Five detained U.S. contractors will be freed after a week in Iraqi custody due to insufficient evidence against them, the Iraqi government said Wednesday.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces detained the contractors June 3 in connection with an investigation into the stabbing death of another American contractor, Jim Kitterman. But there have been conflicting accounts about the specific allegations against them.
The case has been seen as the first test of a provision in a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that lifted the immunity U.S. contractors had enjoyed for most of the 6-year-old war.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said an investigative judge ordered the release of the five men detained by Iraqi security forces last week.
He told The Associated Press on Wednesday evening that they would be released in a matter of hours.
The wife of one of the contractors, Donald Feeney Jr., said she spoke with her husband earlier Wednesday and he said he was being released.
'Waiting for confirmation'
Judy Feeney, of Fayetteville, N.C., said she has spoken with her husband, Donald Feeney Jr., who told her he was being released and should be free within an hour.
"We're waiting for confirmation that he's actually released," she told the AP in a telephone interview.
Feeney said the last few days have been hectic, but the contractors' families were confident of a positive outcome.
We have been "keeping the information back and forth between the families and keeping everyone uplifted and confident," she said.
The Iraqi government has said those detained were four Americans and an Iraqi, but the U.S. Embassy maintains that all five are Americans.
Kitterman, a 60-year-old construction company owner from Houston, was found dead in his car on May 22 in Baghdad's protected Green Zone. He had been blindfolded, bound and stabbed.