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Iraqi court acquits police officer convicted for murder of a government adviser

FILE PHOTO: A poster depicting the former government advisor and political analyst Hisham al-Hashemi, who was killed by gunmen is seen at the Tahrir Square in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraq court has acquitted a police officer previously convicted and sentenced to death for leading a group that gunned down well-known analyst and government adviser Hisham al-Hashemi more than three years ago in Baghdad, court officials told Reuters on Monday.

Hashemi, who had advised the government on defeating Sunni Muslim Islamic State militants and curbing the influence of the pro-Iran Shi'ite militias, was shot outside his Baghdad family home on July 6 2020 by men on a motorbike.

A Baghdad court issued the ruling following a retrial on Wednesday. The court dropped the charges against Ahmed Hamdawi for lack of evidence and said his previous confessions were unfit for conviction, said a criminal court lawyer who attended the session.

Media were not allowed access to the court session.

"Ahmed Hamdawi has denied all charges and judges found that there is no legal basis to charge him. The judge has decided to release him unless he's wanted for another case," said the lawyer, reading from a copy of the verdict.

Hamdawi was blamed for killing Hashemi using a police gun and sentenced to death by a Baghdad court last May.

His lawyers appealed the sentence last year, and an appeal court cancelled the death sentence and ordered a retrial, a court official said.

After Hashemi's murder government officials told Reuters he had been advising on plans to curb the power of pro-Iran groups and bring smaller paramilitaries who oppose Iran under closer state control.

Hashemi's killing was related directly to his recent work on pro-Iran groups, they said.

Iran-aligned paramilitary officials deny any role in the killing. Some Islamic State supporters cheered his death, but no group has claimed the murder nor been fingered publicly by the government.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad; Editing by Nia Williams)