Wednesday 23 April 2003
ABU DHABI - A prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric, saying he was detained and beaten by US forces, charged on Wednesday that American methods were worse than those employed by the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Our arrest by the Americans was worse than the arrests that Saddam ordered against our students, Sheikh Mohammed al-Fartusi told Abu Dhabi television.
Fartusi, whose followers said he was detained Sunday by US troops along with five other Shiites, reappeared in Baghdad on Tuesday to cheers from hundreds of supporters who had held protests for two days.
We were beaten .. spent a night with our hands tied behind our backs, Fartusi said, adding however than an American officer did turn up and offer an apology.
It was disgusting. Despite that none of our young men has pointed a weapon against America ... but next time, God alone knows what popular anger could lead to?
US officials have said they could not confirm Fartusi s arrest, but reports that the prominent mullah had been detained infuriated members of Iraq s Shiite majority.
Protest organizers said Fartusi, Abdelrahman al-Shuani and Halim al-Fatlawi were arrested along with three bodyguards by US forces Sunday at a checkpoint 25 kilometres (10 miles) south of Baghdad.
They were returning from Karbala, where hundreds of thousands of Shiites have gathered for a massive pilgrimage that was due to climax later Wednesday.
The reported arrest threatened to become a major source of friction between the Americans, who toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein on April 9, and the Shiites, who account for 60 per cent of Iraq s 25 million people.
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