Iraqi judges and officials said recent threats targeting the judiciary will not deter them from continuing their work nor impact judicial independence.
Their comments follow an Interior Ministry announcement stating that in late July officials found letters in the possession of terror suspects sent by the leadership of al-Qaeda, some of which call on group members to kill judges and target courts.
The Ministry's media bureau director Col. Hikmat al-Masary told Mawtani, "Police arrested three al-Qaeda members inside a residential building who had in their possession audio messages and printed statements ordering them to launch armed attacks and car bomb strikes against judges and those working in courts dealing with terrorism crimes."
"The Iraqi judiciary, as an independent body, cannot be influenced by threats of terrorist groups known for killing innocent people for no reason," judge and Supreme Judicial Council spokesperson Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar said.
He added, "Those threats are useless, and will not have any negative impact on the sentences the judges may reach on terrorists in any way."
He told Mawtani that al-Qaeda's threats and the messages and letters the security forces found are "evidence of the success of the Iraqi judiciary in placing the most ardent terrorists, members and leaders of al-Qaeda and those involved in shedding the blood of innocents, behind bars".
Al-Birqdar said that previous attacks on judges, some of which left dozens dead and wounded during the past few years, will not deter them from continuing "on their path of justice and freedom in the country regardless of how many challenges and threats there might be".
"Police set up a special security plan to protect the judges at the courts specialised in dealing with terrorists' crimes," said ministry spokesperson Maj. General Adel Dahham.
He added that the ministry has posted security details at their homes and assigned bodyguards to protect them during their daily commutes.
Dahham told Mawtani that during the past four years alone, the Iraqi judicial system lost 72 judges, including 21 chief court judges, while 151 court employees were killed, including a number of prosecutors, investigators and deputy judges.
He said most of these assassinations "were carried out by al-Qaeda in an attempt to terrorise the judges and prevent them from handing down sentences on the accused, or to pressure them into releasing detainees, or to mitigate sentences on them".
Despite the recent losses, Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council announced last week the graduation of 112 new judges from the Iraqi Judicial Institute, including 11 women. They were assigned to various courts in different cities across the country.
"The objective behind the graduation of a new class of judges is to strengthen the judicial system in Iraq and to complete the backlog of cases, especially those related to terrorists recently detained by the security forces, and who with solid evidence against them," said Justice Ministry advisor Manaf Allawi.
Meanwhile, Judge Abbas Fadhil al-Salami, from Fallujah's Court of Major Crimes, said, "We abide by the laws and do not take into consideration the criminals' looks, colour, ethnicity or faith, but look into the size of the crimes committed and the tragedy they caused to citizens. We only deliver a sentence based on what is recognized by law."
He told Mawtani that al-Qaeda's mission to eliminate Iraqi judges is futile and will ultimately fail.
"Our message to al-Qaeda is that they will fail in killing the judges, because killing a judge will not stop the Iraqi judiciary. There will be new blood added everyday to this independent body, which our people rely on to establish greater stability and security for the country," al-Salami said.