Thursday July 01, 2004
By SETH HETTENA
Associated Press Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) An Iraqi-born Swede's allegations of rape, sexual humiliation and abuse in Abu Ghraib prison were added Thursday to an ongoing lawsuit in San Diego against U.S. defense contractors.
The man, identified only by his last name, Saleh, says during his three months in captivity last fall he saw guards fire into a crowd of inmates, killing five. He says he also witnessed the rape of two young male detainees by one of his captors, said his lawyer, Shereef Akeel.
Eight other Iraqis and the estate of an Iraqi man who allegedly was tortured to death are suing San Diego-based Titan Corp. and CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va. Employees of the two firms worked as government translators and interrogators.
The lawsuit accuses U.S. civilian contractors at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq of conspiring to execute, rape and torture prisoners to boost corporate profits from military payments.
CACI rejected and denied the allegations as ``a preposterous lie.'' Titan called the lawsuit ``frivolous.'' Both companies have promised to fight the charges.
The alleged abuse occurred in the same prison where Saleh, a 42-year-old car dealer, says he was tortured in the 1980s for opposing Saddam Hussein. He fled to Sweden, but returned to Iraq last year following the U.S.-led invasion to invest in a car dealership or mechanic's shop.
Upon arrival in September, he was arrested and spent three months in U.S. custody, according to his lawyers.
In November, Saleh says in the lawsuit that he saw guards shoot randomly into a crowd of Abu Ghraib detainees. Saleh said he saw two men wounded in the shooting die slowly, without receiving medical treatment, according to the lawsuit.
The Army's investigative report into Abu Ghraib by Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba notes that in November three detainees were killed and nine wounded when guards opened fire to quell a riot in the prison. Nine U.S. soldiers were injured.
On another occasion, Saleh claims in the lawsuit, he watched as an unidentified man wearing a T-shirt and military fatigues stripped two young male detainees naked, bound their hands and raped them in front of Saleh and 30 other detainees, Akeel said. Saleh and the others were warned that if they told anyone they would be raped too, the lawsuit said.
The abuses Saleh allegedly suffered in Abu Ghraib included:
A belt tied around his neck and he was dragged 70 feet;
Left naked and hooded for extended periods of time;
Urinated on and sodomized while his hands were tied over his head;
Shot in the chest with plastic bullets as he tried to pray;
Roped by the genitals to 12 other naked prisoners;
His penis was stretched with a rope and beaten with a stick.
Saleh did not want his full name used because of the shame he feels, Akeel said.
At night, Saleh says in the lawsuit that he heard the screams of female prisoners whom he believes were being raped.
The lawsuit calls for payments for the alleged victims, a ban on future government contracts for Titan and CACI and triple damages allowed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the 1970 law that often is used by government prosecutors to go after organized crime.
Wil Williams, a Titan spokesman, accused the lawyers of ``fraud'' for cutting-and-pasting information about a job description and an unrelated contract from Titan's Web site to form one exhibit in the lawsuit. The exhibit was removed Thursday.
Saleh, who has returned to Sweden, also has filed an administrative claim against the U.S. Army, Akeel said.
His allegations were first reported by National Public Radio in May. His lawyers declined to make him available for comment Thursday.
``He's just keeping to himself right now,'' Akeel said. ``He's gone through so much.''
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
SETH HETTENA Associated Press Writer