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Desperate to pacify tempers, Iraq frees 11 female detainees

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities yesterday ordered the release of 11 female detainees facing criminal charges and vowed to transfer women prisoners to jails in their home provinces, in a move that addresses one of the main demands of a wave of protests by the country’s Sunni minority against the Shiite-led government.
The demonstrations erupted nearly two weeks ago following the arrest of bodyguards assigned to Finance Minister Rafia Al-Issawi, one of the central government’s most senior Sunni officials. The protests, however, tap into deeper Sunni grievances of discrimination by Shiite Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s government.
Justice Ministry spokesman Haider Al-Saadi said the female detainees’ families can secure their relative’s release by paying bail.
He added that 13 Sunni women convicted of criminal charges will be transferred from a Baghdad jail to other prisons in their home provinces of Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah to complete their sentences there.
A day earlier, Al-Maliki said he asked the judicial authorities to accelerate efforts to resolve the cases of the detainees, adding that a special committee was formed to end the issue of female prisoners.
The demonstrations are also driven by Sunni grievances of perceived second-class treatment by the central government and what they see as the unfair application of laws against their sect.
Vice President Tariq Al-Hashemi, another high-ranking Sunni official, is now living in exile in Turkey after being handed multiple death sentences for allegedly running death squads— a charge he dismisses as politically motivated.
Meanwhile, a car bomb killed 17 worshippers south of Baghdad yesterday as Shiites from around the world thronged Karbala.

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