Thursday, September 13, 2007


U.S. military releases detainees in deal with vice-president

(Al Jazeera) - The US military in Iraq has announced the start of a programme that will see the release of 50 to 80 detainees a day during the Ramadan month. The military reached a deal with Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni Arab vice-president, last month to conduct "special Ramadan releases". It says it is holding 23,000 Iraqis.
On Thursday, Omar al-Jubouri, an adviser on human rights to al-Hashemi, said 43 Iraqis were freed from the Camp Cropper detention facility near Baghdad's international airport. Ramadan in Iraq began on Thursday for the Sunni population while the Shias will commence their daily fasting on Friday.
"Task Force 134, the (US-led) organisation responsible for detainee operations, expects to release between 50 and 80 detainees per day during this holy month," a US military statement said.
Major-General Douglas Stone, commander of Task Force 134, said in the statement: "The detainees being released are only those who (US-led forces) have determined no longer need to be detained for imperative reasons of security." Around 20,000 detainees are held in US-run prisons in Iraq, mostly in Camp Bucca near the southern port city of Basra and in Camp Cropper near Baghdad. Al-Hashemi has long complained about the detention of Sunni Arabs.
The issue was a key factor that prompted the main Sunni bloc, the Accordance Front, to quit the government last month.
The deal with the US military is separate from an accord that al-Hashemi signed with Iraq's top Shia and Kurdish leaders in August, which also called for the release of many detainees. Al-Jubouri said there had been no movement yet on freeing prisoners under that agreement. Some 32,000 detainees were being held in Iraqi detention facilities and prisons, he said.
Those eligible for release under Operation Lion's Paw, a joint venture between the Iraqi government and US-led forces, will be reviewed by an impartial board, Stone said. His statement said: "The process will be fair, open to all detainees who are qualified and will reflect the detainee population, with Sunni and Shia detainees reviewed equally and impartially. "This will be a completely non-sectarian, non-political process" that will allow prisoners to be home for Ramadan.

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