U.S. officials announced the immediate release of 500 “security detainees” Monday from Abu Ghraib prison, with another 500 to be released over the coming week.

“In the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan, the Iraqi government requested a special release board and worked with Multi-National Forces to expedite the release of more than 1,000 security detainees from Abu Ghraib,” a military release issued Monday read.

“These detainees were selected for release following a careful and thorough review of their files by a special Iraqi-led review board which determined they had not committed serious crimes against Iraqi forces, the citizens of Iraq or Coalition Forces.”

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, is scheduled to begin Oct. 4.

According to U.S. military officials, there are around 12,000 prisoners at various detention facilities around Iraq, with around 4,500 in Abu Ghraib, notorious as the place where U.S. soldiers physically and mentally abused prisoners.

The detainees released this week — in what the U.S. said was the largest of such releases to date — “confessed to their crimes, renounced violence and pledged to be good citizens of Iraq.”

They were to meet with a high-ranking Iraqi official upon their release. He was to deliver a message to them about their “responsibilities” as citizens in the new Iraq and ask for their support of the new government.

The official, Deputy Prime Minister Abed Motlaq Al-Jabouri, was to emphasize “the importance of being a good Iraqi citizen and treating each other with respect and kindness, especially during Ramadan,” the U.S. statement read.

According to information compiled by Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military plans on handing over Abu Ghraib to Iraqi control as early as February of next year. Several detention facilities are either being expanded or newly built to handle the transfer of the prisoners now at Abu Ghraib.

The Abu Ghraib scandal was a public relations nightmare for the U.S. military, especially because of the prison’s reputation as one of Saddam Hussein’s most notorious gulags.

Also on Monday, U.S. and Iraqi forces detained more than 125 people in four days of large-scale raids in and around Baghdad, officials said Monday. The arrests were made during 69 raids that turned up seven weapons caches, the military said.

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