Hundreds of Iraqi detainees released from Abu Ghraib
ABU GHRAIB, Iraq — In the second mass prisoner release this week, Iraqi and U.S. officials freed 320 prisoners Saturday as a conciliatory gesture before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Wednesday.
The former detainees were loaded on buses and taken to points near where they were arrested by U.S. convoys from the 42nd Infantry Division military police, 3rd Infantry Division and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
Earlier this week, officials released 500 prisoners. Each signed contracts that required them to acknowledge the new Iraqi state and renounce violence.
Each freed prisoner received $25 and one set of new clothes, said Staff Sgt. David Page, a National Guardsman from Tompkinsville, Ky.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Abed Motlaq Al-Jabouri grabbed a bullhorn and spoke to the prisoners before their release, urging them to participate in the Oct. 15 elections and constitutional referendum.
“I didn’t come here to ask you to vote for me; I’m saying you have the right to vote,” Motlaq said.
U.S. officials have said that they anticipate a surge in attacks prior to the referendum. When asked if he was concerned about releasing so many prisoners before then, Maj. Gen. William Brandenburg, the Task Force 134 commander, said he had confidence in the prisoner review system.
Brandenburg, who is also in command of detainee operations, said many of the prisones would have eventually been released. Officials doubled review board cases recently to hasten the process, he said.
The review boards rejected releases for any prisoners whose crimes included torture, kidnapping or murder, according to an Army spokesman.
Abu Ghraib holds approximately 4,500 detainees, including some as young as 14 years old, prison officials said.