affiliated Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition, two weeks after he was arrested over the murder of a pro-democracy activist.

Qassem Muslah was arrested by police intelligence on suspicion of ordering the May 9 killing of Ihab al-Wazni, who was shot dead by men on motorbikes using a silencer.

The paramilitary leader was welcomed by pro-Iran Hashed-al-Shaabi colleagues in the Shiite holy city of Karbala following his release today, AFP journalists say.

“The judges have served justice, they have ended their investigation, terminating it with my release,” Muslah says.

But an official government source decries the decision to release Muslah.

“The government presented all available evidence, but the judges have decided to release him because of pressure exerted on them,” says the source, who wishes to remain anonymous.

In the wake of Muslah’s arrest, security forces had barred entry to Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone — home to the US embassy, parliament and the premier’s office — after the Hashed quickly deployed armed men and armored vehicles in a show of force.

Muslah is also suspected of ordering the assassination of another activist, Fahim al-Taie, in December 2019.

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