Around 1,000 to be freed from Abu Ghraib

More than 1,000 prisoners held at Abu Ghraib jail will be released this week after a request by Iraqi authorities for a goodwill gesture to mark Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, according to the U.S. military.

The release will take place in stages over the coming week, with 500 prisoners to be set free on Monday, a statement said.

"These detainees were selected for release following a careful and thorough review of their files by a special Iraqi-led review board which determined they had not committed serious crimes," the military said.

Ramadan, a month of fasting that is the pinnacle of the Muslim religious calendar, starts around October 4 this year.

U.S. forces are holding about 11,800 prisoners at several detention centers in Iraq, with the largest number, 6,300, held at Camp Bucca in the south.

About 4,200 are currently held at Abu Ghraib, which is notorious for the images of U.S. soldiers mocking, physically abusing and torturing Iraqi prisoners that emerged last year.

The U.S. military said the number set free this week would constitute the largest release so far.

It comes amid widespread accusations by Iraqi families, human rights groups and some Iraqi government ministers, including the justice minister, that too many Iraqis are being detained for too long without due process.

Iraq's deputy prime minister, Abdul Motlaq al-Jabouri, was due to be present for the release of prisoners on Monday.

"The Iraqi government and (multi-national forces) decided to release the detainees to allow them to be with families and loved ones to celebrate the holy month and to help in the process of building a new Iraq," Reuters quoted the U.S. military as saying.

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