Al-Sadr joins Iraqis in Green Zone to step up anti-corruption protest

A handout picture provided by the press office of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr shows him (2nd from R) sitting in a marquee as he begins a sit-in protest inside Baghdad's fortified "Green Zone" on March 27, 2016. Sadr wants Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to enact reforms tackling corruption and announce a technocratic government to replace the current cabinet of party-affiliated ministers. The symbolic move by the young Shiite cleric comes after thousands of his supporters have been camping outside the restricted area's entrances for more than a week. / AFP / MOQTADA SADR'S PRESS OFFICE / STR / === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / MOQTADA SADR'S PRESS OFFICE" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ===
A handout picture provided by the press office of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr shows him (2nd from R) sitting in a marquee as he begins a sit-in protest inside Baghdad’s fortified “Green Zone” on March 27, 2016.

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s powerful Shai cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has reportedly met the country’s prime minister hours after starting a sit-in protest inside the fortified Green Zone, vowing to remain until politicians tackle corruption and create a new unafilliated “technocratic” government.

Sadr’s symbolic move against the centre of government came late on Sunday as thousands of followers continued their own week-long sit-in protest just outside the zone.

The Associated Press reported that Sadr spoke to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hours after his protest began, although details of their discussion were not released.

Sadr earlier insisted his protest inside the city’s Green Zone should not be followed by those outside the gates.

Just before walking in, Sadr told his supporters: “I am the representative of the people. I am your representative, my protesters. I will get into the Green Zone. I will sit inside, and you will keep sitting in at its gates.

“No one moves. Everyone stays in his tent, at his place or do not consider your selves as Sadrists.”

Footage broadcast on Iraqi TV showed Sadr surrounded by about 30 of his Sadrist Movement party leaders and bodyguards as he peacefully entered the area through a security checkpoint. Dozens of Iraqi soldiers greeted him, while others guarded his group.

One senior officer took the hand of Sadr and attempted to kiss it.

Sadr’s guards settled in a tent just metres from the entrance to parliament and cabinet buildings, and about 500m from the British Embassy, sources from inside the zone told MEE.

Pictures released later by the cleric’s media office showed Sadr wearing white robes and sitting on a camp bed, smiling and holding prayer beads.

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/sadr-iraq-green-zone-baghdad-857141041#sthash.O2yXky4d.dpuf

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