BAGHDAD — An Iraqi police officer previously sentenced to death for the murder of a prominent security analyst who had criticized powerful Iran-backed militias was released from prison following a retrial, officials said Monday.

An intelligence official with the Ministry of Interior said Ahmed Hamdawi al-Kinani was released after the case was reopened and the court issued an acquittal. It was not clear on what grounds he was acquitted.

The court’s decision came after the case was reopened last Wednesday, and al-Kinani was released Sunday, said an official with one of the country's Iran-backed militias.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists

Al-Kinani, accused of murdering prominent researcher and security expert Hisham al-Hashimi, was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to death by a criminal court last May, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council reported. The case later moved to an appeals court for further review.

Al-Hashimi, 47, was fatally shot outside his Baghdad home by motorcycle-riding assailants in July 2020, following threats from Iran-backed militias. He was on his way home after conducting a TV interview in which he criticized the armed groups’ attacks on diplomatic missions.

Renowned for his expertise on the Islamic State group, al-Hashimi had advised the U.S.-led coalition and became a vocal critic of Iran-backed militias after the defeat of the IS group in December 2017. He had reported multiple threats from these groups before his death.

In a video aired by state media in 2021, al-Kinani, who said he was a first lieutenant in the police, admitted to the killing following his arrest. Although two security officials, under the condition of anonymity, linked him to a militia, they did not disclose its name.

Iraq’s judiciary decided last August to annul the death sentence and reopen the investigation. Kataib Hezbollah, one of the country;s most powerful militias, lauded the Iraqi courts at the time and said that al-Kinani was wrongly accused.

End Impunity in Iraq, a non-governmental organization that documents human rights violations, said in a statement after news of al-Kinani's release surfaced that the decision showed the Iraqi judiciary to be “politicized and controlled by terrorist militias.”

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