Iraq's Interior Ministry said Tuesday that it has charged 57 employees, including a police general, in the alleged torture of hundreds of detainees at a prison in eastern Baghdad.

Police Brig. Abdel-Karim Khalaf said the charges marked the first time officers in Iraq's post-occupation police force had been charged with torture.

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Those charged included 19 officers, 20 noncommissioned officers and 17 patrolmen or civilian employees, he said. All have been removed from their jobs, Khalaf said.

The names of the accused were being withheld.

"These people will stand trial and the court will decide their fate," Khalaf said.

Khalaf said the general received administrative punishment.

Torture is considered widespread among the poorly trained police force, which has suffered heavy losses at the hands of Sunni insurgents, Shiite militiamen and criminal gangs.

Khalaf said the torture had been recorded at a prison in eastern Baghdad called simply Site No. 4. He declined to give details about specific abuses.

"The crime is the same regardless of the kind or form of the torture," Khalaf said.

Previously, discipline over such allegations mainly was limited to dismissal and transfers, despite evidence that many policemen on the Shiite-dominated force were abetting the work of sectarian death squads blamed for killing scores of Sunnis in revenge attacks after the bombing of a major Shiite shrine in February.