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Wow... the only word I can say is "Wow". Talk about a major PR coup for Iraq. I guess people won't be able to use the "Saddam has political prisoners" argument for now. I am so surprised by this. I wonder how long this will last...as in whether he'll start locking people up again or not within a few days. Wow... Andrew ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Saddam Frees All Prisoners Associated Press BAGHDAD, Iraq (Oct. 20) - The Iraqi government announced an amnesty Sunday for all Iraqi prisoners in an apparent attempt to rally domestic and international support in the face of U.S. determination to topple it. The government called the amnesty, which includes political prisoners, a way of thanking the nation for re-electing President Saddam Hussein last week in a referendum. Iraqi television showed men leaving a prison carrying their belongings in plastic shopping bags and chanting: ``We sacrifice our blood and souls for Saddam.'' A statement attributed to Saddam, read on national television by Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhafa, said the ``full and complete and final amnesty'' applied to ``anyone imprisoned or arrested for political or any other reason.'' Amnesty International accuses Iraq of holding tens of thousands of political prisoners and of torturing and executing its political opponents. There was no figure available as to how many inmates the amnesty would involve. Later, Interior Minister Mahmoud Diab al-Ahmed was seen supervising the release. Some prisoners were heard pledging not to commit any crimes in the future and others said they were ``ready to defend Iraq and the great leader.'' Those convicted of murder, the statement said, would only be released if the victims' families agreed and those convicted of theft would have to work out a way to repay their victims before being released. Soldiers accused of desertion and those awaiting execution of their death sentences were included. ``We are shifting the responsibility of reforming them to their families and society after we have provided them with this opportunity,'' the statement said. ``We ask God that we will not regret this decision.'' The amnesty was intended to thank the Iraqi people for their support of Saddam, who claimed a 100-percent 'yes' vote in a presidential referendum last week, the statement said. ``It's a unanimity that others are incapable of believing and it is the greatest truth of this age from this great, honest, warm people,'' the statement said. ``The referendum honored us before the whole world.'' As al-Sahhafa completed his statement, Iraqi television switched to file footage of Iraqis celebrating Saddam's elections victory, chanting his name and pledges of support. Iraqi exiles and the United States scoffed at Saddam's referendum and the reported results. Saddam was the only candidate and Iraqis were asked to vote ``yes'' or ``no'' on whether he should serve another seven-year term. In a country where dissidents face torture or death, according to exiles and international human rights groups, assessing voters' sincerity is difficult. President Bush has called for Saddam to be toppled, accusing him of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and harboring terrorists, and has expressed concerns about its human rights record.'' The Iraqi regime had ``probably the worst human rights situation anywhere in the world ... uses the death penalty, rape and torture as a political tool,'' said the British government report on human rights abuses around the world released on Thursday. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been Bush's main ally on Iraq. 10/20/02 08:32 EDT Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk