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Volume 18, Number 18, April 28, 2004

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Iraq Governing Council Annoyed That U.S. Is Releasing Detainees

While around the world many special interest groups complain that the U.S. in Iraq is detaining prisoners without proper warrant, some members of the Iraqi Governing Council are furious and say they want many of these people held as possible witnesses to Saddam Hussein's rein of terror.

A top Iraqi lawyer coordinating preparations for Saddam Hussein’s trial accused the U.S. military yesterday of hampering efforts to gather evidence by releasing detainees linked to the toppled dictator.

The complaint: The U.S. military just releases detainees without consulting with us. They are releasing people with valuable information on Saddam. They are undermining the process of putting him on trial, Salem Chalabi said. Why should we bother?
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the U.S. Army in Iraq, said the release of detainees from American custody did not preclude the Iraqi authorities from taking action against them.

Chalabi said frustrations over the releases were growing in the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, with some members discussing putting on hold the special tribunal expected to try Saddam and his top aides if they were not consulted.

There is a feeling that it is a pointless exercise. Important figures are being released and we are not even consulted. These people are leaving the country.

Chalabi said he expressed his concerns to a high-level U.S. Justice Department team that visited Iraq this week to assemble evidence for war crimes cases against Saddam. They said they would relay our concerns, he said, adding that a much larger American team of 50 would return in about five weeks.

Chalabi said prosecutors would seek to establish a chain of command that proved Saddam ordered atrocities such as a chemical attack on the Kurds in 1988 and the crushing of a 1991 Shiite uprising that allegedly sent thousands to mass graves. The U.S.-educated attorney, whose uncle Ahmad Chalabi is a member of the Governing Council, said there were about 100 Iraqi detainees with ties to Saddam who could provide hard evidence against him.

"The Americans have released 15 detainees who would have been valuable to us. They are doing this because they arrested too many people and now they are compensating", he said.

One important example, he said, was Saadoun Hammadi, a longtime Saddam ally who served as prime minister in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.

Chalabi said Saddam’s trial was not expected to be held this year, but some other former Iraqi officials closely connected to Saddam would likely face prosecution in 2004. He said final security arrangements were being made for 20 investigative judges, who will be aided by 50 investigators.



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Revised: March 31 2004

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