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Sunday, 21 June 2009

Iraqi prisoners protest at torture, rape

Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners have launched a protest at dire prison conditions and systematic torture including rape, lawmakers said on Monday.

The prisoners have gone on a partial hunger strike to try to draw the government's attention to their plight, said Ahmed al-Masoudi, a parliamentary spokesman for supporters of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

"I don't have accurate figures but they number in the hundreds. They are protesting because they have been systematically tortured and forced to confess to things they didn't do," said Masoudi.

"The violations against some prisoners went as far as rape. Some of them have spent more than a year in these prisons and so far haven't been brought to trial."

Interior Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Most of Iraq's prisons are heavily overcrowded and rundown. The release into Iraqi hands of thousands of people detained by the U.S. forces since the 2003 U.S. invasion is putting further strains on the prison system.

Global human rights groups have urged the Iraqi government to clean up its prisons and ensure that people accused of crimes are brought swiftly to trial.

They have also denounced widespread torture, which they say is encouraged by a judicial system that relies more on confessions for convictions than on evidence. More