The Assassinated Press
Reuters Reveals Details Of Journalists Abused In Iraq:
Americans Empty Abu Graib Prison. Apparently Those Held Only Crime Was Nice Glut's:
American Troops Described As A Bunch Of Contemptuous Assholes
By HATRICK GAROTTE
Monday May 24, 2004 "The Guardian" -- Reuters has released details of the full extent of the brutal treatment it claims was meted out to three of its journalists by US soldiers in Iraq.
The respected news agency made available a transcript of interviews it had conducted with three of its employees who accused US forces of subjecting them to prolonged beatings and degrading sexual abuse, after the Pentagon rejected claims it had failed to conduct an adequate investigation in the incident and declared the case "closed".
The account of what happened to the Reuters journalist and a fellow NBC cameraman at the military camp near Fallujah makes for shocking reading and paints a picture of widespread and systematic abuse of prisoners taken by US forces in Iraq.
One of the journalists involved told how he was repeatedly beaten during interrogations and forced to spend hours kneeling with his feet raised off the ground. "If my hands or feet went down they would hit me, he said. "The interrogation lasted three or four hours.
"They put tissue paper in my mouth. I could hardly breathe. They said that we had fired at the helicopter. I said: 'I swear to God it wasn't me.' They said 'If you swear to God again, we'll break you into a thousand pieces.'
"When I was knocked over they helped me up again. But if I fell down again they would come and hit me more. There was a shoe on the ground and they told me to chew and lick it. They made me suck my middle finger. They told me to stick my finger in my anus and then lick it," he said.
The three men, cameraman Salem Ureibi, who has worked for Reuters since 1991, Ahmad Mohammad Hussein al-Badrani, a TV reporter employed on a freelance basis since July 2003 and Sattar Jabar al-Badrani, a driver, were held on January 2 after attempting to report on the aftermath of the crash of a US helicopter near Fallujah.
They were interviewed by the Reuters' Baghdad bureau chief, Andrew Marshall, shortly after their release.
Mr Marshall said the three were accused of operating as enemy resistance fighters, despite identifying themselves as members of the press and the presence of camera equipment and press badges in the car they were using. He concluded that the worst treatment inflicted on the prisoners came after he had contacted the 82nd Airborne Division, the unit involved, to inform them of the identity of the men.
In his interview with Mr Marshall, Mr al-Badrani said the abuse started even before they reached the military camp, when they were transferred to an armoured vehicle.
"They lifted the seats inside the APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier), put us under the seats, then pushed the seats on our backs. That was the most difficult part, because of the pressure on our bodies. The soldier sitting on the seats had his legs placed around my neck, pressing down. If I moved my neck left or right, he would hit me or press harder with his foot on my head.
Mr al-Badrani said they arrived in the camp where 40 or 50 other prisoners were being held late in the evening.
"They gave us one blanket between two people, a small blanket. We didn't know whether to put it on the floor, because the floor was cold, or put it on our bodies.
"We were seated and whenever we turned to our colleagues or tried to speak to them we were punished. They were saying 'No sleep, no sleep'."
Asked how they were punished, Mr al-Badrani said: "They would make people lift their hands in the air, make them go up and down from their knees, put them against the wall with their hands out and leave them there for hours.
"They were checking people's eyes with torches and if they found anyone sleeping they would take them away and punish them. But then at around two o'clock they allowed us to sleep. But it wasn't real sleep because the floor was too cold. In the morning they gave us some food that was inedible. The smell of it made me feel sick."
"In the morning they took us to the toilet with a bag on our heads. Soldiers were hitting us [with their hands] on the way to and back from the toilets.
"Even if my clothes touched the barbed wire fence, I would be hit. Around 11 they took me for interrogation. It was in a metal container, a caravan, with chairs. [Ahmad demonstrates how he was forced to kneel, with his feet in the air and his arms raised in the air]. If my hands or feet went down they would hit me. The interrogation lasted three or four hours. They put tissue paper in my mouth. I could hardly breathe. They said that we had fired at the helicopter. I said: 'I swear to God it wasn't me.' They said 'If you swear to God again, we'll break you into a thousand pieces.'"
Mr al-Badrani said the three interrogators in the room ignored his explanation that he was a Reuters journalist and was knocked to the floor repeatedly during the questioning.
"When I was knocked over they helped me up again. But if I fell down again they would come and hit me more. There was a shoe on the ground and they told me to chew and lick it. They made me suck my middle finger. They told me to stick my finger in my anus and then lick it," he told Marshall.
Once his interrogation was over Mr al-Badrani said he was placed in a room with his two Reuters colleagues and NBC cameraman Ali Muhammed Hussein Ali al-Badrani. "they took us to a room that was three metres by three, and started abusing us," he said.
"To sit on the ground was forbidden. They made me suck my thumb. They made me lie on the ground and shake my backside in the air. They were taking photographs. They were cursing us throughout the night: 'You fuckers'. The interrogator would say something on the radio so all his colleagues could hear and they would all laugh loudly. They had music played very loud on huge speakers and they made us dance. It was played straight into our ears. There was abuse throughout the night.
"We were beaten on the ground. They placed tape on our mouths, and bags on our heads. They made us stand one behind the other with our hands on each other's shoulders and made us walk around. It lasted until dawn the next morning. They kept bags on our heads and made us walk around the room for about two hours. I fell on the ground. Then they would come and kick me.
"They would bring a big bottle of water and make me drink it as punishment. Through the night, several times they made me drink a full bottle of water. I may have drunk four or five bottles. At one point from the way we were beaten and my tiredness, I was almost unconscious.
"We had a badge put on our chest with the letter "C" on it. Every time a soldier saw it they would hit me. Then they brought in the second meal. We couldn't eat it. They came back, handcuffed us, put a bag on our heads and took us off. They took us outside in turn, threw us on the ground. They didn't care how we landed on the ground. They put us in a jeep and took us away. They were saying 'Cuba, Cuba' all the time, and laughing."
After further bouts of questioning the four men received some medical treatment and food before being released.
Reuters made the case public last week after the US military investigators said they had found no evidence to suggest the men had been abused and in the light of the photographs of abuse meted out to prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.
A spokesman for Reuters said the company would continue to press for the case to be reopened given the weight of evidence suggesting serious abuse and contradictions in the US investigation's report.
"We certainly are not satisfied with this at all. To us its is unconscionable that they would not reopen the case.
In particular he pointed to the fact that the first version of the US military investigation report into the incident had admitted that "sleep deprivation" techniques had been used on the three Reuters and NBC employee, despite statements from coalition leaders that such methods were banned.
A second version of the report sent to Reuters had changed the terminology to "sleep management".
"The facts speak for themselves," said the Reuters spokesman. 'It just doesn't wash."
The Pentagon, with its 12,000,000 people, couldn't find anyone available for comment.