Weeks before anyone published the now-infamous photographs of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Shereef Akeel, an Egyptian-American lawyer working outside Detroit, received a strange visitor. The caller, an Iraqi with Swedish citizenship, walked into Akeel's office one day in March to tell a horrible story: He had been tortured by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. \n"Abu what?" Akeel asked. \nThe visitor, whom Akeel will identify only as "Saleh," explained he had been held at Abu Ghraib, Saddam Hussein's most notorious prison, not once, but twice. \nThe first time, he said, was for opposing Saddam's regime. After his release, he fled to Sweden. But in September of last year, he said, he returned to Iraq, answering the US' call for expatriates to come home and rebuild their country. \nHe crossed the border from Jordan in a Mercedes loaded with US$70,000 in cash, he said. He was stopped by Americans who took his car, his cash, and threw him into Abu Ghraib, he said. There he remained for three months, he said, and he never saw his car or his money again. \nHis story is among the worst told by 13 Iraqis who have filed two unusual lawsuits -- longshot attempts to hold American civilian contractors responsible for torture in Iraq, allegations that they strongly deny. \nAccording to Saleh, his second stay at Abu Ghraib was his worst. While being held by American civilians working at the prison, Saleh claimed: \nHis genitals were beaten with a stick and then tied by rope to the genitals of other prisoners. A guard pushed one man down, causing the others to fall like dominoes. \nHe was beaten, shocked with electricity, forced to masturbate before others, dragged by a belt tied around his neck, and pistol-whipped. \nHe heard the screams of an Iraqi woman being raped by a US guard. \nHe saw other male prisoners beaten and watched a guard shoot into a crowd of detainees, killing at least five men, including one he had befriended. \nAfter the Americans released him, Saleh again fled to Sweden. In March, he traveled to Michigan to visit his mother. It was there he heard about Akeel, who had gained prominence after Sept. 11, 2001, for filing anti-discrimination lawsuits on behalf several members of Detroit's large Arab-American community. \nAfter Akeel accepted Saleh's case, word spread. Relatives of other detainees began calling, Akeel said, and he soon had more clients than he could handle. The case was getting too big. \nHe sought help from The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based organization dedicated to racial equality. In June, they filed a lawsuit in San Diego, California, on behalf of eight Iraqis -- including Saleh and a widow who said her husband was killed at Abu Ghraib -- and a potential class of more than 1,000 people. The suits were filed not against the US military but against giant American firms providing interrogators and translators to occupying forces in Iraq. \nOne month later, on the other side of the country, other lawyers filed a similar lawsuit in Washington, DC, on behalf of five people, former prisoners and, again, a woman who said her husband was killed in custody. \nThe 13 Iraqis all claim they were imprisoned and interrogated by Americans, but never charged with any crime. Some were held for days, some for months. The federal lawsuits allege prisoners were killed, raped and tortured at prisons including Abu Ghraib, an adjacent facility at Camp Ganci and Camp Bucca in Southern Iraq. \nThe defendants are Virginia-based CACI International Inc and Titan Corp of San Diego, suppliers of thousands of interrogators and translators to military units in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. \nAlso named as defendants are three civilian employees: interrogator Stephen Stephanowicz of CACI, and translators John Israel and Adel Nakhla of Titan. Israel worked for a Titan subsidiary. All three, the suits claim, committed acts of torture. \nThe private companies deny the allegations, which CACI called in a statement "a malicious and farcical recitation of false statements and intentional distortions."
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are