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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: CONGRESSIONAL CHALLENGE; ESCAPEE
RESURFACES

Baghdad prison escapee arrives in Jordan

The former Iraqi official and American citizen had been jailed on corruption charges.

December 27, 2006|From the Associated Press

AMMAN, JORDAN — A former Iraqi Cabinet minister who escaped from a Baghdad prison this month has arrived in Jordan on a U.S. plane, Jordan's prime minister said Tuesday.

Ayham Sameraei, a former electricity minister with U.S. and Iraqi citizenship, had been serving time for corruption when he escaped.

Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit told reporters that Sameraei "arrived in Amman as an American and on an American plane."

"Jordan did not receive any demand from the Iraqi authorities" for Sameraei's extradition, Bakhit said.

Lou Fintor, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said the U.S. government was not involved in Sameraei's escape "in any way." He denied in "unequivocal terms" the claim that Sameraei flew out of Iraq on an American plane.

Fintor said the U.S. was supporting the Iraqi government's investigation into Sameraei's escape.

He declined to say whether Sameraei, who has a home in the Chicago area, would be allowed to return to the U.S.

In 2003, Sameraei became a member of the transitional Iraqi government that was set up after U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein.

He was detained in August and convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison.

The charges concerned an estimated $2 billion in missing funds for contracts to rebuild Iraq's electrical infrastructure.

On Dec. 19, Sameraei said a "multinational" group helped him escape from a police station inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

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