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MP: "Jails Filled With Sadrists Being Tortured"
Sadrist Lawmaker Claims Mistreatment, Denies Report of Splintering Sadr Movement
04/04/2009 3:02 PM ET
Sadrist Lawmaker Fawzi Akram
Photo: Yousif al-Timimi
Sadrist Lawmaker Fawzi Akram


BAGHDAD – In recent weeks, Iraq’s southern provinces have been the scene of Iraqi operations resulting in mass arrests of the followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Government spokesmen have claimed that those arrested are active members in the Mahdi Army, though al-Sadr has said that the armed activity of the militia has ended, and has called instead for a movement based on social programs. Sadrist leaders charge that they are being singled out unfairly in an organized attempt to squash the Sadr movement, and that the detainees are being physically mistreated.

Also, Iraqi television has been talking of Monday's Wall Street Journal story by Gina Chon, which reported that about 200 moderate Sadrists have split from the greater movement to form their own.

“It is part of an effort to split the Sadrists,” lawmaker and Sadrist leader Fawzi Akram said. Smiling, he continued, “These efforts are old, and the people behind them have to find new ways to do it.”

“We are still united. We have a wide base of people that we rely upon, which contains all kinds of people - Arabs, Kurds, Turkman (Akram is an ethnic Turkman) - we even have some Shabak representatives. We have worked for the unity of Iraq as a land, a flag, and a nation, but there are American and Iraqi jails filled with Sadrists being tortured by guards.”

Akram drew a connection between the claim of a fracture within the Sadr movement and the arrests and alleged mistreatment, saying, “Frankly, there is a huge conspiracy behind closed doors that is going on, to incapacitate and slander the Sadrists. Great numbers of money were assigned to reach this goal, and we have evidence that would prove that.” When asked about such evidence, he smiled again, and said that it wasn’t the time to go into the particulars. "I call on the Ministry of Human Rights to check up on those detainees, to see the treatment with their own eyes, to see the violations that are being made against the Sadrists and the other Iraqi detainees.”

Akram ended by turning the focus to a subject always relevant with Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers. “Before, we were the public armed resistance, and now we are in the political process in part to expel the occupiers. We work on driving out the last soldier of the occupation in a way that is legal.”

Mass demonstrations are being planned for Thursday by the group to protest the continued American presence in Iraq.

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