KUFA, Iraq – Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search) denounced the U.S. abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib (search) prison, dismissing an apology by President Bush and demanding Friday that the American soldiers charged with abuse be tried in Iraqi courts.
Meanwhile, one of al-Sadr's senior aides told worshippers in Basra that anyone capturing a female British soldier can keep her as a slave. Waving an assault rifle, Sheik Abdul-Sattar al-Bahadli also said anyone capturing a British soldier will receive about $350 and anyone killing one will receive $150.
He held what he said were documents and photographs of three Iraqi women being raped at British-run prisons in Iraq.
With hundreds of nearby U.S. troops on a mission to capture him, al-Sadr arrived from Najaf at the main mosque in Kufa surrounded by a large number of heavily armed black-garbed gunmen, including at least one carrying an anti-aircraft gun.
"Yes, yes, to freedom! Yes, yes, to independence!," several thousand worshippers chanted as the young renegade cleric delivered a sermon condemning the United States for abusing Iraqi detainees at the Baghdad prison.
"What sort of freedom and democracy can we expect from you when you take such joy in torturing Iraqi prisoners?" said al-Sadr, his shoulders draped with a white coffin shroud symbolizing his readiness for martyrdom.
Al-Sadr demanded that guards who have been charged with abuse be handed over to Iraqis courts for trial and dismissed expressions of outrage and apology from President Bush.
"I tell this to Bush: Your statements are not enough. They (the guards) must be punished in kind," al-Sadr said.
U.S. troops have not moved to capture al-Sadr for the past month as he has attended the Kufa prayers. The military has been treading carefully in its confrontation with al-Sadr and his al-Mahdi Army militia, fearing that too much aggression near some of Shiism's holiest shrines will inflame Iraq's Shiite majority.