26 Nov 2005 (Reuters) - Abuse of human rights in Iraq is as bad now as it was under Saddam Hussein, if not worse, former prime minister Iyad Allawi said in an interview published on Sunday. "People are doing the same as (in) Saddam Hussein's time and worse. It is an appropriate comparison," Allawi told British newspaper The Observer. "People are remembering the days of Saddam," said Allawi, a secular Shi'ite and former Baathist who is standing in elections scheduled for Dec. 15. "These are the precise reasons why we fought Saddam Hussein and now we are seeing the same things. "We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated," said Allawi in an apparent reference to the discovery of a bunker at the Shi'ite-run Interior Ministry where 170 men were held prisoner, beaten, half-starved and in some cases tortured. "A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations." Allawi said the Interior Ministry, which has tried to brush off the scandal over the bunker, was afflicted by a "disease". If it is not cured, he said, it "will become contagious and spread to all ministries and structures of Iraq's government".
"The Ministry of the Interior is at the heart of the matter," Allawi said. "I am not blaming the minister himself, but the rank and file are behind the secret dungeons and some of the executions that are taking place." Allawi was Iraq's first prime minister of the post-Saddam era but failed to win January's election, which brought current Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, an Islamist Shi'ite, to power. An opinion poll in an Iraqi newspaper a week ago suggested over half of Iraqis want Jaafari to stay on in the job after the December vote. Allawi, who enjoys some support among both Shi'ites and Sunnis, came third in the poll behind Mithal al-Alusi, a secular Sunni who heads his own election list.