143 Iranian Pilgrims Imprisoned in Iraq

A0232924.jpgTEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- An Iranian Foreign Ministry official said 143 Iranian citizens who have entered Iraq on a pilgrimage have been incarcerated by the Iraqi government.

Noting Iranians’ special heartfelt belief in the Shiites’ Imams, he advised people to regard Iraq’s immigration and travel regulations, warning that the laws of that country stipulate 6 to 10 months of imprisonment for all the people who enter Iraq illegally.

Foreign Ministry’s expert for the affairs of the Iranian prisoners in Iraq, Mohammad Baqer Zangeneh, criticized the current conditions in Iraq’s prisons, and said that the Iraqi jail conditions have undergone no changes compared to that under the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hosein.

“The conditions are so dreadful and worrying in Iraq’s jails, where heart, skin and digestive diseases are routine,” he continued.

The official reminded that Iran has protested to the Iraqi government about the conditions under which Iranian citizens are detained in that country’s jails and prisons.

Meantime, he said that illegal entries are not the only reason for the arrest of the Iranian nationals, adding that there have been cases where legal pilgrims too have been arrested for minor charges.

Zangeneh also stated that Iranian pilgrims who travel to Iraq illegally choose to face three fatal dangers, such as being kidnapped by terrorist groups, being arrested and imprisoned by the Iraqi police, and yet the worst is being kidnapped and killed by the radical Iraqi Sunni groups.

He said there are no indications and no figures and statistics about the last group of Iranians in Iraq.

The Foreign Ministry official also pointed out that since the date the Iraqi borders were opened to the Iranian pilgrims some 1500 Iranian nationals have been detained and imprisoned in that country, of whom 143 are still behind bars there.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Mohammad Ali Hoseini Tuesday advised Iranian citizens to seriously refrain from paying illegal visits to Iraq.

“Considering the eccentric conditions ruling Iraq and the security problems existing in that country, all Iranian nationals are advised to avoid taking illegal trips to Iraq and pay attention to the communiqués the Iranian authorities issue about departures to that country,” Hoseini stressed according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Bureau.

Stating that illegal pilgrims to Iraq are exposed to many dangerous threats and risks, the Spokesman added, “According to the laws of Iraq, illegal entries to that country are subject to arrest, trial and maximum imprisonment terms of even 6 years.”

He further pointed out that illegal trips by pilgrims cause several problems in addition to posing dangers to the individuals, including the negative impacts that such a measure may leave on the bilateral ties between the two countries.

The Foreign Ministry Spokesman, citing the latest coordination made between Iranian and Iraqi officials, demanded Iranian citizens to travel to Iraq merely within the tours which operate under the Iranian Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization .

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