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New images amplify abuse at Iraq prison

PTI | ByReuters, Washington
May 25, 2004 08:01 PM IST

Hundreds of new images and sworn statements from Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison that depict harrowing sexual humiliation and religious intimidation at the hands of U.S. soldiers were broadcast around the world on Friday. The latest photographs and videos, and 13 previously secret sworn statements by detainees, further undermined American efforts to influence the Arab world.

Hundreds of new images and sworn statements from Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison that depict harrowing sexual humiliation and religious intimidation at the hands of U.S. soldiers were broadcast around the world on Friday.

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The latest photographs and videos, and 13 previously secret sworn statements by detainees, obtained by The Washington Post, further undermined American efforts to influence the Arab world and added a darker dimension to the abuse decried worldwide.

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The statements showed an overt anti-Islamic dimension to the abuses, with prisoners forced to renounce their religion, eat pork and drink liquor in contravention of Islamic religious tenets.

One detainee said he was told during the holy month of Ramadan he would be released if he cooperated and was ordered to curse Islam. "Because they started to hit my broken leg, I curse my religion. They ordered me to thank Jesus I am alive."

The abuses were said to include prisoners being fondled by female soldiers and forced to masturbate in front of them, as well as an Army translator having sex with a screaming boy 15 to 18 years old, an incident detainee Kasim Mehaddi Hilas said was documented in photos taken by a female soldier.

The statements added allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sodomized with a phosphoric light and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.

"They forced us to walk like dogs on our hands and knees," detainee No. 13077, Hiadar Sabar Ahed Miktub al-Aboodi, said. "We had to bark like a dog, and if we didn't do that they started hitting us hard on our face and chest with no mercy." U.S. soldiers were also shown threatening prisoners with dogs, which are considered unclean in Islam.

The new pictures and videos, with U.S. soldiers shown laughing and delighting in the abuses, amplified the picture of sexual humiliation and violence in the prison and go beyond the photos previously shown in the media.

Video clips showed a prisoner being struck across the face and another in handcuffs being dragged across the floor. Another video clip showed five hooded and naked detainees standing against the wall in the darkness, each masturbating, with two other hooded detainees crouched at their feet.

Photos and videos from Abu Ghraib were presented to Army investigators in January. The images began surfacing publicly last month, severely damaging the United States' reputation in the Arab world.

'UGLY BEHAVIOR'

Seven U.S. soldiers, four men and three women, are facing courts-martial for abuses and beatings at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail and one pleaded guilty on Wednesday. Another of them, Spec. Charles Graner, was identified in statements by eight detainees and is facing more charges than the others.

Graner's attorney was not immediately available for comment, but has said previously that Graner was following orders of military intelligence officers.

The Pentagon had shown members of the U.S. Congress more than 1,600 pictures and videos that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had warned might become public.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing on Friday that the Pentagon was looking into whether soldiers could have been given any guidance that would lead to these actions.

"So far we haven't found that guidance that says that's appropriate behavior, just the opposite in fact," he said.

Senate Republican leader Bill Frist of Tennessee praised Rumsfeld's commitment to "complete and timely investigations" of what he referred as "the ugly behavior of a few."

The statements and images were of detainees held in Tier 1A of Abu Ghraib, an area under control of military intelligence that housed Iraqis whom the United States thought had high value intelligence information that could help in the search for deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or lead to caches of weapons of mass destruction. It was also where prisoners involved in violence elsewhere in Abu Ghraib were taken.

The Washington Post said the 65 pages of sworn written statements in Arabic were taken in January and were translated by U.S. contractors. 

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