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."
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and