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Some Detainees Found in Baghdad Tortured

Some Detainees Found in Baghdad Tortured

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2005
Alexander G. Higgins and Bradley S. Klapper , Associated Press(AP)

(AP) Iraqi and U.S. officials disclosed Tuesday that more than 170 malnourished Iraqi detainees had been found in a weekend raid at an Interior Ministry detention center and that some appeared to have been tortured.

U.S. and Iraqi forces discovered the inmates when they went into the facility suspecting that individuals there may have been mistreated, the Pentagon said.

A Sunni politician said the prisoners were Sunni Arabs and accused the Shiite-led government of long ignoring the abuse.

Coalition forces "found things that concerned them," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. He did not say when the inmates were found, but U.S. troops took control of the Interior Ministry building on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Iraqi authorities were investigating what happened and that the detainees had been moved to a better location and given medical care.

"I was informed that there were 173 detainees held at an Interior Ministry prison and they appear to be malnourished. There is also some talk that they were subjected to some kind of torture," al-Jaafari told reporters.

Amnesty International welcomed al-Jaafari's decision to order an investigation but urged him to expand the probe to include all allegations of torture. Amnesty also asked him to make the results public.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the administration found the reports troubling.

"We don't practice torture. And we don't believe that others should practice torture," he said.

"So when there are cases of people being accused of torture, we take that seriously; we view it with concern. And we think that there should be an investigation and those who are responsible should be held accountable."

The first public hint of the allegations came Monday when Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal, the Interior Ministry's undersecretary for security, said an investigation would be opened into unspecified allegations that ministry officers tortured suspects detained in connection with the country's insurgency.

The prime minister did not say where the prison was located, but Kamal said it was in the basement of a building in Baghdad's neighborhood of Jadriyah.

Kamal said one of the detainees suffered from polio while others had different wounds on their bodies.

"They were mistreated and you know what happens in prison," he said refusing to give further details how they were tortured. "There were some cases in the past but this was a big problem. We will try to make sure that such acts are not repeated in the future."

He said the detainees were held at this basement because the Justice Ministry had no place to keep them until they were referred for trial.

"This is the problem. There are no other places to keep those terrorists in," he said.

The head of the country's largest Sunni political party said he had personally spoken to al-Jaafari and other government officials about torture at Interior Ministry detention centers, including the one where the detainees were found.

But, he said, the government routinely dismissed his complaints, calling the prisoners "former regime elements."

"According to our knowledge, regrettably, all the detainees were Sunnis," Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, told The Associated Press. "In order to search for a terrorist, they used to detain hundreds of innocent people and torture them brutally."

Most insurgents are Sunni Arabs, who were dominant under Saddam Hussein's regime but lost power after his ouster.

The Interior Ministry is controlled by Shiites. Sunni leaders have accused Shiite-dominated security forces of detaining, torturing and killing hundreds of Sunnis simply because of their religious affiliation.

The U.S. Embassy issued a statement late Tuesday saying that both Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, had discussed the case "at the highest levels" of the Iraqi government.

"We agree with Iraq's leaders that the mistreatment of detainees is a serious matter and totally unacceptable," the statement said.

The Pentagon spokesman said the discovery at the facility "was clearly something that was concerning, and was appropriately looked into by the Iraqi forces with the support of the coalition."

He said it was not a U.S. military-run facility and that he does not believe the American military was involved in the investigation.

Amnesty International also said it had recently received information of four people who were tortured while detained by Iraqi security forces.

"There have been many reports of torture and maltreatment of Iraqi detainees by the Iraqi police and security forces belonging to the Ministry of Interior such as the Wolf Brigade," spokeswoman Nicole Choueiry said.

In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was unaware of the detention center but wanted to learn more.

The Red Cross has been visiting only one detention facility in Iraq under control of Iraqi authorities _ part of the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad, spokeswoman Dorothea Krimitsas said. The other facilities visited by the organization, including the rest of Abu Ghraib, are under U.S. control, she said.

"Abu Ghraib itself has not been visited by the ICRC since the security incident we had in January," she said, referring to the slaying of an Iraqi driver working for the neutral, Swiss-run agency after he disappeared west of Baghdad.

Visits to three other detention centers, however, have continued "very regularly," Krimitsas said.

But, she added, "we don't have the security guarantees to be able to carry out all the activities that we would like to be able to carry out in Iraq."

The U.N. special investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, also said he had not previously heard of the Iraqi detention facility, although he had received "various complaints" of torture or degrading treatment by Iraqi security forces.

U.S. officials have been encouraging Sunni Arabs to take part in next month's parliamentary elections in hopes that a strong turnout by the disaffected minority could help ease sectarian tensions, calm the insurgency and speed the day when foreign troops could go home.

Al-Jaafari, who is a Shiite, said one of his deputies will be heading the investigating committee, which will include some ministers. The committee will finish its work within two weeks, al-Jaafari said.

"They should investigate how this happened and how it reached this point," al-Jaafari said.

Kamal said the committee will be headed by Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nouri Shaways.


Associated Press writers Alexander G. Higgins and Bradley S. Klapper in Geneva contributed to this report.

MMV The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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