30,000 Iraqis languish in prison, more than half of them without trial

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By Samer Saaeed

Azzaman, February 7, 2013

Iraqi jails hold 30,000 inmates, 17,000 of them languish there without trial,’ according to Deputy Prime Minster Husain Shahristani.

Shahristani added that the government set 3,000 prisoners free in the past two weeks and that thousands more un-convicted persons should be released “very soon.”

“There are 13,000 detainees on charges of terrorism, some of them are convicted and many others still are awaiting their trial,” he added.

The issue of prisoners and arrests has divided the Iraqi society, with Arab Sunni Muslims, particularly in provinces in central Iraq erupting in anti-government demonstrations.

High among the demonstrators’ demands has been the emptying of Iraqi prisons and drastic amendments to legislation that gives security forces sweeping authority to arrest suspects.

Shahristani did not say how many of the 30,000 prisoners were women, but promised that all jailed women “will from now on serve their sentences in prisons in their areas.”

He also vowed to review the files of all detainees and release suspects not found guilty by expediting court procedures.

The government has assigned a team headed by Shahristani to negotiate with protest leaders and see to it that all their ‘legitimate’ demands are met.

There have been unconfirmed accusations of abuse and torture in Iraqi prisons.

Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Assdi said complaints were made to his office and he had forwarded them to the Ministry of Justice which administers Iraqi prisons.

Assdi admitted that conditions need to be improved in Iraqi prisons, adding that the government was determined to build new jails “that will meet international standards.”