Mohammed Yassin Freiwan, 25, said he and three other drivers had worked for an Iraqi car dealer for two years and never had problems until they were arrested on 25 April when they were looking for a hotel.

"For 17 days, we were questioned continuously by the Iraqi police whether we had anything to do with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the insurgency," Freiwan said in Baghdad.

An Iraqi official and Jordanian lawmaker Nariman al-Rossan confirmed the detention of the four drivers, who are all from the northern city of Irbid, 90 kilometers north of Amman.

Ransom demand

Freiwan said Iraqi police did not treat them poorly. He said they justified the detention by saying that many Jordanians who enter Iraq join the fighters and plan bomb attacks.

Freiwan, Mahmud Bassam Freiwan, Mustafa Jaradat and Muhammad Jede'i, all in their 20s, are expected to return to Jordan on Saturday or Sunday.

Al-Rossan, the lawmaker, said on Thursday that the guards in the Iraqi police station had asked for a ransom to release the four men.

"I urged the families not to pay any money and leave the matter for the Iraqi authorities to deal with," she said. Freiwan confirmed that police had asked US$2,000 but that they were released without paying.

The detention of the men follows a similar case earlier this year. In February, American forces in Iraq released five Jordanian truck drivers who were arrested in December on suspicion of involvement in an attack in Baghdad.

Since the US-led war on Iraq, several Jordanian truck drivers have been looted or held hostage by highway bandits in Iraq, including at least three killed in January.