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Sadrists Deny Negotiating with US | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Sadrist trend that is led by the Islamic cleric Moqtada al-Sadr denied that the Iraqi government played any part in the release of former Sadrist national spokesman Abdul Hadi al-Darraji who was released by US forces on Friday night.

Salman al-Fraji, head of the Sadr office in Baghdad informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the occupying forces [US forces] are the ones that released him and that he was handed over to a government official by the Americans.”

Iraqi MP Sami al-Askari of the Untied Iraqi Alliance party informed Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Darraji’s release was part of a deal to release kidnapped British hostages captured in Iraq in 2007 by Asaib Ahl al-Haq [League of the People of Righteousness] a splinter group of the Mahdi army. However last week the British government confirmed that it had received the bodies of two of these hostages.

Al-Fraji denied the existence of any previous deals or negotiations for the release of al-Darraji saying “the Sadrists have not conducted any negotiations with the government or the occupiers, and we have repeatedly rejected negotiation with the US occupiers on the issue of our [members] detained by US forces.” Al-Fraji added that “the government did not play any role in the release of any prisoners, and al-Darraji was released by the Americans, and handed over to the government who then set him free.” Al-Fraji also stressed that “the government was working for his release over the past two years and did not succeed in doing so therefore the Americans were exclusively responsible for his release.”

As for the timing of al-Darraji’s release, al-Fraji said “I believe that the release of some figures affiliated to the Sadrists has come following the large tax paid by the members of this trend. We therefore see the occupiers releasing some of these figures from time to time, especially following terrorist operations that have affected the city of al-Sadr recently and claimed many innocent lives. This led to instability in the Iraqi street which led to the Americans releasing al-Darraji as a move that to calm the [Iraqi] street down.”

For his part, Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi governmental spokesman, denied that the government had taken part in dialogue with the kidnappers saying “there is no party or individual authorized by the Iraqi government to carry out any negotiations” but he added “there are efforts being made by other parties, and the government supports these efforts in order to strengthen national reconciliation and bring these parties into the political process.”

Salah al-Obeidi, a Sadrist spokesman announced the release of al-Darraji after two and a half years saying “Iraqi and American forces released Sheikh Abdul Hadi al-Darraji and he went to his house in Sadr City.” Al-Obeidi added “the American forces didn’t bring any charge against Darraji during the long time of his detention, which means that he was arrested for political reasons and not for criminal reasons.”

Isma Musawi, a member of the political council of the Sadrist trend, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Sadrist prisoners played no role in what they were accused of upon arrest, and the majority of reasons [for their arrest] are political and not security as the Sadrist trend rejects and does not accept the legitimacy of [the presence of] the occupation forces and the Security Agreement that was recently concluded.”

Musawi added that “the government was in the same position as the Sadrists and did not know anything about the release of detainees. The Sadrists were only informed of al-Darraji’s release on the same day and hour that he was released.” She added “the government assured us more than once that the Americans are unconcerned with requests for the release of prisoners, and that it did not know the dates for the release of most detainees.”

Isma Musawi stressed that “there was no communication between the Sadrists and the Americans, or even the government, with regards to the release of prisoners.” However she added “There was pressure put on the government by the Sadrists, we did this by visiting governing bodies, as well as the security ministries in order to put pressure on the Americans to release the detainees who are members of our trend.”

Musawi added “Anyone who says that the arrest of members of the Sadrist trend is for security reasons is wrong, especially since the release process reveals that [these arrests] are for purely political reasons”