August 31, 2007 / 8:26 AM / 10 years ago

U.S. to free 50 Iraqi detainees a day in Ramadan

<p>Iraq's Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad July 2, 2007. Fifty Iraqis will be freed from U.S. prisons in Iraq each day during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the office of al-Hashemi said on Friday.Mohammed Ameen/Files</p>

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Fifty Iraqis will be freed from U.S. prisons in Iraq each day during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the office of Iraq's Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said on Friday.

The U.S. military said this week it had reached a deal with Hashemi to conduct "special Ramadan releases" of detainees during the holy month, which begins in the second week of September.

It was unclear when the releases would start, but the military said they could begin as early as this week. The U.S. military says it is holding 23,000 Iraqis.

"Fifty Iraqi prisoners will be released from American prisons every day during Ramadan," Omar al-Jubouri, an adviser on human rights to Hashemi, said in a statement from the vice president's office.

U.S. forces and Iraq's own security forces have imprisoned tens of thousands of detainees without charge in the four years since the fall of President Saddam Hussein.

Many held by both U.S. and Iraqi authorities are Sunni Arabs accused of participating in the insurgency against the Shi'ite-led government, and their treatment is an emotional issue for the minority Sunni Arab community.

Hashemi has long complained about the detention of Sunni Arabs. The issue was cited as one of the reasons that prompted the main Sunni political bloc, the Accordance Front, to quit the government earlier this month.

The deal with the U.S. military is separate to an accord that Hashemi signed with Iraq's top Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders on Sunday, which also called for the release of many detainees.

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