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Ramadi struggles to instill a rule of law

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"A judge is not going to be able to do his job before the police do theirs; if you don't bring me evidence, there's nothing I can do," judge Abdullah Mohammad Abd told the police colonels surrounding him at the meeting this week.

The police complained that when they bring suspects to court, even when they are caught with weapons or have confessed, they are let go.

"If a criminal makes a confession that's not all the evidence," responded Mr. Abd. "Detained people still have rights. If there's a bruise, we can see they've been hit. We all know that sometimes even if they're guilty and they get hit the confession is not going to be admissible and we'll lose."

Mr Abd, who has served as a judge for 10 years, says the suspects have been beaten in custody in a small percentage of the cases he sees.

US and Iraqi officials say they believe bribery is behind the release of some other detainees – including a suspected leader of a Baathist insurgent group the Marines say has been responsible for grenade attacks. He was freed recently for lack of evidence.

No calls for US help

The Marines have been stationed at their base on the outskirts of Ramadi since the June 30 deadline for US combat troops to leave the cities under the US-Iraq national security agreement.

Despite vehicle bombs in July, which prompted Iraqi officials to declare a state of emergency in the city, the Anbar operations command, under control of the Prime Ministry and responsible for coordinating security, has not once called for security assistance from the Marines since the end of June.

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