A U.S. district judge ruled Friday that the U.S. must release photos of American soldiers inflicting abuse on prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The ruling is a victory for The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit against the government in 2004, seeking the release of the photos. The ACLU claimed the pictures revealed significant human rights violations, specifically at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The government has been fighting the release of the pictures, claiming they could pose a threat to American military stationed overseas, as well as the U.S. government and its citizens.
In 2009, Congress passed a law that allowed the Department of Defense to block the release of the images if sufficient evidence proved it would endanger American lives. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled the Defense Department failed to provide specific details of such a threat in this case.
The government has two months to appeal the ruling.
Some of the now-infamous photos include images of soldiers pointing guns at handcuffed prisoners in hoods, posing with a pyramid of naked detainees and holding a prisoner by a dog leash tied to his neck. But the AP reports there may be many more images.
"It's unclear how many more photographs may exist. The government has said it has 29 relevant pictures from at least seven different sites in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it's believed to have perhaps hundreds or thousands more."
In 2005, 11 military personnel were convicted in Army courts-martial for involvement in physical, sexual and psychological torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Two of the soldiers, Charles Graner and Lynndie England, were seen in several of the photos, including the images with the dog leash and naked pyramid. Both served time in prison.
The New York Times reported in April of last year that the Iraqi government had closed the prison in Abu Ghraib and moved its approximately 2,400 prisoners to other locations.