Thousands of Shiites rallied in Najaf, Iraq, on Saturday to protest the nearly 12-hour detention by U.S. troops of Amar al-Hakim, 35, the oldest son of Iraq's most influential Shiite politician, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Troops detained Amar al-Hakim on Friday as he crossed back into the country from Iran. The U.S. military called the detention "unfortunate."
Al-Hakim spoke to ABC News today about the incident, which he said calls into question the Iraqi government's sovereignty in its own country.
ABC News: It's been said that the investigation has been closed and the case over without any further measures. What do you say to that?
Amar al-Hakim: Indeed, we are sorry that we were arrested in that manner. I was handcuffed during that arrest, or custody, when I was also blindfolded, and I was humiliated by being shouted at and abused, and in some cases pushed even after they found out clearly about our identity.
They told me my passport was invalid. I showed them the date on it that indicates its validity.
In a case like this, whereby a figure of national influence and wide-range popularity is insulted and kept in humiliating custody together with his bodyguards, who had all the official passes and were following the right legal procedures.
The passport was shown at the border check point and to the Iraqi officials where it was stamped.
I was even received by the border officers. Despite of all that, the abuse happened and I was told that the investigation was over. This is regrettable.
We believe that credibility of the United States is being gravely cracked when figures and bodies who have always stood fast defending the political process -- encouraging tolerance and non-violence, while contributing to consolidating the Iraqi national stance and adopting a position against using arms in facing foreign forces in favor of resorting to peaceful methods -- are so badly treated.
All these measures are taken towards figures who follow such moderate, middle-range attitude. This evokes a lot of concerns among the Iraqis, and confuses the credibility of the United States and exposes it to many dangers in Iraq, as I believe.
ABC News: Being a religious and political symbol, do you think that what happened is an infringement and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty?
Al-Hakim: No doubt about that -- when there is no sanctity to any Iraqi figure, and when a U.S. soldier on the ground is allowed to treat everyone the way they like regardless of controls or limitations. This humiliation lasted 11 hours, and then I was told, "Go; the matter is over."
Certainly this kind of conduct is a violation of the Iraqi border rules. How can we say that we have an Iraqi government? What does it mean that there are Iraqi authorities overseeing the process? What does it mean that there are respectable Iraqi national figures pursuing their work legally?
All these matters are being damaged -- which means that the national sovereignty is at stake.
ABC News: Are you going to support or do you expect demonstrations to take to the streets, like the ones which took place today?
Al-Hakim: No doubt, the people won't be able to suppress their feelings. They are going to express them, rather. Ever since the incident was wired to the media, crowds began to form up in the streets within less than half an hour.
This has not been organized by a certain party, as some are trying to say. People are proud of their national and religious figures. Therefore, they took to the streets and the whole world saw that all the country, from the north to the south, there were overwhelming and angry crowds.
When it's been said that the investigation was over, and there is no guilt attached to anyone, and that what happened was in the context of normal procedures, and that no justification is given, this will give a wrong message that will provoke many Iraqis to come out expressing their resentment and denunciation, which does not serve Iraqi-American relations, in my opinion.