Wed, Dec 20, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Former Iraqi minister escapes from jail, again

AP , BAGHDAD

A dual US-Iraqi citizen and Iraq's only postwar Cabinet minister to be convicted of corruption has escaped from police custody, an Iraqi official said on Monday.

Former Iraqi electricity minister Ayham al-Samaraie escaped on Sunday with help from members of a non-Iraqi security company he had hired to protect him before his arrest, said Faris Kareem, deputy head of Iraq's Public Integrity Commission. The anti-corruption panel had brought charges against him.

Al-Samaraie was convicted in October of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison.

Arrest warrants have been issued for about 90 former Iraqi officials, including 15 ministers, on charges of corruption, the independent commission said. Al-Samaraie is the only official to have been convicted and imprisoned on such charges.

This was al-Samaraie's second escape. The first was a few days after his conviction, when Iraqi officials caught him at the Baghdad airport with a Chinese passport, Kareem said.

Al-Samaraie's whereabouts on Monday were unknown.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Baghdad said he was aware of reports of al-Samaraie's escape, but declined to comment further. US officials had been in touch with al-Samaraie in prison to provide basic consular services.

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