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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 16:35 GMT
Iraq plays down claims of abuse
Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr with foreign passports
Bayan Jabr said suspected foreign militants were held at Jadiriya
Iraq's interior minister says reports of prisoners being tortured at an Iraqi-run centre have been exaggerated.

Only a few of the 170 detainees at the Jadiriya centre in Baghdad appeared to have been maltreated, Bayan Jabr said.

But he made clear that no abuse would be tolerated. The prisoners, discovered by US forces on Sunday, had reportedly been tortured and were malnourished.

Mr Jabr spoke as the US warned the Baghdad government not to let sectarian militias take over detention centres.

No-one was beheaded, no-one was killed
Bayan Jabr
Iraqi Interior Minister

"I reject torture and I will punish those who perform torture," he said.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says that the minister has been politically scarred over the revelations of abuse and went before the press reluctantly.

Mr Jabr acknowledged that several detainees had been mistreated - but despite an investigation now under way, he did not seem to know how many, our correspondent says.

At one point he spoke of five, at another point of seven.

'Dangerous'

Mr Jabr also said some of the men found at the Jadiriya centre had been foreign terror suspects, and that he had personally requested they be kept there because they were dangerous.

"These are the most criminal terrorists who were in these cells," he said.

Image released by the Sunni Muslim Scholars Association of alleged torture by Iraqi police
Sunni groups alleged that Iraqi police have been involved in torture

Leaders from Iraq's once-dominant Sunni Arab minority have long complained about alleged human rights violations by the Shia-dominated provisional government.

Sunni groups have also demanded an international inquiry into allegations that Shia militias linked to the interior ministry were responsible for the abuse.

In his news conference, Mr Jabr denied that either militiamen or Iranian intelligence operatives had been working at the facility.

He also played down concerns over an impending sectarian crisis, saying that inmates at the centre included both Shias and Sunnis.

Shortly afterwards, the American embassy in Baghdad issued a statement saying US officials had "made it clear to the Iraqi government that there must not be militia or sectarian control or direction of facilities or ministries".

Mr Jabr's deputy, Maj Gen Hussein Kamal, had earlier said he wanted to place all of Iraq's internal security services under his ministry's control in order to prevent future cases of abuse.

"We want to gather all security departments under the wing of the Interior Ministry," he said.

Gen Kamal admitted that the Iraqi government had long feared such activities.

"What we were afraid of has happened when some prisoners were subjected to ill-treatment at the hands of the investigators," he said.

"We strongly condemn such illegal acts. All those responsible will be punished whatever their rank."

However, Gen Kamal also said the alleged abuse had been isolated incidents.


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Hear what the US embassy told the Iraqi government




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