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Iraqis Face Imprisonment For Hiring Bodyguards

December 4, 1995

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Wealthy Iraqis hiring private bodyguards could face a minimum of one year in jail, according to a new law passed by parliament.

Only senior officials and close relatives of Saddam Hussein are allowed bodyguards, but a wave of violent crime in recent years has led many wealthy businessmen and families to hire armed men for protection.

``The National Assembly ratified a decree that imposes a sentence of at least one year in prison on (anyone who) imitates state officials by taking an escort,″ said Iraqi television, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp.

It said the law, passed Sunday, stipulated the same punishment for the bodyguards. It said the practice was growing among businessmen, popular entertainers, tribal chieftains and the sons of officials.

Iraqi opposition sources say tribal chieftains have received huge payoffs for pledging allegiance to Saddam and many sons of government and ruling Baath party officials have made a fortune as merchants in sanctions-hit Iraq.

The U.N. embargo imposed after Iraq’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait has caused severe shortages of basic goods and caused a dramatic increase in armed robberies and black marketeering.

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