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Prisoner Release Raises Questions About Role of Iraqi Courts

The role of Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani in the release of dozens of prisoners has raised questions about both the Iraqi courts and the reasons for the release, writes Mushreq Abbas.
Iraqi Sunni Muslims take part in an anti-government demonstration in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, December 28, 2012. Tens of thousands of protesters from Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority poured onto the streets after Friday prayers in a show of force against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, keeping up a week-old blockade of a highway. Around 60,000 people blocked the main road through the city of Falluja, setting fire to the Iranian flag and shouting "out, out Iran! Baghdad stays free" and "
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Since the start of the current year, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani has led a campaign to release dozens of detainees from prison, claiming that they are innocent. The government hopes that this move will help abate the ongoing Sunni protests rocking Anbar Province and elsewhere. Clerics previously took similar action when they, under the name of the Committee of Wise Men, released female prisoners from jail.

On Dec. 31, 2012, the Iraqi government formed a committee comprised of Sunni clerics — including Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Sumaidaie (belonging to the Salafist trend), Khaled al-Mulla (a Sunni cleric who ran in the 2010 parliamentary elections as part of the Shiite National Alliance bloc) and Iraqi Minister of Justice Hassan al-Shammari — to investigate the conditions of female prisoners and to release them from prison. On Jan. 23, this committee announced the release of 91 female prisoners, among 900 currently being held.

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