New fears of arrest, torture in terror-plagued Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq -- Having the wrong name can be enough to land you in army custody in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, some claim. And with widespread allegations of torture, that is a frightening prospect.
"There have been hundreds of random arrests in the area in the last week," the head of the provincial council's security and defence committee, Abdul-Rahim al-Shammari, told dpa.
Mosul, located some 400 kilometres north of Baghdad, has been plagued by killings since the US-led invasion that deposed former president Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Nine years later, bombings and shootings -- some targeting the security forces, others hitting civilians -- remain part of daily life in the largest city of northern Iraq.
But in recent weeks a new concern has come to the fore -- the excesses of the security forces charged with combating the gunmen.
"The army and police have been carrying out arrests on spurious pretexts, such as looking for Facebook kids who they say have claimed responsibility for acts of terror and belong to the Islamic State of Iraq (an insurgency group) in the province," al-Shammari said.
"The arrests that have taken place in the province are based on guesswork around similar-sounding names and hundreds of innocent people have been detained as a result," he added.
The police dispute the claims.
"Those detained in police and army custody are mostly suspected of involvement in acts of terror in the province, as well as having similar names to those who claim responsibility for most of their acts and announce them on Facebook," the head of Mosul police, General Ahmad al-Jabouri, said.
"Investigations are ongoing with the arrestees and those against whom the charges are not proven will be released," he promised.
But such reassurances come too late for Yassin al-Khaffaji. He was arrested at home in front of his children about two weeks ago. The army later handed his body over to the forensic medicine service, missing fingers and with signs of beating and electric shocks.
Mosul governor Athil al-Nujaifi has demanded an investigation into the affair of al-Khaffaji and other detainees who died under torture while in custody.
"The provincial council has unanimously voted to open an investigation with the Mosul operational command into the killing of detainees during torture, and the provincial court will take the appropriate legal steps against those responsible," al-Nujaifi said.
"Even if those killed were terrorists, there is a law that punishes them for that and they should be sentenced in accordance with the law. The military and security forces are not a judicial authority that can sentence a detainee to death and kill him using various different kinds of torture," he said
Meanwhile, Mosul resident Mohammed Saleh is one of those anxiously awaiting any news about the detainees, thought to number over 200.
"My brother, who is a teacher in a Mosul secondary school, was arrested at home last Saturday without any warrant or charge," Saleh told dpa. "We still do not know what has happened to him, and we are asking the Mosul operational command to intervene with the Second Division of the Iraqi army who arrested him."