Judge Rahdi al-Rahdi, head of Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, was a hero in Iraq for his anti-corruption crusade. So why is he seeking political asylum in the US?by Nibras Kazimi / November 25, 2007 / Leave a comment
Mr Radhi goes to Washington
After three years as head of the Commission on Public Integrity, Iraq’s anti-corruption body, Judge Radhi al-Radhi finds himself seeking political asylum in the US.
In Iraq, al-Radhi was for a while everyone’s hero, especially when he went after the massive financial improprieties of ex-officials. Armed with a five-year mandate and secure in the knowledge that only a two-thirds majority in parliament could remove him from his post, al-Radhi led his 1,700 employees in striking terror across Iraq’s civil service and business communities. His style was non-confrontational, but many of his young foot soldiers were overzealous, which led to the prosecution of minor offences that may well have been merely a reflection of a bureaucracy finding its feet, rather than wilful fraud. The result was paralysis in many sectors of government.
But once al-Rahdi began to step on the toes of those in power, he found himself bereft of friends; not even the Americans—who had appointed him during the coalition provisional authority era and secured his independence when handing over sovereignty—would help, lest they annoy the Iraqi government.
As al-Radhi began to go after ministers in Nouri al-Maliki’s cabinet, he found himself up against a 35-year-old law that stipulates that only the heads of the executive branch can mandate the prosecution of ministers. With his aura of invincibility broken and resentment mounting, al-Radhi had to contend with a new nemesis: Sabah al-Saeidi, head of the parliamentary commission on public integrity and a member of the Shia Islamic Virtue party.
Al-Saeidi, turbaned and trim, began to accuse al-Radhi of being corrupt himself, and launched hearings. The reason? Al-Radhi had tried to fire al-Saeidi’s brother, who heads the public integrity commission in Basra province, and who, according to al-Radhi, is the kingpin of oil smuggling in Iraq’s south.
In early September, al-Radhi left for the US, and was surprised to hear Maliki publicly accuse him of fleeing the country to escape prosecution, when ostensibly he was attending a training seminar. A few weeks later, al-Radhi took his revenge by giving testimony to congress accusing the Maliki government of corruption and of forcing him to quit; he later applied for asylum. This allowed Maliki’s government to suggest that al-Radhi was part of an ongoing American campaign to tarnish Iraq’s rulers.
Now, contrary to Iraqi law, Maliki has appointed al-Radhi’s deputy, Moussa Faraj, to replace him. “Faraj…