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Notorious Iraqi Prison Hoping for Fresh Start


Iraqi officials have reopened Abu Ghraib, one of Iraq's most notorious prisons, after renovating the facility just west of Baghdad and promising more humane treatment of prisoners.

These are the sounds of Abu Ghraib as Iraqi officials opened the gates of the Iraqi prison, notorious for detainee abuse by U.S. forces in 2004.

Closed since 2006, it has been renamed as the Baghdad Central Prison, and officials like Iraq Reform office Director Abdul Mutalib Jassim say they have erased the stain of abuse from its walls. He says there was a bad image of this place in the minds of the people, but that now it is a place for discipline and justice as well as rehabilitation.

Already home to about 400 inmates, officials say it will eventually house up to about 15,000.

They point out the renovated prison has a garden and fountain, as well as exercise facilities and a computer chatroom.

Abu Ghraib first gained notoriety during the regime of Saddam Hussein, when it was used as a site for torture and mass executions. Then, in 2004, the world learned of abuses committed there by U.S. prison guards.

Former U.S. President George Bush called it one of his low-points. "There have been some disappointments. Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment during the presidency," he said.

A U.S. Army investigation detailed abuses that led to one death and included alleged rape, sodomy, beatings and what was described as a sadistic "game" in which dog handlers terrorized prisoners.

The Iraqi government has said part of the prison complex will be a museum, documenting crimes committed by the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

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