- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

BAGHDAD (AP) - A parliamentary committee on Sunday criticized police for raiding an exhibition featuring a cartoon lampooning Iraq’s prime minister.

Last Thursday, police raided a cartoon exhibition in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and seized a drawing depicting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with a long nose trying to repair a car labeled “sectarian distribution of jobs,” according to lawmaker Mufid al-Jazairie.

Al-Jazaire, who is chairman of the parliamentary education committee, said the raid was a violation of constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression has often been cited as a pillar of the new democracy that was established following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship during the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

Artist Salman Abid said he did not intend to ridicule al-Maliki, a Shiite who was born in Karbala province, but to draw attention to the political situation in Iraq, where government jobs are often handed out based on religious affiliation rather than abilities.

“A cartoonist should always add funny features to the persons whom he is depicting,” Abid told The Associated Press. “I cannot put the photo of somebody in my work.”

Karbala Governor Amal-Din al-Hir said police raided the exhibition because it had not been authorized by local authorities. He said no cartoon was seized, although Abid and al-Jazairie insisted that it was.

Abid said by telephone that the exhibition was called off and policemen searched his house the same day.

“I only have my brush to persuade people of my views,” he said. “I am no threat to anybody because I use only a brush, not a machine gun.”

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