Iraq frees hundreds of prisoners

Action comes in response to Sunni Arab complaints of persecution by nation's police

June 08, 2006|By SOLOMON MOORE AND SUHAIL AHMAD | SOLOMON MOORE AND SUHAIL AHMAD,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqi authorities released nearly 600 prisoners yesterday out of a total of 2,500 scheduled to be freed this week in an effort to appease Sunni Arabs who say their sect has been unjustly persecuted by Iraq's police force.

A witness of one mass release at a Baghdad bus station said that prisoners and their families wept at the sight of one another. Some of the prisoners looked wan and undernourished. A few struggled to walk without help.

Khayrulla Ibrahim Mohammed, 37, a laborer and member of the Sunni-led Iraqi Islamic Party was freed after spending five months in Abu Ghraib and a year in Camp Bucca. American troops arrested him in December 2004 as he prepared to leave his Baghdad home for dawn prayers at a local mosque. He said he was never formally charged in court with a crime. "They accused us of holding terrorist meetings inside the Saydiya mosque," said Mohammed, who added that U.S. soldiers interrogated him 15 times during his imprisonment.

"Frankly speaking, the American authorities were nice with me.

Solomon Moore and Suhail Ahmad write for the Los Angeles Times.

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