Iraqi president calls for parliamentary rethink on law banning alcohol

Provision banning the sale, import and production of alcohol 'slipped in' to municipalities bill in Iraq's parliament last week 

Thursday 27 October 2016 11:05 BST
An Iraqi man sell bottles of alcohol at his stall in the centre of Baghdad, 22 June 2003
An Iraqi man sell bottles of alcohol at his stall in the centre of Baghdad, 22 June 2003 (AFP/Getty Images)

Iraq’s president has spoken to parliamentary colleagues to discuss revising a new law banning alcohol in the country that passed in a surprise vote last week.

The ban on the sale, import and production of alcohol - slipped into a draft law on municipalities in parliament on Saturday - has been met with widespread criticism as an infringement on the rights of Christians and other minority groups, and several MPs have vowed to appeal it.

The priorities of proponents were also called into question, given that MPs' focus is currently on the massive US-backed operation to drive Isis out of its last stronghold in the country, the northern city of Mosul.

MPs in support of the law argue that the ban - under which violaters will be fined between 10 million and 25 million dinars (roughly £7,000 to £17,500) - is justified by Iraq’s constitution, which prohibits any law “contradicting Islam”.

President Fuad Masum called on Wednesday for the provision on alcohol to be revised. While he did not specifically mention it by name, he called for the article to be changed, and criticised the “surreptitious” way in which it was inserted as inconsistent with “democratic legal principles.”

In a statement, he called for parliament to respect “the freedoms and rights of citizens of different religions and doctrines.”

Dramatic footage shows Elite Iraq forces battle on road to Bartella in fight for Mosul

Under the Iraqi constitution, the president has the power to approve and issue laws enacted by parliament, but it is not specified whether he can reject them as head of state.

The consumption of alcohol is prohibited by Islam, but drinking is fairly widespread in Iraq, including in Baghdad, where it may not be on hotel and restaurant menus but there are scores of small alcohol shops.

Observers say drug abuse has been on the rise in Iraq recently, especially in the southern city of Basra, where trafficking with neighbouring Iran is soaring and where alcohol is only found on the black market.

AFP contributed to this report

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