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Iraqi Detainees to be Released, Says Bremer

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2004 – Hundreds of Iraqis detained by the coalition will be released as part of a reconciliation effort, the coalition's administrator announced today in Baghdad.

The first 100 nonviolent detainees are eligible to be released Jan. 8, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III said.

Since the liberation of Iraq, its people have steadily acted to realize a shared vision of a new Iraq one that is stable and democratic, said Bremer.

"More than ever, it's clear that the old ways of coups and corruption and divide-and-rule are over in Iraq," he added. "The tyrant, Saddam Hussein, is a prisoner (and) most of his henchmen are dead or captured."

Bremer said it is time for reconciliation, "time for Iraqis to make common cause in building the new Iraq." The ambassador said poll after poll shows the "overwhelming majority of Iraqis want democracy. They want a government that derives its legitimacy from the freely expressed will of the people."

However, he noted, other Iraqis fought against the new Iraq. "They made a mistake, and they know it," he said. "We are prepared to offer some of them a new chance.

"To give impetus to those Iraqis who wish to reconcile with their countrymen, we are announcing today that the coalition will permit hundreds of currently detained Iraqis to return to their homes and to their families," Bremer said.

The ambassador said requirements "of great importance" must be met before a detainee is released. "First, the person released must renounce violence; and second, the person released must have a guarantor, such as a prominent person in his community or a religious or tribal leader, who will accept responsibility for the good conduct of the individual being set free," he said.

Bremer stressed that this program is not for those "with blood-stained" hands. "No person involved in the death or serious bodily injury to any human being" will be released, he explained. "Nor will we release anyone accused of torture or crimes against humanity."

Hundreds more detainees will be released in the coming weeks, said Bremer. "We are also exploring ways to provide greater family access to those detainees not released," he added.

This program "in no way diminishes the coalition's zeal for pursuing the major criminals who plague this country, attacking Iraqis and coalition forces," he added. "While the coalition seeks to promote reconciliation, we recognize that some will never reconcile themselves to democracy in Iraq. If they remain unreconciled, if they continue to fight, the coalition is prepared to capture or kill them."

To deal with these criminals, Bremer said, the coalition has a reward program. The coalition will pay $10 million for information leading to the capture of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, former vice chairman of Saddam's revolutionary council, or information that he is dead, said Bremer. The coalition also will pay $1 million each for 12 other notorious criminals on its "black list."

Another reward program will offer up to $200,000 for information leading to the capture of lesser criminals or information proving that they are dead, said Bremer. The names of these individuals and the amount of reward for each will be released in the next 24 hours, he added.

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