U.S. moves to reduce Iraqi inmate population

Monday, May 10, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. military has reduced the number Iraqi inmates amid the uproar over allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at a major facility outside Baghdad.

U.S. officials said military authorities have reduced the number of inmates at the Abu Gharib prison north of Baghdad, where military intelligence interrogators were said to have abused Iraqi inmates.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, deputy commanding general for detainee operations for the multinational forces in Iraq, said that over the last week he ordered the release of 300 Iraqi detainees. Miller said he expects the release of another 350 Iraqi inmates later this week.

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The officials said authorities have also released Iraqi inmates at other detention facilities over the last week, Middle East Newsline reported. At a news conference on May 8, Miller said the Iraqis to be freed would include those being held at Abu Gharib. But he stressed that the facility would remain operational.

Officials said U.S. military authorities have decided to accelerate the process of evaluating and freeing Iraqi inmates. They said many of the inmates have already undergone interrogation and were deemed as not presenting any significant danger to the U.S.-led coalition.

During his news conference, Miller, recently appointed to the newly-created post in Iraq, said he would ensure that U.S. soldiers do not abuse Iraqi prisoners. He said he has met with coalition personnel in the prison system and demanded that they follow the Geneva Conventions and U.S. regulations.

Miller has been investigating the alleged abuses at Abu Gharib. Seven U.S. soldiers were scheduled to be charged with abusing Iraqi inmates at the detention facility, with the first trial to begin on May 19.

"The idea is to develop the best intelligence as rapidly as possible, but within the requirements and boundaries of the Geneva Convention," Miller said.

Officials said the U.S.-led coalition operates 14 detention centers in Iraq. They said Iraqi detainees undergo an initial assessment during interrogation in an effort to obtain from the prisoners what they term "actionable intelligence," information required by the coalition troops to foil attacks. At a later stage, Iraqi prisoners would be directed through the legal system.

Miller said the military would continue to interrogate Iraqis at Abu Gharib. But he did not rule out that the coalition could decide to raze the facility.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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