updated 3/28/2006 9:39:18 PM ET 2006-03-29T02:39:18

The federal government has agreed to release disputed pictures showing American soldiers tormenting Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.

Erica Pelletreau, a spokeswoman for the ACLU, said the pictures would be released within a week if a federal judge approves the deal.

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein had ordered the release of the pictures from the infamous Baghdad prison over complaints by government lawyers, who complained that doing so would incite violence against U.S. troops in Iraq and provoke terrorists.

The Department of Defense had appealed that order but planned to drop the appeal, the ACLU said.

Heather Tasker, a spokeswoman for government lawyers handling the case, had no immediate comment.

The ACLU said the government action seemed prompted by the recent publication of most of the disputed photographs on the Salon.com newsmagazine.

Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, said the civil rights group "will press on with its lawsuit to hold high-level officials accountable for creating policies that resulted in the abuse of detainees."

The judge ordered the pictures released earlier this year, saying terrorists "do not need pretexts for their barbarism" and that suppressing the pictures would amount to submitting to blackmail.

"Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command," he said. "Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed."

The 74 photographs were taken by a soldier. Three videotapes also were ordered released. A military policeman who saw the photos turned them over to the Army. Some may be duplicates of photos already seen by the public.

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