AL-MUTHANNA, Iraq -- A parliamentarian with Iraq's governing coalition has described media reports of secret prisons in Iraq as "exaggerated."
Adnan al-Shahmani, the chairman of parliament's Federal Relations Committee, said on May 3 that Iraq does not allow the existence of secret prisons,
according to Iraqi media reports.
He said Iraq's prisons are under the authority of official bodies such as the Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry, and Counterterrorism Directorate.
"I think the existence of these prisons has been exaggerated in an unhealthy way," Al-Shahmani said.
Following widespread reports in Iraq and internationally about alleged secret prisons, the Defense Ministry allowed journalists on May 2 to visit one prison caught up in the controversy.
Radio Free Iraq visited a jail on the grounds of the Al-Muthanna airport outside Baghdad, speaking to detainees.
"I was detained even though I had committed no crime," one of the detainees said. "The Defense Ministry forces have pinned the charge of mass murder on me, but I didn't kill anyone. Also, when I was arrested the division commander threatened me, saying he would violate the sanctity of my family."
Sadeq Abbas, the commander of the prison, said representatives of international organizations and local human rights groups have visited the prison, showing official documents to prove these visits.
Abbas acknowledged that although the prisoners who journalists spoke with were detained without specific charges, the ministry has "conclusive evidence" of the crimes they committed.