October 14, 2006

Former American 'Hostage' Sentenced to Death in Iraq

An American citizens implicated in the hostage taking of three Romanian journalists has been sentenced to death in Iraq. You will recall that The Jawa Report was the first American media outlet to announce that Muhammed Munaff had been taken 'hostage' along with three others.

Later, with the help of a Romanian reader Adi, we learned that the whole hostage crisis had probably been an inside job. Thus, we were also the first American media outlet to raise questions over Munaff's involvement.

Another case of blogs getting the news first. The facts of the case are the stuff made for the movies.

Is he guilty? There is some pretty strong circumstantial evidence that Muhammed Munaf is, in fact, guilty of helping to kidnap Marie Jeanne Ion, Sorin Dumitru Miscoci, and Edward Ovidiu Ohanesian. The three Romanians were held hostage together with left-wing French journalist Florence Aubenas for a time.

The three Romanian and one French journalist were all later released, unharmed. There were rumors that ransom had been paid for all four of them.

It is thought that all of the kidnappings were part of an elaborate plot to both get ransom money and to revive the political career of a Syrian immigrant to Romania, Omar Hayssam, then in trouble with the Romanian authorities. One of the hostages, Marie-Jeanne Ion, was the daughter of an important ruling party leader. The speculation was that by winning the freedom of the hostages, he would be deemed a hero.

Mohammed Monaf and Omar Hayssam were indicted in Romania for the kidnappings, but Monaf has been held by the U.S. in Iraq since May of 2005. The arrest of a nine member criminal hostage-taking cell led authorities Iraq both finding the hostages and implicating Monaf and Hayssam.

Romania has insisted that Monaf receive the death penalty.

A big question mark, though, looms to just how involved Muhammed Munaff was in the plot. Even worse is that the Iraqi court system seems to be pretty dysfunctional. It's not exactly the best place to bring the truth to light.

As we cautioned in our earlier reports, conspiracy theories are the norm in the ex-Soviet states of Eastern Europe. Since much of the 'facts' of the conspiracy come from Romanian sources, it's difficult to sort them from fiction. In other words, it was never a slam dunk case against Monaf.

But, the U.S. thought the Iraqi born American citizen posed enough of a threat to hold him for the last year.

And, why is kidnapping a capital crime in Iraq?

AP with a hat tip to George:

Lawyers for an American citizen facing execution in Iraq appealed Friday in U.S. federal court to keep the man in American custody preventing his death while another case is being appealed.

The citizen, Mohammad Munaf, was convicted and sentenced to death by an Iraqi judge earlier this week on charges he helped in the 2005 kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad, court papers show.

Iraqi-born Munaf, a naturalized U.S. citizen since 2000, was working as their translator and guide. He maintains his innocence.

In an emergency request filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, Munaf's attorneys claim his rights to a fair trial in Iraq were violated when he was convicted without being able to present evidence in his defense or to see the evidence against him.

The AP report seems to indicate that Monaf's death sentence was politically motivated. Strange indeed.

More from the Jawa Report:
Romanian Journalists Taken Hostage in Iraq, Plea for Help (UPDATED)
American Mohammed Monaf Kidnapped in Iraq (UPDATED)
3 Romanians and One American Shown on Hostage Video
American Hostage in Iraq
Questions Raised Over Romanian Hostage Crisis
American and Romanian Journalists Released in Iraq
Left-Wing French Journalist Freed, Was Held with Romanian Hostages
Former American 'Hostage' Indicted for Plotting Romanian Hostage Taking

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 10:35 AM | Comments |