Monday, January 08, 2007

American Greased Prison Escape in Iraq?

As Iraqi palms are greased to push production sharing agreements with Western oil companies, a prior Minister of Electricity defended his jailbreak from prison for corruption. His dramatic escape occurred inside the secure Green Zone. After the December 17th breakout, Mr. al-Samaraie flew from Baghdad to Jordan using his own passport as identification. From there he flew to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where he conducted his press conference saying “flamboyant things”.

"I freed myself from jail. It was a bad jail and a bad charge."

He has "lovers everywhere in the world"

His defense would be easier if Iraq adopted libel laws similar to those in the United States. "We have to start suing those guys so they shut up," he said of Iraqi court officials who have declared him a fugitive from justice.

How much luck might American fugitives from justice have with these three defenses of their jailbreaks? His next step, might you ask? Mr. al-Samaraie wants to return to the United States, as he also is an American citizen.

The former minister said Americans were involved in his jailbreak, but none were affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. He declined to say whether any of his American accomplices worked for the U.S. government.

While President Bush talks about democracies and the rule of law, his actions in this case will show to whom "the law" applies. Will any of the Americans springing the corrupt Electricity Minister be arrested for their crimes? Will Mr. Samaraie be returned to jail as promised by U.S. leaders after his escape?

Lou Fintor, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said at the time that the U.S. government was not involved in al-Samaraie's escape, and that Americans would try to help recapture him. A U.S. consular official who observed the news conference in Dubai departed without speaking to al-Samaraie.

Al-Samaraie was detained in August, convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison. The charges concerned an estimated $2 billion in missing funds for contracts on rebuilding Iraq's electrical infrastructure. Arrest warrants on corruption charges have been issued for about 90 former Iraqi officials, including 15 ministers. Al-Samaraie is the only one convicted and imprisoned.

He said his friends were negotiating with U.S. government officials to enable his return to the United States. "All indications are that I can return," said al-Samaraie, who was appointed to the Iraqi transitional government in 2003.

Please Mr. Bush, we cannot return such a man to jail to face criminal charges against him when so many lovers around the world need his services. However given your words after Saddam’s recent execution, a greater calling may be served by his extradition, justice for the beleaguered Iraqi people. Just leaving out a name produces:

Bringing ­­­­____ __ ____ to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror.

Justice for corruption is slow to nonexistent in the U.S. It appears we exported that democratic option to Iraq in 2003. As for who might help Mr. al-Samaraie get back to the U.S., one need only look as far as Dr. Allawi, the first Prime Minister post Saddam. The fugitive went to Dubai to seek Allawi’s aid…

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