Iraqi activist sues Japanese magazine

Article alleges secret deal with Koizumi over SDF protection in Samawah

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An Iraqi democracy activist filed a damages suit Tuesday against a weekly magazine over an article alleging that he made a secret deal with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for the Self-Defense Forces to do work in Samawah, Iraq, in exchange for protection.

Abdul Al-Rekaby, in his 50s, filed the suit at the Tokyo District Court, demanding 10 million yen in compensation and an official apology from Shogakukan Inc., publisher of The Weekly Post, over an article in the Feb. 6 edition of the magazine.

In the article, the magazine claimed that Al-Rekaby, who came to Japan in December at the invitation of the government, promised Koizumi that local tribes would protect SDF units in Samawah in exchange for Japanese help in rebuilding local infrastructure.

Quoting a source close to the Cabinet, the article also alleged that the Japanese government was planning to pay 10 billion yen to the tribe leaders as a reward for protecting SDF troops.

Shogakukan is carrying the article and an English translation on The Weekly Post’s Web site.

However, Al-Rekaby claims that he opposed the SDF dispatch during his meeting with Koizumi, warning that it would only endanger the lives of SDF members and jeopardize Japan-Iraq relations.

His lawyers said that the article gives the impression that their client had promised the safety of SDF troops in exchange for money, and could thus damage his reputation as democratic activist or could possibly endanger his life if he returns to Iraq.

Based on the article, the Web site Japan Today and the Qatar News Agency aired reports stating more directly that Al-Rekaby had received money from Japan in exchange for securing the safety of SDF troops.

Al-Rekaby, who currently lives in France, is a well-known democracy activist and was a longtime member of the movement to remove now-deposed leader Saddam Hussein from power. But he has denied that he is an influential figure in Samawah’s dominant tribe, as reported by The Weekly Post.

Lawyer Yuichi Kaido, who represents Al-Rekaby, said it is possible that the report was the product of information manipulated by the Koizumi administration, which felt the need to emphasize the safety of SDF troops to the Japanese public.

Shogakukan said it cannot comment on the lawsuit because it has yet to receive the relevant legal documents.