The prime minister's spokesman, Ali al-Moussawi, dismissed that charge as meaningless. He said the issue of the finance ministry guards' arrest had been blown out of proportion, adding that the government is committed to ensuring that proper legal procedures are followed.
Iraq's Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, meanwhile, threatened that the Iraqiya bloc could withdraw from the political process altogether if lawmakers and independent bodies are not allowed to monitor the investigation involving al-Issawi's staff.
In Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Ramadi and Fallujah to protest the arrests, according to police officials and a local resident. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media about the protests. The witness spoke without giving his name out of concern for his safety.
Some of the protesters fired gunshots into the air. Others carried banners reading "Al-Maliki and terrorism are two faces for the same coin" and "Do not provoke us because we can resist," the police officials and the witness said.
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed reporting.
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