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Iraq frees 4 jailed protest organizers

By Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Baghdad first said the 4 were held for fake identity papers
  • Men say they will keep running weekly protests
  • They were beaten on arrest, they say

Baghdad (CNN) -- Four protest organizers who were detained at Baghdad's Tahrir Square on May 27 have been released, activists and members of human rights organizations told CNN.

Activists said a court judge released Jihad Jalil, Ali al-Jaf, Mouyed Faisal and Ahmed Al-Baghdadi on bail Tuesday.

Iraq had previously denied it arrested protest organizers, saying in a statement posted on the Baghdad Operations Command website that the four men were detained for carrying fraudulent identity papers.

The Baghdad command accused the media of making up the story, calling on Iraqis "not to be enticed by the irresponsible media, which aims to create chaos and destabilize security and stability."

But Saturday the Baghdad Operations Command said in a later statement that the four would be released on bail by the judicial authorities.

"They have all the right to demonstrate in accordance with the law and without any conditions," the statement said.

The four activists claimed in a Wednesday press conference that they were beaten by Iraqi security forces during the arrest.

"When I left al-Tahrir Square, a group of Iraqi security forces surrounded me," Faisal said. "Meanwhile, an ambulance parked next to me and I was being carried into it after they beat me.

The activists promised they will continue organizing demonstrations and the arrest will not stop them from going to Tahrir Square Friday.

"We are not afraid and we will continue to protest in Tahrir Square every Friday," al-Baghdadi said.

Last Friday, hundreds of demonstrators had gathered to demand their release.

On Sunday, a prominent human rights activist, Hanaa Edwar, had interrupted a National Conference on Human Rights being held in Baghdad to urge they be freed.

There has been little outward sign of improvement in Iraq in the months following the 100 days Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gave his ministers to deliver results, Edwar said.