[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament [official website, in Arabic] gave first reading Monday to a draft bill forwarded by the Iraqi cabinet [JURIST report] which could allow for the pardon and release of around 5,000 detainees currently held in Iraqi prisons. The bill, approved [JURIST report] by the cabinet in December 2007, would exclude prisoners held in US custody and others who are imprisoned for a number of different crimes including terrorism, kidnapping, rape, adultery and homosexuality. The bill would also exclude senior Baath party [JURIST news archive] figures from the regime of Saddam Hussein. The bill will be put to a vote after a second reading scheduled in four days.
Currently, there are more than 26,000 detainees held in US-run Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca and some 24,000 more held in facilities run by the Iraqi defense, interior and justice ministries. Most of the detainees covered by the bill are Sunni Arabs [IHT report] who have been held for more than a year on suspicion of supporting the insurgency. Despite criticism by Sunni members of parliament who say the bill is too limited, Iraqi officials have expressed hope that mass releases will help ease tensions between Shiite and Sunni communities and boost national reconciliation. AFP has more.