Iraqi authorities release 273 detained protesters in Basra, Wasit

Protesters gather near the main provincial government building in Basra, Iraq July 15, 2018. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani

Baghdad ( – Iraqi authorities have released 273 detained protesters in Basra and Wasit governorates, who took part in anti-government mass demonstrations.

“In Wasit, all detained protesters, totaling 176, have been freed, including 158 on bail,” Mawazin News quoted the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) as saying in a statement.

“Most of detainees have been released within 48 hours of their capture,” the commission explained.

Meanwhile, the director of the IHCHR office in Basra, Mahdi al-Tamimi, announced that “a total of 97 protesters have been released in Basra governorate so far, while eight others are still under investigation.”

“The demonstrators have been tortured by the security forces during their detention,” Tamimi explained, adding that there is high-level coordination between the Iraqi judiciary and the commission to release the remaining protesters.

Oil-rich Basra is one of the southern Iraqi cities that have recently witnessed mass protests over the dire state of the nation’s economy. The demonstrators have rallied against poor public services and corruption. Two weeks ago, at least six people were injured as they tried to storm the main provincial government building in Basra.

Mass demonstrations against unemployment, corruption and poor services spread further across southern Iraqi provinces, prompting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to rush from a NATO summit in Brussels to Basra to meet with local officials and tribal leaders in a bid to restore calm.

The demonstrations started in Basra province, but they later extended to other cities, including Amara, Nasiriya, Karbala and the Shiite holy city of Najaf. There were also protests in parts of the capital, Baghdad.

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