Iraqi Premier Releases 600 Prisoners
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Hundreds of newly freed Iraqi prisoners kissed the ground after being dropped at bus stations yesterday as Prime Minister al-Maliki launched the largest such release since the American-led invasion in a bid to appease Sunni Arabs and promote reconciliation in his fractured nation.
Sunni political leaders welcomed the initiative, although some expressed fear the releases would be offset by more arrests. There have been accusations that Sunnis have suffered arbitrary detentions and even torture at the hands of the Shiite-led government.
“We want a real solution,” a Sunni legislator, Mohammed al-Dayeni, said, calling for all detainees to be released. “We demand that random raids and arrests be stopped in all Iraqi provinces, and only in that way can we ensure a safe environment.”
The government has promised to release 2,000 detainees whose cases have been reviewed, in batches of about 500. The first 594 were freed yesterday from American- and Iraqi-run prisons around the country, including Abu Ghraib.
Mr. Maliki has made security and reconciliation a priority of his new government. But he also has vowed to crack down on violence often blamed on the Sunni-led insurgency, and said the release plan excludes loyalists of ousted leader Saddam Hussein, as well as “terrorists whose hands are stained with the blood of the Iraqi people.”
Sectarian tensions were high after Monday’s abductions of 50 people in Baghdad by gunmen wearing police uniforms and Sunday’s shooting deaths of 21 Shiites north of the capital, including students pulled from their minivans.
Police said yesterday that 15 of the kidnapped people had been released, some with signs of torture, but provided no details on their identities.
A parked car bomb struck an outdoor market in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad yesterday, killing at least two people and wounding 12, police said – one of several attacks that killed 21 people nationwide.