June 8, 2006
Courant Staff Writer  

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The city added 77 new
residents on Wednesday. That's the number of
Iraqi prisoners released into Fallujah, set free in a

The Connecticut-based Marines who live in the
center of the city watch the process with a wary
eye. They are pragmatists, and they know they
will be fighting some of these men in the streets
before too long. It was 77 Wednesday, and more
are on the way.

The number of prisoners released around the
country will be 2,000, with a significant segment of
that in Sunni-dominated places like Fallujah. It was
ordered by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,
starting with a release of about 600. He claimed the
released prisoners, from such notorious places as
Abu Ghraib, will not be Baath Party loyalists or
those who have the blood of Iraqis on their hands.

In a building next to Plainville-based Charlie
Company's, the Marines who work directly with
the local police set up a release center. The
detainees wait their turns in holding rooms and one
final line before they become free men again.

"Next!" a Marine calls, and a man comes to the
desk, the last stop before the open door to the city.
The man had been a prisoner for 23 months, and he
says through an interpreter, "I'm very happy,
because I'm going to see my family. My family
now is here to take me with them."

Families wait outside to see if it will be their loved
ones released.

When the men emerge, they are put on a bus and
dropped off a few blocks down the street - an
effort to move the process away from this hub of
the government and military forces in the city.

Capt. Mark Jamouneau, leader of the team that
works with the police, says the Iraqi forces are
upset about the day's releases, so he put the
process in this other building, a few hundred yards
from their headquarters.

The prisoners had been locked up for a number of
things, including fighting U.S. forces.

Some of them have been away for years. "These
guys are pretty serious," Jamouneau says.

Before they are allowed to leave, each man must
sign a parole document, though not all know how
to write. According to the document, they will not
"possess, own, carry" any kind of weapon. They
will not associate with people who have criminal
records. They will follow local laws, and each
promises to act "as a good citizen."

But this is Fallujah, not West Hartford. This is not
yet a place that is ruled by law.

Next door, Maj. Vaughn Ward, Charlie Company's
commander, calls the release "a necessary evil." He
hopes it's a good-faith gesture that helps put Iraq
about it."

"These were - and may continue to be - our