The confessions told of high-stakes terror and street-level thuggery: Former bodyguards accused a combative Sunni lawmaker on Sunday of directing a wave of violence that ranged from a 2007 suicide blast inside the parliament building to kidnappings seeking US$30 ransoms.
In tapes released by Iraqi authorities, two former bodyguards of Mohammed al-Dayni — one of them his nephew — detailed a nearly three-year trail of bloodshed and atrocities they allege was masterminded by the 39-year-old electrical engineer, including burying alive more than 100 people in an act of revenge.
Al-Dayni rejected the allegations as “untrue and baseless” and suggested it was political punishment for standing up to the Shiite-led government.
Iraqi authorities offered no details to support the charges beyond the interrogation tapes. Officials also did not comment on the timing of the moves against al-Dayni, best known for his frequent allegations of rights abuses targeting Sunnis and suspicions of Iranian influence in Iraqi affairs.
But any serious showdown over the case risks complicating US-backed efforts at political reconciliation.
Mainstream Sunni political groups widely participated in last month’s provincial elections — and, more important, did not challenge the results. Yet it’s still a fragile rapport after years of bitter sectarian clashes that pushed Iraq close to civil war.
The interrogation video shown to journalists could offer a rare window into the level of lawlessness and rage before security began to retake control of Iraq in 2007.
As the videos were played, forces surrounded al-Dayni’s home in western Baghdad and confiscated weapons, explosives and other items, including the passport of former Sunni lawmaker Abdul Nasser al-Janabi, who was forced out of parliament in 2007 after declaring he would join insurgents, Colonel Ali Omran said.
Al-Dayni, meanwhile, was at a hotel in the Green Zone, where he was effectively placed under house arrest.
The spokesman for the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, Abdul Sattar al-Bairqdar, said a formal arrest warrant could not be issued until parliament lifts al-Dayni’s immunity from prosecution. There was no immediate indication when lawmakers could act.
In a telephone interview, al-Dayni said he was targeted because of his “patriotic stances,” which included complaints of suspected Iranian influence over Shiite political groups in Iraq.
“Before they accuse me, they should present evidence, not baseless allegations,” he said, adding that he did not plan to surrender to authorities.
Al-Dayni was elected in national elections in 2005 from the Diyala Province, a mixed area that has been the scene of festering Sunni-Shiite tensions. In November, al-Dayni was dropped from a small Sunni bloc in parliament because of his “comments and stances,” said the group’s leader, Saleh al-Mutlaq.
But al-Dayni has his defenders.
Salim Abdullah, a Sunni lawmaker and spokesman for the powerful Sunni Accordance Front, called the accusations “the kind of repression used ... against those who oppose” the country’s Shiite leadership.
The two former bodyguards were arrested last week, Iraqi military spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi said, giving no further details on when or where the taped interrogations took place.
The lawmaker’s nephew, Riadh Ibrahim Jassim Hussein al-Dayni, wore blue prison-style uniforms and frequently clenched his hands as he recounted the prelude to the April 2007 suicide attack in the parliament cafeteria that killed one person.