Ghazi Hammud al-Obeidi, former regional chairman in the southern Iraqi city of Kut for the former ruling Baath Party, was the first to be released among detained former government members who were on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis.


"Ghazi al-Obeidi is suffering from cancer and, according to my information, he has been released for health reasons," Justice Minister Abdel Hussein Shandal said on Sunday.

Stomach cancer


Shandal did not elaborate, but al-Obeidi's lawyer, Badee Izzat Aref, said he was released on 28 April because he was suffering from what appears to be terminal stomach cancer.

Aref said that he met al-Obeidi, 65, recently and described his condition as "very bad" and added that he was in a wheelchair.


Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash is said
to be suffering from cancer

He also appealed for the release of Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash because she was suffering from breast cancer.

 

Ammash, a biotech researcher, was alleged to have worked to develop biological weapons for Saddam Hussein.


She was one of the two other people featured in pictures published on Saturday by the British tabloid The Sun.

Breast cancer

"I call upon Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to release my client Huda Ammash because she is suffering from breast cancer," Aref said. He represents 10 former government officials who have been imprisoned.

Al-Obeidi was arrested on 7 May 2003, nearly four weeks after the fall of Saddam's government. He was number 51 on the most-wanted list and was the "two of hearts" in the deck of cards.

"I met him once since his release; his morale was high," Aref said. "I speak to him every day by telephone."

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari
permitted al-Obeidi's release

He did not disclose al-Obeidi's location but said they "had permission for him to travel for treatment in Germany."

Ali al-Adeeb, a legislator and member of al-Jaafari's Dawa Party, said al-Obeidi had left for Jordan on his way to Germany.

He did not provide any details on the trip or his departure. Aref would not comment.

Aref said permission for his release was given by al-Jaafari.

Geneva convention

"This release comes in accordance with the Geneva convention," he said.

The US military would not comment on the case and referred it to Iraqi authorities.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri is at large

"Those detainees are under the legal custody of the Iraqi government, we only have physical custody," said Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill a spokesman for detention operations in Iraq.

 

Of America's 55 most-wanted Iraqis, 11 are still at large and the rest have either been arrested or killed.

Only 52 of the names appeared on the deck of cards issued after the ouster of Saddam in April 2003.


The most sought after and highest ranking is number six, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the Revolutionary Command Council vice chairman and long-time Saddam confidant.