BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's parliament voted on Tuesday to strip the house speaker of immunity, paving way for an investigation of his actions following corruption charges raised by the defense minister last week, a lawmaker said.
During a questioning in parliament, Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi told lawmakers that speaker, Salim al-Jabouri, four sitting lawmakers, one former lawmaker and two parliamentary officials affiliated with the speaker had tried to persuade him to secure specific contracts and to reinstate employees fired due to corruption.
All have denied the accusations and asked for an investigation.
Shiite lawmaker, Ahmed al-Badri, said that al-Jabouri asked for the vote so that he could defend himself against the charges. The same measure was approved for two other Sunni lawmakers, al-Badri added.
The developments have additionally shaken Iraq amid growing public anger against the political elite and endemic corruption. The corruption accusations have also deepened divisions inside the biggest Sunni parliamentary bloc.
In his charges, al-Obeidi said the parliament speaker promised him "a political future" if he cooperated. He said that one lawmaker tried to push him to sign several high-value deals with specific companies, including a $1billion catering contract, a $2.8 billion deal for armored vehicles and a $421 million deal for Humvees.
Since then, a travel ban was issued on those accused and an official investigation has been launched.
The Iraqi government has faced growing anti-government protests demanding reforms. Earlier this year, protesters stormed Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone twice in the space of a month.