August 27, 2004

Al Sadr's Justice, 10 25 Bodies Found

Hooray! We let this guy go. Nice freaking work. Update: A more recent report has the number at 25.


Iraqi police discovered on Friday at least 10 bodies in a building housing a maverick religious court run by rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's followers here Friday.

Police said they were victims of the court's summary brand of justice, but al-Sadr's followers said they had died in the three weeks of fighting in Najaf between al-Sadr's militiamen and U.S.-Iraqi forces.

An Associated Press reporter saw about 10 charred and bloated bodies covered in blankets, including one of an elderly woman. It was not immediately clear how they died, but they appeared to have been killed by shrapnel, with large gaping wounds.

The stench of the corpses led police, who were deployed Friday in Najaf's Old City, to the bodies, said Brig. Gen. Amer al-Daami, Najaf's deputy police chief.

We found bodies, burnt and rotten," he said.

Al-Daami said some of the bodies were those of police officers, and others belonged to civilians. Before the fighting began Aug. 5, authorities accused the militants of taking police hostage in the city and of killing and mutilating some of them.

Al-Sadr's office in Najaf had set up the court, which ordered arrests and meted out punishments outside of religious and legal authorities. Local Iraqi officials have in the past demanded it be shut down and all its prisoners freed.

Police said the bodies belonged to the victims of the court. But a court official, who identified himself only as Hashim, said the corpses belonged to militants killed in the recent fighting in the city.

The two-story courthouse is made up of 15 rooms filled with desks, computers and books. The bodies were located in an open air area within the courthouse compound.

Half the skull of one of the dead men was missing and another man appeared to have suffered massive wounds to his stomach. None of the bodies was dismembered, save one, which had been beheaded, though it was unclear how.

During the fighting, the militants had set up their own informal health clinics and morgues. The U.S. military has said it killed hundreds of militants in the fighting, though the militants say their casualty figure was far lower.

The courts have arrested and interrogated hundreds of people on charges including selling alcohol and peddling music deemed immoral. Punishments included flagellation.

Al-Sadr's followers have been accused of using the court to settle scores with opponents or to threaten people.

PS-This is Islamic Law.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 01:10 PM | Comments |