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US -Led Coalition in Iraq to Free 100 Prisoners Today - 2004-01-08


Coalition officials in Iraq say they will release hundreds of detainees as a gesture of goodwill.

The head of the U.S.-led coalition, Paul Bremer, says the coalition will release more than 500 prisoners during the next several weeks, starting with the first 100 on Thursday.

Other coalition officials indicate that most of the freed detainees will be low-level associates of suspected insurgents. But Mr. Bremer says they will release nobody who has actually carried out attacks on U.S. troops or coalition targets.

"I want to assure you that this is not a program eligible for those with bloodstained hands. No person directly involved in the death or serious bodily harm to any human being… will be released. Nor will we release people accused of torture or crimes against humanity," Mr. Bremer said.

Before the detainees can be released, they must sign a statement renouncing violence. Mr. Bremer calls it a gesture of reconciliation.

It comes amid mounting criticism from human rights groups, which have condemned the coalition for holding people indefinitely without charging them, and for denying them access to their families or lawyers.

Mr. Bremer says the coalition will also try to make it easier for relatives to visit prisoners who remain in detention.

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