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Iraq court drops charges against top officials accused of aiding Shiite militia

[JURIST] An Iraqi court has dropped all pending criminal charges against former Iraqi Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili and Brigadier General Hameed al-Shimmari "for lack of evidence," in part because many witness accounts were based on hearsay, Iraqi chief prosecutor Ghadanfar Mahmoud said Monday. The two high-level officials were accused of channeling millions in government money to the Mehdi Army militia [BBC backgrounder] and allowing Shiite death squads to use Health Ministry facilities and ambulances to target Sunnis. Al-Zamili and al-Shimmari were expected to go on trial [JURIST report] in late November, but a series of postponements delayed the start of proceedings until Sunday. Iraqi prosecutors may appeal the court's decision to drop the charges.

US and Iraqi forces arrested [JURIST report] al-Zamili in a February 2007 security crackdown in Baghdad, according to a statement [text] by the US military. According to military officials, al-Zamili had been infiltrating members of the Mehdi Army militia, headed by militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr [BBC profile], into the Iraq ministry. In November, an Iraqi government spokesperson said that the upcoming trial indicated that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile] was serious about enforcing the rule of law [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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