The Saudi Embassy in Jordan, which monitors the affairs of Saudis in Iraqi jails, will apply to the Baghdad government for pardoning prisoners. The prisoners have been charged with illegally crossing the borders of Iraq, Al-Watan daily reported yesterday.
The move follows a recent statement of Adnan Al-Asadi, Iraqi deputy interior minister, that his country would set free Saudi prisoners if Riyadh asked for it.
“Relatives will be allowed to visit the Saudi prisoners,” Minister Plenipotentiary at the Saudi Embassy in Jordan Hamad Al-Hajeri said. The embassy did not receive any visitor applications from relatives of the Saudi prisoners.
Al-Hajeri said the embassy had not received any official communication about the execution of Saudis in Iraq after Ali Al-Shahri had been condemned to death a few weeks ago.
After a meeting of Al-Asadi with Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Naif in Riyadh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia decided to set up a joint committee. This committee will take care of the relations between the two countries, especially in matters related to the prisoners in both countries, Al-Hajeri said.
Iraqi Ambassador to the Kingdom Ghanem Al-Jimaili told Al-Watan his country welcomed any Saudi family that wanted to visit its relatives jailed in Iraq. He added that the embassy would remove all obstacles in the way of relatives visiting Saudi prisoners. “They should come to the embassy and we are ready to comply with whatever they want,” the ambassador said.
The Saudi-Iraqi joint committee will begin its work by sorting out logistical problems related to prisoner swaps. They will verify the number of prisoners involved and their names. The committee will also decide on ways to implement the swap agreement, he said.
While there are an estimated 60 Saudi prisoners in Iraqi jails, between 110 and 115 Iraqi prisoners are believed to be spending time in the Kingdom’s jails.
Abdullah Al-Anzi, a Saudi ex-prisoner, who spent about eight years in various prisons in Iraq, said last month that prisoners were exposed to physical and psychological torture, and that he himself had been tortured. “There is a lack of medical care for prisoners in Iraqi jails. I personally did not receive adequate medical care,” he said in a statement.
Tamer Al-Balheed, head of the Committee for Saudi Detainees in Iraq, said members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp, as well as the Sadrist Mahdi Army had tortured Al-Anzi.
“This is the case with all Saudi detainees in Iraq. The arbitrary detention of Al-Anzi for eight years against the backdrop of absolute absence of law and sectarian conflict is just an example of the status of those prisoners,” Al-Balheed said.
He revealed that sectarian tensions in Iraq’s prisons reached their height after the 2006 and 2007 bombings of Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq. “Following these incidents Sunni prisoners had been forced to travel around in groups of at least seven for fear of retaliation.”