Why Is Huda Ammash Behind Bars?

American academic groups push for the release of most prominent woman in Iraqi science.
August 25, 2005

When Huda Ammash turned herself in to the U.S. military in 2003, she had unusual distinctions for a woman in Iraq. She was a prominent scientist and had held senior positions in Saddam Hussein's government.

Pentagon officials said that she had played a role in Iraq's biowarfare research programs and dubbed her "Mrs. Anthrax." Before she turned herself in, she even rated a spot on the Pentagon's famous deck of cards of Iraqi officials the U.S. was trying to track down.

Two years later, Ammash remains in prison in Iraq and has not been charged with any crime. As a former dean of the Women's College at Baghdad University and the only female member of the Iraq Academy of Sciences, Ammash was known to American academic groups. And several of them are now pushing for her release, saying that she and other scientists were detained for doing research on weapons programs that have now been found not to exist.

Ammash has also reportedly had a relapse of breast cancer.

Among the academic groups pushing for Ammash's release are the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association of University Professors. In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Roger W. Bowen, general secretary of the AAUP, said that "credible sources inform us that Dr. Ammash has been wrongly accused of helping develop a chemical weapons program that, as we now know, did not exist. She has written critically of the environmental devastation wrought by sanctions and war, but, as an academic yourself, you know that her writings enjoy the protection offered by academic freedom and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

The London-based Network for Education and Academic Rights is also pushing for Ammash's release. The group reports that there have been numerous incidents in which scientists in Iraq have been killed or detained since the U.S. invasion.

A Pentagon spokesman referred questions on the Ammash case to another spokesman, who referred questions to a third spokesman, who did not respond.


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