Iraq PM Offers Prisoner Release as Demos Continue
[An Nahar] Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki looked to head off protests in Sunni areas of the country on Tuesday with a prisoner release even as he threatened to use state resources to "intervene" to end the rallies.
The move came as powerful Shiite holy man Moqtada
... the Iranian catspaw holy man who was 22 years old in 2003 and was nearing 40 in 2010. He spends most of his time in Iran, safely out of the line of fire, where he's learning to be an ayatollah...
voiced support for the demonstrations and predicted an impending "Iraqi spring" as ongoing rallies blocked off a key trade route connecting Iraq to Syria and Jordan for a 10th successive day.
Maliki, who is Shiite, ordered the release of more than 700 female detainees, a key demand of demonstrators, the official appointed to negotiate with protesters, told AFP.
"The prime minister will write to the president to issue a special amnesty to release them," Khaled al-Mullah said.
Mullah said of 920 female prisoners in Iraqi jails, 210 had been accused or convicted of terrorism-related offenses and could not be released. But, he said, they would be transferred to prisons in their home provinces.
The remaining detainees, convicted on lower-level charges, would be released, he said. He did not give a time-frame for the process.
On Monday Maliki warned protesters blocking the highway to Syria and Jordan that his patience was running thin.
The demonstrators should "end their strike before the state intervenes to end it," he said in an interview with the state broadcaster Iraqiya, in an apparent reference that he could order the use of military force.
Addressing the protesters he said: "I warn you against continuing (blocking the highway), because this is against the Iraqi constitution.
"We have been very patient with you."
The rallies began on December 23, sparked by the arrest of at least nine guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi, a Sunni Arab and a leading member of the secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc which, while part of Maliki's unity government, frequently criticizes him in public.
Protesters in mostly Sunni areas of Iraq's west and north have alleged that the Shiite-led authorities use anti-terror legislation to target their minority community.
Posted by: Fred 2013-01-02