An Iraqi court has asked for immunity to be lifted for an MP who likened premier Nuri al-Maliki to Saddam Hussein, under a decades-old law barring criticism of public bodies, an official said Thursday.
Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi said the Supreme Judicial Council submitted the request to lift parliamentary immunity for Sabah al-Saadi, an independent Shiite lawmaker, after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
"The issue of removing immunity from any MP must be studied carefully, to be sure that it is not malicious or political targeting," Nujaifi told reporters.
"There is a committee that will study this request, and after that the presidency committee will decide whether or not to remove the immunity," he added, referring to the three-member "presidency" of parliament, comprised of himself and his two deputies.
According to Ali Shlah, an MP belonging to Maliki's State of Law alliance, the Supreme Judicial Council issued the warrant on September 19 for Saadi, who likened Maliki to now-executed dictator Saddam on September 9, the day after the assassination of a journalist critical of the government.
At the time, he said Maliki was "acting in the same way as Saddam Hussin, through threatening by killing."
The warrant was issued under Article 226 of the 1969 Iraqi Penal Code, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment or an unspecified fine for anyone who "publicly insults parliament, the government, the courts, armed forces" or any other official or semi-official public body, according to Saadi.
The MP told AFP on Wednesday that he was aware of the warrant but had not been officially informed of it.
"I think it has been issued to close the mouths of all those who work in the anti-corruption sector, after what happened to Rahim al-Uqailee," he said, referring to the former anti-corruption watchdog chief who resigned this month complaining of political interference in his inquiries.
"If this continues, Iraq will not be living in the construct of democracy, but in the construct of dictatorship," Saadi said.
A spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council did not respond to repeated AFP requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday.