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Iraqi authorities have released a top official in Saddam Hussein's former regime because he is apparently terminally ill, Iraq's Justice Minister said.
Ghazi Hammud al-Obeidi, ex-regional chairman in the southern Iraqi city of Kut for the then-ruling Baath Party, was the first to be released among detained former regime members who were on the list of 55 most wanted Iraqis.
"Ghazi al-Obeidi is suffering from cancer and according to my information he has been released for health reasons," Justice Minister Abdel Hussein Shandal told The Associated Press. "Only for health reasons."
Mr Shandal did not elaborate but al-Obeidi's lawyer, Badee Izzat Aref, said he was released on April 28 because he was suffering from what appeared to be terminal stomach cancer.
Mr Aref said that he met al-Obeidi recently and described his condition as "very bad" and added that he was in a wheel chair.
Al-Obeidi was captured on May 7, 2003, nearly four weeks after the fall of Saddam's regime. He was No.32 on the most-wanted list.