Iraqi security forces on Thursday announced their first arrest after Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi ordered an independent fact-finding inquiry into the hundreds of deaths, injuries and abductions among anti-government protesters since last October.
Defence Ministry spokesman Yehia Rasool said the man, identified only as Al Jurithi, confessed to “rioting, burning, attacking security forces, stabbing and killing peaceful protesters”.
“Under the directives of the prime minister an additional investigation was established to expedite the ongoing inquiry and allow the arrest of perpetrators,” he said.
Security forces “managed within 48 hours to arrest the criminal known as Al Jurithi who confessed to co-operating with members of gangs to stab, kill and burn a person with gasoline as well as intimidating peaceful protesters."
Mr Rasool did not say where the man was detained or where the attacks were carried out.
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in Baghdad and southern Iraq last October to protest against corruption, unemployment, poor living standards and foreign interference.
The United Nations said in a report last month that it had verified the deaths of 490 demonstrators and injuries to 7,783 others at protest sites across the country.
Mr Al Kadhimi promised justice and compensation last week as he met families of protesters in Baghdad.
"The demonstrators did not die in vain," Mr Al Kadhimi said while listening to the families' accounts of the suffering they have endured, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.
According to a UN report, abductees said they were forced into vehicles by armed or masked men near the protest sites or while on their daily routes, with none reporting appearing before a judge.
Human rights groups have said there is a high probability that those abducted by armed groups have been subjected to torture and violence.
Addressing the grievances of the widespread protest movement is one in a long list of problems facing Mr Al Kadhimi. Shortly after assuming office in early May, he promised to release protesters detained since demonstrations erupted.
The Supreme Judiciary Council said last month that it released detainees based on Article 38 of the constitution that guarantees the right to protest, "provided that it is not accompanied by an act contrary to the law".
But human rights organisations say not all protesters have been released.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]