BAGHDAD, February 26, 2011 (AFP) – Four Iraqi journalists detained by security forces during protests in Baghdad said Saturday they would sue Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after alleging they were physically tortured while being held.
The group said they were arrested without a warrant after the conclusion of the protests while eating together at a restaurant, and condemned what they said was the targeting of free expression in Iraq during the demonstrations on Friday.
“Freedom of opinion is going through its worst days in Iraq,” they said in a statement read at a news conference in Baghdad.
“The targeting of freedom of opinion and journalists represents a major strike against a pillar of democracy in Iraq.”
The four — Hussam Saraie of Al-Sabah Al-Jadid newspaper, Ali Abdul Sada of the Al-Mada daily, Ali al-Mussawi of Sabah newspaper, and Hadi al-Mehdi of Demozee radio — said they were held for nine hours and forced to sign a document, the contents of which were not revealed to them.
They said they would sue Maliki in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces for being arrested without a warrant and being tortured.
Mehdi described the conditions of his detention as “brutal and inhuman”, saying soldiers bundled him into the trunk of a military Humvee, tore off his shirt to blindfold him, electroshocked him and repeatedly insulted him during interrogations.
“The interrogator tried to force me to confess that I provoked protesters to overthrow the regime,” he said. “They tried to make me sign a confession that I was funded by Baathists,” he added, referring to loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
Mehdi said when he was eventually released, he was met by the head of security for Baghdad’s east bank, General Abdulkarim al-Izzi, who apologised for the conditions of his arrest.
Kartan Adnan, another journalist working for al-Diyarsat satellite television told AFP he and his cameraman were detained by security forces for several hours and repeatedly physically assaulted.
Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta told AFP that he would open an investigation into the journalists’ detention and pledged to “punish those who dealt with them in this way”.
The journalists had been covering protests in Baghdad attended by around 5,000 demonstrators, the largest of 17 separate rallies nationwide on Friday, billed as a “Day of Rage”.
Protesters in the capital railed against poor basic services, high levels of corruption and a lack of jobs, but were eventually dispersed in the evening when security forces fired water cannon and used tear gas.
A total of 16 people died and more than 130 were wounded in clashes with police during the demonstrations across Iraq.