'I don't accept for any officer to even slap a prisoner,' Interior Minister Bayan Baqir Solagh Jabir told a packed news conference on Thursday, his first public appearance since US forces found the bunker and scores of malnourished and badly beaten men on Sunday.
'The talk about this has been inaccurate,' he said, adding that he was commenting on the issue only because his aides had put pressure on him to do so.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said earlier this week that 173 men and teenage boys were discovered at the prison near the Interior Ministry, and said there was evidence that many of them had been tortured. He has ordered an investigation.
Jabir, raising his voice in anger as he dismissed several of the allegations being made, said only a handful of people showed any sign of being beaten, and they were all detained for suspected militant activity after arrest warrants were issued.
I think that the evidence that torture did take place in this compound seems pretty strong. The route that Jabir is taking seems very unfortunate to me, and creates distinct worries that he is involved directly in this. The Iraqi government is holding an investigation, and I suspect that we will find out a lot more about this.
If there is a silver lining to this, it will be in the investigation and response by the Iraqi Government. I hope that they rise to the occassion.