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 - US abuse worse than Saddam's, say inmates - Iraq

    US abuse worse than Saddam's, say inmates

    Day and night lost meaning soon after Muwafaq Sami Abbas, a lawyer, arrived at Baghdad airport for an unexpected stay.

    In March he was seized from his bed by US troops in the middle of the night, he said, along with the rest of the men in his house, and taken to a prison on the airport grounds.

    The black sack the troops placed over his head was removed only briefly during the next nine days of interrogation, conducted by US officials in civilian and military clothes, he said. He was forced to do knee bends until he collapsed, he recalled, and black marks still ring his wrists from the pinch of plastic handcuffs. Rest was made impossible by loudspeakers blaring, over and over, the Beastie Boys' rap anthem No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn.

    The forced exercise was even harder for his father, 57, a former army general who held a signed certificate from the US occupation authority vouching for his "high level of co-operation and assistance" in the days after the war.

    Father and son are now free, but Mr Abbas said his three brothers were still inside Abu Ghraib prison.


    "The savagery the Americans have practised against the Iraqis, well, now we have seen it, touched it and felt it," he said. "These types of actions will grow more hostile forces against the coalition, and this is the reason for the resistance."

    The photographs of US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib have reinforced the long-held view that the US occupation is intent on humiliating the Iraqi people.

    Other Iraqis have given similar accounts of what goes on inside the prison that was a centre of torture and execution under Saddam Hussein's rule.

    Dhia al-Shweiri spent several stints in the prison, twice under Saddam and once under the Americans. He preferred Saddam's torture to the humiliation of being stripped naked by his US guards, he said. Now Mr Shweiri, 30, is a diehard fighter in the Mehdi Army, the anti-US militia of a Shiite Muslim imam

    Mr Shweiri said that while jailed by Saddam's regime he was electrocuted, beaten and suspended from the ceiling with his hands tied behind his back.

    "But that's better than the humiliation of being stripped naked," he said. "Shoot me here," he added, pointing between his eyes, "but don't do this to us."

    The US military said last week "no more than 20" US soldiers had been involved in abusing and humiliating inmates. The vast majority of US guards were not involved, Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt said.

    However, on Sunday Abu Salem, who was detained inside Abu Ghraib for six months until February, said abuse by US guards went on all the time.

    Mr Salem said he had been in the jail shortly before a visit from the International Red Cross in January. Until then, detainees had been kept naked. "The night before the Red Cross arrived, the US soldiers gave them [the prisoners] some new clothes. They told us that if we complained to the Red Cross about our treatment we would be kept in prison for ever."

    An article by a writer for New Yorker magazine, Seymour Hersh, at the weekend detailed a report that US Major-General Antonio Taguba wrote in February that accused soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company of "sadistic" treatment of Iraqi prisoners.

    source: The Washington Post, Associated Press, The Guardian, The Baltimore Sun - May 4, 2004

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