Reporting from Baghdad — Families of four young pro-democracy protesters jailed in Baghdad said Thursday that their loved ones continued to be denied access to lawyers or relatives despite repeated requests.
The four men, who had played a major role in recent weekly demonstrations for better governance, were detained last Friday as they gathered for their regular protest in central Baghdad's Tahrir Square. Three of the men were shoved at gunpoint into the back of an ambulance, a witness said. Authorities did not acknowledge the detentions for several days.
The day after the arrests, the army raided a meeting of activists who were discussing how to secure the men's release. Nine more people were detained and have since been held incommunicado.
The arrests stand in sharp contrast to Iraq's claims of being the first real democracy in the Arab world. Two weeks ago, President Obama pointed to Iraq as a model for Middle Eastern countries aspiring to democracy, but activists who have been holding demonstrations since February have faced arrests and harassment.