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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Thursday: "Maliki's Prisons"
MP Threatens to "Liquidate" Colleague, US Forces Kill Relatives of Pro-US Sheik
By AMER MOHSEN 09/26/2007 6:07 PM ET
“Rape and torture of children by burning in Maliki’s prisons,” read the headline of Az-Zaman international. The paper was referring to what it said were special prisons managed by the Interior Ministry for children and minors. The paper said that these detention centers witness “various forms of torture ... rape and psychological torture.”

The daily quoted a statement released by “the Iraqi jurists’ association” (based in London) admonishing the government for these practices and warning Iraqi officials that “justice will reach you sooner or later, because these crimes do not lapse due to the passage of time.” The paper also said that Arab satellite channels displayed footage and interviews with the tortured and raped minors, and showed the effects of torture and burns on their bodies. Az-Zaman claimed that the names of these children indicated that they come from the neighborhoods of A'zhamiya, Latifiya, Dawra and 'Amil, which are Sunni-dominated districts, giving a sectarian twist to the controversy.

Iraqi vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi visited a minors’ detention center in Baghdad, and spoke afterwards of illegal practices carried out by the Iraqi police, the paper said. Many of those prisoners are arrested for extended periods of time without being charged, the daily added. According to al-Hashimi, the minors he met spoke of false confessions being extracted from the prisoners through torture and, in some cases, rape.

As often happens with Az-Zaman, the paper’s enthusiasm to attack Maliki led it to disregard the rules of professional reporting. On the front page, next to the aforementioned report, the paper published a photo of an Iraqi minor in a detention center extending his hand, with the caption: “Iraqi children show their suffering under torture in the Interior Ministry’s prisons...” implying that the prisoner was exhibiting marks of torture. In fact, the photo in question (taken by a Reuters’ photographer) was of a prisoner showing the signs of scabies on his arm. Iraqi and international papers reported on the spread of scabies and other skin diseases in Iraq’s prisons, an indicator of the horrid conditions of these detention centers, but that is a completely separate story from the one referred to by Az-Zaman. It should also be noted that the story did not figure in Az-Zaman’s Iraq edition.

Al-Mada, on the other hand, chose to highlight the comments made by Prime Minister al-Maliki during his current visit to the US. The paper headlined: “al-Maliki: our people has begun to exit the darkness of extremism into the light of democracy.” The paper focused on Maliki’s statements in which the Prime Minister denied any sectarian motives of his government and his government’s “success” in foiling civil war in the country. Al-Quds al-'Arabi reported that US forces shot and killed three relatives of an Iraqi tribal leader who heads a pro-American tribal alliance in the province of Salah al-Deen. According to the report, an American patrol east of Tikrit shot at an Iraqi car driving on a main highway and killed its three passengers: a 90-year-old man and his two sons. The victims are relatives of the leader of the “Salah al-Deen Council,” a tribal alliance/militia modeled after the “Anbar Salvation Council” that was founded with the support of US and government agencies to combat al-Qa'ida in its areas of influence.

Also in Az-Zaman, the paper said that, while the Iraqi parliament is preparing to vote on important laws (including the oil and gas law) over a hundred MPs demanded that the voting process remains “secret,” with the MPs voting anonymously. The paper said that parliamentarians are afraid of retaliation if they voted publicly on these issues, adding that “the factions of the Iraqi resistance had launched threats against those who would vote” on laws that would entrench federalism in Iraq.

Lastly, al-Hayat reported that an Iraqi parliamentarian (affiliated with al-Hakeem’s SIIC) announced that he will sue another MP, Muhammad al-Dayni (who belongs to the Hiwar bloc, led by Salih al-Mutlaq,) accusing al-Dayni of “attempting to attack and physically assault him.” Al-Dayni denied the charges and said that what occurred with SIIC-affiliated Jalal al-Deen al-Sagheer was a mere “exchange of words.”

Al-Sagheer had demanded an investigation of al-Dayni after the latter accused him of using the Buratha mosque (the quasi-official mosque of the SIIC) to “torture and kill Sunnis.” An Iraqi parliamentarian who witnessed the exchange spoke to al-Hayat under the condition of anonymity and said that, after the session, “al-Dayni approached al-Sagheer ... and threatened to liquidate him, after trying to hit him, but a number of guards prevented him” from attacking the Shi'a MP.


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