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Some 500 prisoners were released Sunday from the Abu Ghraib prison, continuing a sporadic series of large-scale releases by U.S. and Iraqi officials.

Those who were released Sunday “admitted their crimes, renounced violence and pledged to be good citizens of a democratic Iraq,” the U.S. military said in a news release. “Their cases were carefully reviewed on an individual basis by a combined board of Iraqi and coalition officials and decided on in light of Iraq’s ongoing efforts to create peace and stability and build a brighter future for its citizens.”

Detainees accused of “serious, violent crimes” such as bombing, torture, kidnapping or murder, officials said, were not eligible for release.

The cases are under the purview of the Combined Review and Release Board, which was established in 2004. It consists of nine members: two each from Iraq’s ministries of Human Rights, Justice and Interior and three senior officers from Multi- National Forces-Iraq.

Since it was established last year, the board has reviewed some 22,000 cases, recommending more than 12,000 individuals for release, officials have said.

There have been several other large-scale prisoner releases in the past year, the largest of which were timed to coincide with Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Some 1,300 prisoners were released from Abu Ghraib after officials said they’d reviewed their cases and gotten promises from the prisoners that they would not commit crimes and would participate in a new Iraqi political system.

U.S. officials have said they will close Abu Ghraib and hand it over to the Iraqis, perhaps within a few months. Three other facilities — Camp Cropper, Fort Suse and Camp Bucca — will be the main detention facilities in Iraq and have undergone expansion.

Many other forward operating bases and larger camps have their own detention facilities, which are meant to be used for short periods of time.

U.S. and Iraqi officials also worked together to allow more than 11,000 detainees at U.S. facilities in Iraq to cast ballot’s in the December parliamentary elections.


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