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Monday, April 19, 2010

Secret Prison for Sunnis Revealed in Baghdad

Source: Los Angeles Times

Forces under the office of Prime Minister Maliki held hundreds of Sunnis arrested in the north at the secret facility, where prisoners say they were abused. U.S. fears news will stoke instability.

By Ned Parker
April 19, 2010

Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's military office, where many were routinely tortured until the country's Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility, Iraqi officials say.

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Revelation of the secret prison could worsen tensions at a highly sensitive moment in Iraq. As U.S. troops are withdrawing, Maliki, a Shiite, and other political officials are negotiating over the formation of a new government. Including minority Sunni Arabs is considered by many to be a key to preventing a return of widespread sectarian violence. Already there has been an increase in attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group. The alleged brutal treatment of prisoners at the facility raised concerns that the country could drift back to its authoritarian past.

Commanders initially resisted efforts to inspect the prison, but relented and allowed visits by two teams of inspectors, including Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim. Inspectors said they found that the 431 prisoners had been subjected to appalling conditions and quoted prisoners as saying that one of them, a former colonel in Saddam Hussein's army, had died in January as a result of torture.

"More than 100 were tortured. There were a lot of marks on their bodies," said an Iraqi official familiar with the inspections. "They beat people, they used electricity. They suffocated them with plastic bags, and different methods."

An internal U.S. Embassy report quoted Salim as saying that prisoners had told her they were handcuffed for three to four hours at a time in stress positions or sodomized. "One prisoner told her that he had been raped on a daily basis, another showed her his undergarments, which were entirely bloodstained," the memo read. LinkHere


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