| (Top) A US soldier tries to restrain a dog from a frightened Iraqi detainee at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad while a hooded prisoner is handcuffed in an awkward position atop two boxes. The detainee’s right ankle is chained to the door behind him. (AFP)
Washington, May 21: Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.
The fresh allegations of prison abuse are contained in statements taken from 13 detainees shortly after a soldier reported the incidents to military investigators in mid-January. The detainees said they were savagely beaten and repeatedly humiliated sexually by American soldiers working on the night shift at Tier 1A in Abu Ghraib during the holy month of Ramazan, according to copies of the statements obtained by The Washington Post.
The statements provide the most detailed picture yet of what took place on the cellblock. Some of the detainees described being abused as punishment or discipline after they were caught fighting or with a prohibited item. Some said they were pressed to denounce Islam or were force-fed pork and liquor.
Many provided graphic details of how they were sexually humiliated and assaulted, threatened with rape, and forced to masturbate.
“They forced us to walk like dogs on our hands and knees,” said Hiadar Sabar Abed Miktub al-Aboodi, detainee number 13077. “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. After that, they took us to our cells, took the mattresses out and dropped water on the floor and they made us sleep on our stomachs on the floor with the bags on our head and they took pictures of everything.”
The prisoners also provided accounts of how some of the now-famous photographs were staged, including the pyramid of hooded, naked prisoners. Eight of the detainees identified by name one particular soldier at the centre of the abuse investigation, Specialist Charles Graner, a member of the 372nd Military Police Company from Cresaptown, Maryland. Five others described abuse at the hands of a soldier who matches Graner’s description.
“They said we will make you wish to die and it will not happen,” said Ameen Saeed Al-Sheik, detainee number 151362. “They stripped me naked. One of them told me he would rape me. He drew a picture of a woman to my back and makes me stand in shameful position holding my buttocks.”
The disclosures come from a new cache of documents, photographs and videos obtained by The Post that are part of evidence assembled by army investigators putting together criminal cases against soldiers at Abu Ghraib. So far, seven MPs have been charged with brutalising detainees at the prison, and one pleaded guilty on Wednesday.
The sworn statements, taken in Baghdad between January 16 and January 21, span 65 pages. Each statement begins with a handwritten account in Arabic that is signed by the detainee, followed by a typewritten translation by US military contractors. The shortest statement is a single paragraph; the longest exceeds two pages.
While military investigators interviewed the detainees separately, many of them recalled the same event or pattern of events and procedures in Tier 1A — a block reserved for prisoners who were thought to possess intelligence that could help thwart the insurgency in Iraq, find Saddam Hussein or locate weapons of mass destruction.
Military intelligence officers took over the cellblock last October and were using military police to help “set the conditions” for interrogations, according to an investigative report complied by Major General Antonio Taguba. Several MPs have since said in statements and through their attorneys that they were roughing up detainees at the direction of US military intelligence officers.
Most of the detainees said in the statements that they were stripped upon their arrival to Tier 1A, forced to wear women’s underwear, and repeatedly humiliated in front of one another and American soldiers. They also described beatings and threats of death and sexual assault if they did not cooperate with US interrogators.
Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, detainee number 151108, told investigators that when he first arrived at Abu Ghraib last year, he was forced to strip, put on a hood and wear rose-coloured panties with flowers on them.
Hilas also said he witnessed an army translator having sex with a boy at the prison. He said the boy was between 15 and 18-years-old. Someone hung sheets to block the view, but Hilas said he heard the boy’s screams and climbed a door to get a better look. Hilas said he watched the assault and told investigators that it was documented by a female soldier taking pictures.
Hilas, like other detainees interviewed by the military, said he could not identify some of the soldiers because they either covered their name patches or did not wear uniforms. But he and other detainees did know the names of three, including Graner and Sergeant Javal Davis, both of whom have been charged and now face court-martial. Some of the detainees described a short female soldier with dark hair and a blonde female soldier who took part in some of the abuses.