Chalabi case dropped by Iraqi court

`Not enough' counterfeiting evidence found, judge says


A senior Iraqi judge said yesterday that he had closed a case brought against Ahmad Chalabi, the former exile once backed by the Pentagon, who had been suspected of involvement in a counterfeiting operation.

The judge, Zuhair al-Maliky, said in a telephone interview that he took the action about a week and a half ago because he had decided "the evidence was not enough to bring the case to trial." If more evidence emerges, he said, the case will be reopened.

The decision also followed conversations between Chalabi's lawyers and representatives of the Central Bank of Iraq, the judge said.

The move appears to signify a minor victory by Chalabi over the interim government led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, his longtime rival. The government said in August that it was charging Chalabi with counterfeiting Iraqi currency. Chalabi was on vacation at a summer home in Iran at the time; it appeared to many that the levying of the charge was a move by Allawi to dissuade Chalabi from re-entering the country.

However, Chalabi did return and spoke to the media, lambasting the government, asserting his innocence and vowing to return to political life.

The judge also said that murder charges against Chalabi's nephew, Salem Chalabi, had not been dropped, despite a statement put out by the younger Chalabi last week making that claim.

Salem Chalabi is the former head of the special Iraqi tribunal set up to try Saddam Hussein and his associates. In his statement, he accused the prime minister of dismissing him five months into a three-year term to gain "political control" of the tribunal.

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