Saddam-era officials released from custody

 

Former officials in Saddam Hussein's regime have been released from jail in Iraq and some have already left the country, it was disclosed today.

A legal official in Baghdad said between 24 and 25 top former officials in Saddam Hussein's government have been freed, including Rihab Taha, known as Dr Germ, and Huda Salih Ammash, known as as Mrs Anthrax.

The Iraqi lawyer, Badee Izzat Aref, said some of those released were his clients.

"The release was an American-Iraqi decision and in line with an Iraqi government ruling made in December 2004, but hasn't been enforced until after the elections in an attempt to ease the political pressure in Iraq," Aref said.

Iraqi officials and the US military did not immediately confirm that information. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, the spokesman for the US-led Multinational Force, did say that US officials on Saturday released eight people formerly designated as high-value detainees, after a board process found they were no longer a security threat.

No charges had been filed against the eight, Johnson said. He would not identify them.

The legal official in Baghdad, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said those released also included Hossam Mohammed Amin, head of the weapons inspections directorate; Aseel Tabra, an Iraqi Olympic Committee official under Saddam Hussein's late son Odai; Gen. Dhiaa Maher al-Tikriti; Ibrahim al-Ani, an intelligence official; and Hamid al-Janabi, a prison director.

Aref, the Iraqi lawyer, said no charges had ever been filed against any of those released. Aref also represents former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.

"Because of security reasons, some of them want to leave the country," Aref said. He declined to say where to and when, but noted that "some have already left Iraq today."

Ammash reportedly has cancer  was one of two women incarcerated by the US military at an undisclosed location, along with other top members of Saddam 's regime.

The other female detainee was Taha, a scientist who became known as Dr Germ for allegedly helping Iraq make weapons containing anthrax.