INTELLIGENCE

Basescu: The 2005 saga of kidnapped journalists seems to be finally over

The 2005 saga of kidnapped Romanian journalists in Iraq seems to be finally over, Romania’s former President Traian Basescu wrote Thursday in a Facebook post.

“Welcome, Mohammad Munaf! Finally, the 2005 saga of the kidnapped Romanian journalists in Iraq seems, and I say once again seems, to be over. Omar Hayssam, a Romanian and Syrian citizen, the mastermind of the kidnapping, was retrieved in 2013 and extradited to Romania to serve a 20-year prison sentence for terror issued by the Supreme Court of Romania in 2007. Today, the US-Iraqi citizen Mohammad Munaf, Haysam’s accomplice, was extradited to Romania to serve a 10-year sentence issued by the Bucharest Court of Appeal in 2007. I was very much hoping for that because I approached the kidnapping of the three journalists as an attempt at national security,” Basescu says in his Facebook post.

Mohammad Munaf, whom the Bucharest Court of Appeal sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2008 for terrorism against Romanian nationals, is currently in the custody of the Romanian Police, President Klaus Iohannis reported on Thursday.

“The Romanian authorities have finalised today the demarches in the case of Mohammad Munaf, an Iraqi and US citizen, and brought Munaf to Romania. Mohammad Munaf, whom the Bucharest Court of Appeal sentenced in 2008 to 10 years in prison under a final and binding sentence for terrorism against Romanian nationals, is currently in the custody of the Romanian Police,” Iohannis said in a statement about the action of Romanian authorities related to Munaf’s extradition to Romania.

In 2008, the Bucharest Court of Appeal sentenced Munaf to 10 years in prison for participating in the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Iraq.

The court also decided to rescind some of Munaf’s rights for five years after serving the jail sentence and ordered him to pay two million euros each to journalists Ovidiu Ohanesian, Sorin Miscoci and Marie-Jeanne Ion in moral damages. He was also ordered to pay RON 100,000 back then in court fees.

Iraq’s Court of Cassation repealed a death sentence issued on Munaf in 2006 by an Iraqi tribunal, arguing that the documents of the first instance court do not determine the part of Munaf and the other defendants in the 2005 kidnapping of the Romanian journalists.

Munaf was a guide for the three Romanian journalists in late March 2005, and he was also taken hostage for 55 days like the kidnapped.

When the journalists were freed, Munaf was placed in detention by the US army in Iraq for being an accomplice to the kidnapping.

On October 12, 2006, Munaf was sentenced to death by hanging by the Baghdad Central Penal Tribunal.

The death sentence ruling was submitted to the Bucharest Court of Appeal, which in November and December 2006 unsuccessfully tried to hear Munaf by videoconference.

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