First Abu Ghraib Iraqi Prisoner Sues U.S. for Damages

The first lawsuit against the U.S. military for damages for torture at Abu Ghraib prison has been filed by an Iraqi (who is also a Swedish citizen) in Michigan, where he is now staying with his mother and relatives:

An Iraqi-born Swedish citizen claiming to have been tortured at Abu Ghraib prison is seeking more than $100,000 from the American military. A Michigan lawyer filed a claim with the Army last Wednesday on behalf of the man, identified in the filing only as Mr. Saleh. "Hopefully we'll reach an amicable settlement, and if not we'll seek relief in federal court," said the lawyer, Shereef H. Akeel.

Mr. Saleh was interviewed over the weekend but is no longer speaking with the media. This article says he is the naked hooded prisoner in the photo with Lynndie England pointing at his genitals. Here's his story:

Saleh said he remembers the names of his tormentors and plans to file lawsuits against them. The Army has already charged two of them, Cpl. Charles A. Graner and Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick II. Besides Graner and Frederick, Saleh recalls others only by partial names or nicknames: a sergeant named Schneider, another named Pearl, and "Nicolai" - one of the intelligence officers who he says directed the torture in Cellblock I/A, where he spent all but one month of his time in Abu Ghraib. "One of them wore glasses and one urinated on me," Saleh said Saturday at the office of an Iraqi human rights organization.

Saleh said he had been tortured at Abu Ghraib before under Saddam, when he refused to serve in the military, and his treatment by Americans was way worse:

Saleh said the torture at the hands of the Americans began seven days after he arrived at the prison, when Graner put a bag on his head and tied his hands in the back. "He pulled me by the back of the neck and started hitting me with an iron bar," he said. "Then he threw me into a room.

Saleh asked a fellow prisoner, whose hands were also tied behind his back, to lift his hood with his shoulder."I quickly told him to put the hood back on," Saleh said. "I became hysterical. I couldn't believe what I saw. Everyone was naked in the room. I never saw such a thing under Saddam."

After what seemed like an hour, Graner returned and led Saleh out of the room. The American told him to remove his orange prison jumpsuit. "I said 'no.' So he beat me and forced me to take off my clothes," Saleh recalled. "He made me stand on a box and put my hands on my head. Then he gave me a plastic chair and made me hold it up in the air by the legs."

Saleh said he held the chair so long that he became disoriented and fell to the floor. "They were laughing at me," he said. "They threw cold water on me to make me get up." He said he was kept naked for 18 days.

Other measures included making him sit on the floor of his cell - No. 42 - with his arms and legs stretched out through the iron bars while deafening music played on a stereo.

More frightening were the dogs, a brown one and a black one with its tail cut off. Guards held them on leashes as they snarled and charged at the prisoners, though none bit him, he said.

"There was an intelligence officer named Steven who had a goatee and was in charge of the torture. He would tell the torturers, 'this guy had enough or that guy should be tortured more,'" Saleh said.

After the inmates were "softened up" by torture, the interrogations began. "One of the interrogators was a guy by the name of Carlos and there were Mrs. Liz and Staff Sgt. Chris," a woman, he said. They asked him about his ties to al-Qaida or Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian the Americans blame for a series of car-bombings here. Zarqawi also is blamed for the murder of Nicholas Berg, the young American businessman decapitated on a videotape posted on an al-Qaida-linked Web site.

To avoid more torture, Saleh said he told his interrogators that he had ties to al-Qaida. "I just wanted to say that so they would execute me, kill me," he said. Apparently the interrogators realized he was lying about terrorist links, because they eventually released him.

Mr. Saleh described the reason for his arrest:

Saleh blames his arrest on a misunderstanding and bad luck. He said he went to the Iraqi police to report a suspicious vehicle. He was carrying a large amount of cash, which he planned to use to buy furniture for his wedding. After they discovered the cash, he said the police got suspicious of him and turned him over to the Americans.

Just in time to help us analyze the civil suit for damages, Findlaw Columnist Anthony Sebok writes the first of a two part series, "What Tort Claims, If Any, Can Be Brought By the Inmates Who Were Tortured in Iraq?"

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