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."
Japan’s Mount Aso erupted yesterday, spewing a giant column of ash thousands of meters into the sky as hikers rushed away from the popular tourist spot. No injuries were immediately reported after the late-morning eruption in southwest Japan, which sent rocks flying in a dramatic blast captured by nearby CCTV cameras. People were warned not to approach the volcano as it ejected hot gas and ash as high as 3,500m, and sent stones tumbling down its grassy slopes. Authorities were checking if any hikers had been trapped or injured, officials told local media, as TV footage showed dozens of vehicles and tour buses
PROMPTING MOCKERY : A cryptic announcement of the pianist’s detention by Beijing police was followed by CCTV commenting on the ‘social morality’ of celebrities Concert pianist Li Yundi (李雲迪), one of China’s most famous musicians, has been detained in Beijing over prostitution allegations, state media said on Thursday, prompting some incredulity and a lot of mockery on Chinese social media. Reuters was unable to immediately reach Li or a representative for comment. Police in the Chinese capital’s Chaoyang District said they had detained a 39-year-old man surnamed Li, along with a 29-year-old female surnamed Chen, after receiving reports from the public of prostitution in a neighborhood they did not identify. Both people confessed to the illegal activity, the police said in a statement on a microblogging platform. The
Sri Lanka has barred a Chinese ship carrying desperately needed organic fertilizer that experts have found to be tainted with harmful bacteria, officials said yesterday. The ban comes as Sri Lanka battles food shortages caused by a currency crisis. Farmers have said that a ban on chemical fertilizer could ruin their crops this year. The office of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the Sri Lankan National Plant Quarantine Services had tested a sample from the unnamed Chinese vessel and “confirmed the presence of organisms, including certain types of harmful bacteria.” The Sri Lankan Commercial High Court has banned any payment to
DEMAND-DRIVEN: The report, produced by Greenpeace and TheTreeMap, said law enforcement has allowed palm oil plantations on UNESCO sites, parks and tiger habitats Almost one-fifth of the land used for Indonesian palm oil plantations is located in the country’s forest conservation areas, despite a law banning such activity, a study by Greenpeace has found. The report, produced by Greenpeace and TheTreeMap, describes a catastrophic failure of law enforcement that has permitted swathes of land — including UNESCO sites, national parks and areas mapped as habitats for orangutans and Sumatran tigers — to be cultivated as palm oil plantations. Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, which is used in many everyday products and foods, from shampoo and lipstick to chocolate and frozen pizzas. However,