At a Basra court hearing Nov. 10, all charges were dropped against Hassan Juma’a Awad, president of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions. This is the second time criminal charges were thrown out by the court. After the first dismissal in July, the Ministry of Oil and management of South Oil Company appealed the decision. The appellate court reinstated the charges and sent the case back to the lower court for another hearing. The case arose as management’s response to strikes and work stoppages organized by the oil workers in response to broken promises, mounting grievances, unremedied health and safety violations, increasing harassment of union activists and continued failure by management to respect worker rights to organize, bargain and strike when necessary guaranteed by international law and treaties.
Although the only union leader to be criminally prosecuted, Awad is not the only target of government and oil company repression. Administrative fines by the Ministry of Oil totaling more the $600,000 have been levied against 16 other union activists, including IFOU vice president Ibrahim Rhadi, in retaliation for their role in organizing worker protests. Rhadi alone faces fines in excess of $30,000, which must be paid in a lump sum and if unpaid will result in the loss of his job, confiscation of his property and imprisonment.
In a message, Awad thanked US Labor Against the War for support and solidarity, without which he would likely have been convicted and could have been imprisoned for three years and fined huge sums. States USLAW: “The need for continuing international solidarity is essential to end this escalating reign of harassment, retaliation and repression.” (USLAW, Nov. 10)
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