Former U.S. Contractor Alleges 9-Month Detention in Iraq

For months, he worked closely with American soldiers, ferreting out threats to the troops and forging a relationship with a key sheikh who went on to lead the Sunni awakening. But when this 52-year-old translator and veteran of the U.S. Army headed for his annual leave as a contractor in Iraq, he claims he was wrongfully imprisoned for nine months by American forces, with no access to a lawyer and no contact with his family for months.

The allegations are laid out in a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, recently filed in federal court in Washington where the former contractor for Titan, and a naturalized U.S. citizen, alleges that his due process rights were violated when he was detained and held in "torturous conditions."

"There was no justice in what happened to me," the translator said in an exclusive hour-long phone interview with "There was no justice involved in it."

The translator's suit is filed under an alias, John Doe, because he fears for his safety and his family. But through his lawyer, Michael Kanovitz, the translator agreed to an interview about the details of his imprisonment.

His case is the fourth known example of a U.S. citizen held in Iraq without a formal trial. Two other former contractors, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, have filed a similar suit in Chicago over their three month long detention at Camp Cropper. Another U.S. citizen, filmmaker Cyrus Kar, also filed suit over his arrest and several-week long detention, but a judge recently dismissed his suit on the grounds that the military officials had immunity.

Spokespeople for the defense and justice departments declined comment, as did a company spokesperson for Titan, now called L-3 Communications.

The translator's story begins in December 2004 when he arrived at the al-Asad airbase about 180 kilometers west of Baghdad. There he met with the site manager for Titan, the American-owned defense contracting firm he worked with, and first learned his job: translating for the Marine Corp Human Exploitation Team near the Western border of Iraq and Syria, according to the complaint.

He was based in Camp Korea Village and worked alongside three other men, two sergeants and a lieutenant. His job was straightforward: to interrogate prisoners, develop sources among Iraqi civilians and "ferret out threats to the unit," according to the complaint.

He stayed with them until July 2005, when he was transferred to al Walid, another military base on the closer border. There he joined another HET with the same mission, according to the complaint.

About that time, a well-known Sheikh, Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha, contacted the translator to request a meeting. He had an idea: he would provide information on the insurgents in exchange for army contracts. Though a Sunni, he had reasons to hate the insurgents: they had killed his father and his brothers. And the sheikh, who traveled in a convoy with body guards, believed he would one day meet the same fate, the translator said. (It was a premonition that proved accurate: in September 2007, the sheikh was killed in a bombing outside his home.)

The Sheikh's New Contracts Generated Animosity

The relationship took off. "If the insurgents were coming, he would give us time they were coming, what they look like and what time," the translator said.

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