- Baghdad - Iraq - Iraq war - prisons - Saddam Hussein - US military
AFP - Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, made notorious by graphic pictures of abuse of inmates by US jailers, has reopened with top-of-the-range facilities and a new name, the justice ministry said on Sunday.
Abu Ghraib, which also served as a torture centre under executed dictator Saddam Hussein's ousted regime, has been completely renovated and equipped with a gym, a computer room and medical facilities, a top ministry official said.
The jail, where Iraqi families bemoaned the disappearance of loved ones to detention without trial by the US military in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, now even boasts a visitor centre with a play area to occupy the children of those visiting detainees.
"Baghdad central prison reopened on Saturday," assistant justice minister Bushu Dazai told AFP. It is now a "prison that is up to international standards," he said, adding that it could accommodate between 12,000 and 15,000 inmates.
The US-run prison closed its doors in 2006 but in February last year the Iraqi government, which has taken back the site, decided to renovate and reopen it to tackle prison overcrowding.
Dazai said that 400 prisoners had already been transferred to the new facility from jails elsewhere in Iraq.
The Abu Ghraib scandal drew international opprobrium on the US-led occupation of Iraq.
Photos showed naked and hooded prisoners beaten bloody and being made to commit humiliating acts such as simulating homosexual sex. Soldiers posed proudly with battered corpses and nude injured prisoners.
The US military no longer runs Abu Ghraib, but operates two larger facilities at Camp Bucca near the southern port city of Basra and Camp Cropper near Baghdad's international airport.
Both detention centres are visited regularly by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
US military spokesman Major General Douglas Stone acknowledged last year that the image of the US military had sustained a hammer blow from the 2004 scandal.
"Through the actions of just a few we lost the confidence of many," he told reporters in Baghdad in June. "Today we are still trying to regain that trust. Over the past years, we have made great effort to correct our past mistakes."
The US-led coalition still retains around 15,000 detainees in its custody in Iraq. although earlier this month it began a series of releases under a new security pact with the Baghdad government that went into force on January 1.
On the outskirts of the capital some 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the city centre, the 10 square kilometre (four square mile) Abu Ghraib prison complex was originally built by British companies in the 1960s.
Under Saddam's regime, the jail became notorious as a centre for torture and execution with an estimated 4,000 detainees losing their lives there.