ARBIL: Authorities claimed a Kurdish lawmaker was arrested in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Monday after making a tweet that was deemed derogatory to Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani.
The autonomous region’s interior ministry said in a statement that Nayef Kurdistani “was arrested by the Kurdistan region’s security forces” and is being held in jail in the Kurdish capital Arbil.
He stands accused of making “reprehensible remarks”, after a post on his Twitter account in which the author contended that the “Persian” religious authority, among others, is not descended from the Prophet Mohammed, even if they “wear black turbans”.
A black turban, when worn by Shia clerics – notably Sistani – signifies direct lineage from the Prophet Mohammed.
The post has since been deleted and Kurdistani denies being the author, claiming his account had been hijacked.
Article 372 of Iraq’s constitution stipulates a prison term of up to three years for insulting “a symbol or person which / who is an object of sanctification, worship or reverence”.
Sistani, 91, was born in Iran and lives in the Iraqi Shia holy city of Najaf. Shiites form a majority in Iraq.
Kurdistani ran for the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq’s 2018 parliamentary elections but did not win a seat.
A crowd set fire to the party’s Baghdad headquarters overnight, without causing casualties.