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Army Medic Gets Life for Murdering Iraqi Prisoners/Abu Ghraib Prison Reopens

By Matt Clarke

On February 20, 2009, a medic in the U.S. Army was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the 2007 murder of four Iraqi prisoners in Baghdad. The next day, the infamous Abu Ghraib prison reopened under a new name.

Sgt. Michael Leahy, Jr., 28, was convicted of two counts of premeditated murder for his part in the 2007 Baghdad-area murder of four Iraqi prisoners. He was demoted to private, forfeited his pay and will be dishonorably discharged if ever released. Two other soldiers are facing similar charges in connection with the same murders. Leahy had been previously acquitted of the January 2007 murder of another Iraqi prisoner.

On February 21, 2009, the Iraqi government formally reopened the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, now renamed Baghdad Central Prison. The prison, which bulged with up to 60,000 prisoners under Sadaam Hussein, already has 400 prisoners and is a model prison in the overcrowded Iraqi prison system. It has modern healthcare and dental facilities, a visitation courtyard and even a computer chat room. It contains a small sewing factory for prisoners to manufacture their own clothes, a hair salon and a mosque. Iraqi officials say they will limit the total prisoner population to between 13,000 and 14,000. However, they may soon be forced to abandon these good intentions when, as a consequence of American troop withdrawal, about 14,000 Iraqi prisoners will be transferred from U.S. to Iraqi control.

Ironically, some of those prisoners were formerly incarcerated at Abu Ghraib, which was closed after the U.S. built a new prison in the desert near the Kuwaiti border in 2006. Abu Ghraib became a focal point of Iraqi resistance to American occupation after it was revealed that prisoners had been abused and sexually humiliated there. The Iraqi resistance responded with violence in the Abu Ghraib area and multiple attacks on the prison as it became a symbol of abuse under both Sadaam and the U.S. occupation.

Sources: Reuters,

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