A few dozen demonstrators gathered on Saturday outside the main entrance to the jail just west of Baghdad claiming their loved ones were innocent. 

Each one had a story to tell of betrayal, revenge or misfortune. Worse still none of the prisoners have been charged or allowed regular visits in the country's biggest penitentiary. 

Hind Hussein al-Shumari, 35, said she had seen her brother only once, on 8 October, some three weeks after his arrest. 

"He had trouble walking and hardly recognised me," said Shumari, from the Sunni quarter of Adhamiah. She has moved in with her mother, two sisters, a sister-in-law and two nieces aged five and six. 

Soldiers kicked down the door to her marital home and turned the place upside down before finding a revolver, she said. 

"They beat him. They shouted at us in English and we answered in Arabic. No one could understand because there was neither a translator nor an Iraqi policeman." 

Revenge

For Um Muhammad, whose three sons were detained on 11 November in Baghdad's Adhamiyah district, the guilty party is her niece's husband. 

"I opposed their marriage and he has taken his revenge," she said bemoaning the lack of news from her sons. Sabah Fahim brought her two sons and three-year-old daughter to the demonstration. 

Her husband Basim Lafta, 32, was taken on 6 November  by Iraqi police in the same quarter.

"I am certain it was an act of vengeance by Muhammad Saddam, who was thrown out of the police for improper conduct under the old regime and who is back in the service now," she said without explanation. 

Demanding Visits

"Where did you go with our
children?" - asked protestors

Tamir Nayif Hamad, a former colonel, said his brother Muhammad was arrested on 18 October in the northern city of Mosul. 

"He went to sell a piece of land and was at a friend's house
which was searched." Muhammad said his brother had been visited by a lawyer last week. 

In June, the Americans arrested the father and brother of
32-year-old Omar Ahmad Radif in Baghdad. "I visited them six times when they were in Um Qasr prison," in the far south of Iraq. 

But in November they were transferred to Abu Ghoraib and Radif said he has now been given a date of 23 April next year for a first visit. 

US ground forces commander General Ricardo Sanchez said the prisoners were treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. 

Protest organisers claimed as many 18,000 prisoners are held in Iraq today, but US officials said they hold about 10,000 including about 4000 Iranian opposition elements from the People's Mujahidin.