Iraq abuse claim ‘exaggerated’

The lock-up, raided by US forces who found some 170 detainees in need of water, food and medical attention, was an official detention centre which held some of the “most dangerous terrorists,” he told a news conference.

The Shiite-led government has launched an investigation into the case,
which has triggered an outcry in Iraq and abroad. However Sunni Arab groups have called for an international investigation, saying the government could not be trusted to carry out the investigation.

Mr Solagh said there were seven cases of torture out of the total number of
inmates at the Baghdad prison, adding: “Those responsible will be held
accountable.”

But he said there had been “much exaggeration about this issue” and described the detainees as “criminals and terrorists.”

“Among them there are Arabs. Here are their identity cards and passports. They are the most dangerous terrorists,” he said, waving a stack of passports.

“I will punish those responsible for this detention centre if it is proved that they are responsible for any violations,” he said.

He also denied all detainees were Sunni Arabs, saying that a Shiite responsible for four car bombings which killed 66 people figured among those held. All people detained were held lawfully, he added.

The ministry lock-up is well-known and “isn’t run by Badr (a Shiite militia
loyal to one of the governing parties) or by Iranian agents,” he said.

Deputy interior minister Major General Hussein Kamal, who is responsible
for intelligence, said it was an “isolated incident” that would be fully investigated by the government.

In an effort to improve control over detention centres, he said his ministry wanted to take all security departments under its wing.

Deputy minister for police affairs Ali Kalib Khadher blamed the ill-treatment of detainees on policemen trained under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein “who have a heritage of violence”.

Reaction

The case has prompted domestic and international criticism.

British Defence Minister John Reid described the abuse of detainees as
“totally unacceptable”, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was “deeply
concerned”, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said such abuse would not
help stabilize the country.

The Committee of Muslim Scholars, the main Sunni religious organisation in
Iraq, has accused “interior ministry services of resorting to torture and
ransoming prisoners.”

Graphic pictures released by the group relating to cases in May 2005 showed
some detainees with massive bruising and welts on their bodies, and one man
with severe burns on one arm.

Committee spokesman Sheikh Abdel Salam al-Kubaissi said his organisation
had “filmed testimony of released detainees who had been tortured,” and that the videos were handed over to Arab League chief Amr Mussa when he visited Baghdad last month.