August 9, 2016 / 12:51 PM / 3 years ago

Iraqi court closes corruption case against Speaker

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi court closed a corruption case brought against Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri by Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi, citing lack of evidence, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday.

Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily/File Photo

In parliament last week, Obeidi accused Jabouri and five other MPs of lobbying for businesses seeking contracts to sell overpriced planes, vehicles and other goods to the armed forces. He said they sought to influence ministry appointments and some tried to blackmail him. All six denied the accusations.

The spokesman, Judge Abdul Sattar al-Bayraqdar, told state television: “The evidence is lacking.”

A travel ban imposed on Jabouri because of the accusations was lifted on Tuesday, the speaker’s spokesman, Imad al-Khafaji, said.

Obeidi made the accusations while appearing before parliament on Aug. 1 to respond to separate corruption allegations at his ministry. He called his summons to address MPs a “conspiracy by the corrupt.”

The Defence Ministry has been accused by lawmakers of wasting billions of dollars in public funds and weakening the armed forces to the point where they collapsed in 2014 in the face of the threat from Islamic State militants, under the previous government, led by Nuri al-Maliki, who was also acting defense minister.

Islamic State seized a third of Iraqi territory but has since been pushed out of many of those areas by Shi’ite Muslim militias and a military that is slowly being rebuilt with the support of a U.S.-led coalition.

The armed forces are preparing to try to recapture Mosul, Islamic State’s capital in Iraq.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who succeeded Maliki in 2014, has made the fight against corruption a priority but his efforts have been met with resistance and caused major disruption to Iraqi politics.

Iraq ranks 161 out of 168 on Transparency International’s Corruption Index.

Reporting by Saif Hameed; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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