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With new name and fresh paint, Abu Ghraib reopens

The barber shop awaits customers at the newly opened Baghdad Central Prison in Abu Ghraib on Saturday in Baghdad. The prison became synonymous with abuse under the U.S. occupation.

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The barber shop awaits customers at the newly opened Baghdad Central Prison in Abu Ghraib on Saturday in Baghdad. The prison became synonymous with abuse under the U.S. occupation.

BAGHDAD — A gym, barber shop and planters of plastic flowers: Welcome to the gentler face of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

The lockup at the center of a global scandal in 2004 after photos were released showing U.S. soldiers sexually humiliating inmates has reopened with fresh paint and a new name in a bid to shed its notorious reputation.

Outrage over the pictures fueled support for the insurgency as well as anti-American sentiment among Iraqis.

Mohammed al-Zeidi, the assistant director of the Iraqi Rehabilitation Department, insisted the new prison would be operated in accordance with international standards.

"All kinds of human rights violations took place in this prison. So we felt that it was our duty to rehabilitate the prison," he said Saturday during a press tour of the grounds. "We turned it into something like a resort, not a prison. The first step was to change the name."

Iraqi officials defended their decision to reopen the facility — now called the Baghdad Central Prison — saying they need the space as the U.S. military has begun handing over the thousands of detainees in its custody under a security agreement that took effect on Jan. 1.

The Iraqis promised to treat prisoners in accordance with international standards as they face concerns by the United Nations and human rights groups about overcrowding and violations against inmates already in Iraqi custody.

Judicial authorities showed off the nearly $1 million renovated section Saturday that included a sewing room, exercise equipment, computers, a library, outdoor recreational areas and a barber shop. Plastic flowers lined the halls. Iraqi officials said they expect the rest of the prison renovations to be done by the end of the year.

Greenhouses stood in the field outside where once tents were erected to house the overflow from prisoners when Abu Ghraib was controlled by the U.S. military. No U.S. soldiers were on the premises Saturday.

Testing the exit

The American military is shipping battlefield equipment through Jordan and Kuwait, testing possible exit routes in advance of a U.S. withdrawal in Iraq, military officials said. The convoys — carrying armored vehicles, weapons and other items — mark the Pentagon's first steps in confronting the complex logistics of transporting the huge arsenal stockpiled in Iraq over nearly six years. It's also part of a wider assessment, ordered by U.S. Central Command, to decide what items the military can transfer, donate, sell or toss away once a full-scale withdrawal is under way, Marine Corps and Army officials said.

Still no speaker

The struggle to select a parliament speaker hit another snag Saturday after a Sunni party demanded a court ruling on the voting rules. The parliament has been in gridlock since the resignation of the Sunni speaker in December after complaints about his abrasive language and erratic behavior. Lawmakers have been unable to agree on a candidate. The impasse has frozen debate on important measures such as Iraq's budget and rules on foreign oil investment and revenue sharing among Iraq's various groups.

Deaths

As of Saturday, 4,247 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military and not previously published:

Army Staff Sgt. Sean D. Diamond, 41, Dublin, Calif.; explosion Feb. 15; As Salam.

Army Cpl. Stephen S. Thompson, 23, Tulsa, Okla.; gunshot wound Feb. 14; Baghdad.

Army Pfc. Cwislyn K. Walter, 19, Honolulu; Thursday of injuries from noncombat incident; Kuwait City.

Times wires

With new name and fresh paint, Abu Ghraib reopens 02/21/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:48pm]

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