[JURIST] The former head of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity Ayham al-Samaraie [Wikipedia profile], who escaped from a Baghdad prison [JURIST report] in December, has said he plans to return to his home in the United States. Al-Samaraie, a member of the 2004-2005 interim Iraqi government [BBC backgrounder], was serving a two-year sentence after being convicted on corruption charges [AP report] brought by Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity [US State Dept. backgrounder; CPA press release] when he escaped from police custody at a prison in Baghdad. Speaking from the United Arab Emirates, al-Samaraie defended his escape Monday by claiming that his conviction was politically motivated and that he feared being killed or kidnapped. Since he holds dual US-Iraqi citizenship, al-Samaraie stated that he did not break any US laws and plans to return to the US sometime next week. Although al-Samaraie wants assurances that he will not face charges in the US related to his offenses in Iraq, Lou Fintor, spokesman for the US Embassy in Baghdad [official website], said at the time of his escape that the US would try to help recapture him.
Al-Samaraie is so far the only post-war Iraqi cabinet member to have been found guilty of corruption, despite its status as a massive public policy problem widely acknowledged by top Iraqi and US [JURIST reports] officials. He still faces another 12 corruption charges stemming from over $2 billion in funding for Iraq's electrical infrastructure which has gone missing. The Ministry of Electricity [official website] has been a focal point of massive problems and several probes since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Arrest warrants on various corruption charges have been issued for about 90 former Iraqi officials, including 15 ministers. AP has more.