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Another 500 detainees were released from Abu Ghraib prison Tuesday, U.S. officials said, marking the latest in a series of goodwill gestures tied to religious holidays.

Tuesday’s action was intended to coincide with Eid al-Fitr, the day of rejoicing which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Earlier releases that included at least 850 detainees were done at the beginning of October when Ramadan began.

The releases came at the request of the Iraqi government, U.S. officials said.

“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,” read a U.S. military statement Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Abed Motlaq Al-Jabouri, Minister of Justice Abdul Hussein Shandel and Minister of Human Rights Narmin Othman were on hand for the release, officials said. As in previous mass releases, the Iraqi officials exhorted the freed detainees to participate in a new Iraq and to be “good citizens.”

The Iraqi government and U.S. military officials said the release came of a desire to allow the detainees to be with their families and to “help in the process of building a new Iraq.”

“The special review board carefully reviewed detainee files and voted to release those not of serious, violent crimes such as bombing, torture, kidnapping or murder,” the U.S. military release read.

“These detainees have confessed to their crimes, renounced violence and pledged to be good citizens of Iraq.”

There are approximately 5,000 detainees in Abu Ghraib. The U.S. military plans to hand over Abu Ghraib to Iraqi control early next year and transfer remaining detainees to one of three newly expanded detention facilities in other parts of the country.


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