Former Iraqi Prisoners Recount Abuse

ByBill Redeker

B A G H D A D, Iraq, May 3, 2004 -- As the scandal surrounding alleged U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners grows, former detainees are coming forward with stories of being beaten, forced to pose naked and otherwise humiliated by captors who became "more and more like Saddam."

The U.S. military said today it has reprimanded seven officers for the alleged abuse of inmates at Baghdad's AbuGhraib prison, officials said.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who oversaw the prison, told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America she did not know about the "despicable acts" while they were happening. She also said more Americans at the prison may have been involved.

Most of the prisoners detained at Abu Ghraib who are picked up in random military sweeps turn out to be innocent. They are released within three months and given $10 as spending money.

But some of those who were charged with insurgency and held longer told ABCNEWS they were subjected to lengthy interrogations, torture, and humiliation.

"They made us crawl around the floor naked and rode us like donkeys," Hashem Muhsen, speaking through a translator, told ABCNEWS in his native Arabic. Muhsen was arrested last August for carrying a gun in the opposition stronghold of Sadr City.

He produced a release document to help prove he had indeed been a prisoner at Abu Ghraib.

Muhsen said he was one of the prisoners forced to pose naked in a human pyramid, as photographed by American soldiers.

"They wanted to humiliate us. It was disgusting," he said. "Women soldiers took pictures of naked men and didn't care."

A Wave of Anger

Pictures of Iraqi soldiers, naked except for hoods over their heads, being tormented by Americans were first broadcast in the United States last week. An internal U.S. Army report found that Iraqi prisoners were subjected to "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses," according to The New Yorker magazine.

Now the story of alleged abuse at the hands of the Americans is everywhere, especially on television. It has unleashed a tidal wave of resentment and anger.

Abu Ghraib prison, located about 20 miles west of Baghdad, is where former members of Saddam Hussein's regime oversaw the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners. It was seized and later renovated by coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The American-run prison is now considered by many to be as notorious as it was when it was known as "Saddam's Torture Central."

"They have treated us worse than the pictures shown on TV," said former prisoner Ala al-Duleimi. "They beat us, humiliated us. I can't repeat what they did to us."

The accounts of humiliation and degradation are turning more Iraqis against the United States.

"When the U.S. liberated us, we were happy and welcomed them," said Muhsen. "Now they are getting more and more like Saddam."

The U.S. military's own investigation reveals more than 60 percent of civilians detained at Abu Ghraib were found to pose no threat to Iraqi security.

Hashem Muhsen was one of those prisoners. He became a police officer after his release in January.

On Tuesday, another group of prisoners will be released from Abu Ghraib. No one doubts lots of people will want to hear their stories.

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