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Sadr’s supporters launch sit-in outside Iraq’s top judicial body

Supporters of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr protest in front of the Supreme Judicial Council in Baghdad, on August 23, 2022. (Photo by AP)

Supporters of prominent Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have launched a sit-in outside the country’s highest judicial body, weeks after they breached Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" and occupied the legislature.

Several hundred supporters of the cleric gathered in front of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) in the capital Baghdad on Tuesday, reiterating their calls for the dissolution of the Iraqi parliament and holding early elections, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.

Images released by Sadr’s movement showed people setting up tents outside the gates of SJC’s headquarters, as they carried placards demanding the non-politicization of the judiciary and ending corruption.

The latest development comes as the top judicial body has said it lacks sufficient authority to dissolve the country's parliament, urging all parties to refrain from getting the judiciary involved in political rivalries.

The SJC made the announcement on August 14 in response to Sadr’s ultimatum, who warned of unspecific consequences if the judiciary did not heed his call to dissolve the parliament by the end of the week and pave the way for early elections.

Iraq's judiciary suspends activities

Separately on Tuesday, Iraq's judiciary said it decided to suspend its activity after Sadr’s supporters began their protests in front of the SJC building earlier in the day in an attempt to further step up pressure on it to dissolve the parliament.

"(We) will suspend court sessions as a protest against this unconstitutional behavior and will hold the government and political parties which are backing this move fully responsible for all the results," the authority said in a statement.

Iraq has been grappling with a political crisis in the absence of a functional government since October when it held its last legislative elections.

Sadr’s political bloc emerged as the biggest parliamentary faction in the election but fell short of an absolute majority needed to form a government, prompting the current political deadlock.

In June, all 73 legislators of the bloc quit their seats in a move seen as an attempt to pressure political rivals into expediting the formation of a government.

Sadr has demanded dissolution of parliament and early elections. Earlier this month, he called on his supporters to continue a sit-in inside the parliament until his demands were met.

Last week, the outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi held a national dialogue to discuss the political deadlock in the country.

Sadr or his movement’s representatives did not attend the meeting.

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