Wednesday, October 07, 2009

World tour





Today in England, the inquiry into the death of Iraqi Baha Mousa (while in British custody) continued. Baha died September 16, 2003, after being beaten so badly that he had at least 93 injuries. Iraqi witnesses who were prisoners at the same time Baha was (none of the prisoners were ever found guilty of anything) are listed with "D" and a series of numbers. There names are not given to protect them. D004 testified today. D004 testifed that Baha was being abused before they left the hotel that the British army hauled them away from.

D004: As for me, no, but I could see the late Baha. He was being beaten up.

Gerald Elias: That is Baha Mousa?

D004: Yes.

Gerald Elias: What did you see happen to him?

D004: I saw a soldier kicking him on the head.
Gerald Elias: How forceful or otherwise was that kick?
D004: It was enough to make him sound in pain.

Gerald Elias: Upon arriving at the detention center, D004 was hooded (at one point with multiple hoods) and the hooding continued for three days with the hoods removed once for a doctor's visit, once when they were given water and once when they were given food. He described the three days:

D004: The torture was beyond belief. All kinds of beating, swearing. They did it in an artistic -- they were trying to be creative in their beating of us. [. . .] They beat me directly on all my body. There were also kicks and punches and suffocating holds.

Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports on Tuesday's testimony which included an Iraqi prisoner explaining how "he was forced to drink the urine of British soldiers and described how his head was pushed down a toilet." This prisoner was the son of one of the owners of the hotel and is identifed as D005 and his father offered testimony earlier as D006. D005 explained what the British soldiers did to him (from inquiry transcript):

[. . .] he lowered my head to the opening of the toilet and asked me to stay as such, looking into the hole of the toilet. The smell was extremely bad because it had been an abandoned toilet, as far as I know. So I stayed in that position about an hour -- even more than an hour -- and it was such a scene, such an abominable scene and very improper. [. . . ] I felt I was not a human because a human who would be lowered to such a leave -- first of all, I felt inhuman. I felt a lack of respect, because the level of a man -- human being -- who was lowered to such an extent to foul -- to a foul level, this moved me a lot and affected me psychologically. [. . .] The stench was unbearable. When I lifted my head away from the smell, the soldier would hit me on the back with his feet because he was standing behind me. [. . .] This episode ended with beating by the soldiers and shouting, sleeplessness, I mean -- it was a very bad ending. [. . .] I was beaten by the soldiers whilst handcuffed, completely helpless, in pain, screaming, crying.On Monday, Ali Aktash gave testimony to the inquiry via videolink from Iraq and he explained, "I was detailed to go to Battlegroup Main firstly to look after the radio equipment there that I had been trained on and also to man the brigade net, which just involved keeping a log of radio traffic that was sent to Battlegroup Main." While working in the Ops Room, he overheard a conversation.Gerald Elias: All right. Let's see if we can just take a step back then and let me ask you about the conversation or conversations that you may have heard in that ops room which interested you. Who was present when these conversations took place?Ali Aktash: Okay, there was Lieutenant Crawford and Major Peebles was called into the ops room when they detained these men. Also there was a --Gerald Elias: Can I just ask you to pause a moment? Just pause a moment. When you were referring to a major a few minutes ago, was that Major Peebles or is that another major?Ali Aktash: Oh, no, Major Peebles, but there was another major whose office was -- he was the 1QLR major. There was another major, yes, there was. Gerald Elias: So when you were referring a few minutes ago to a major with an adjoining office, that is a different major to Major Peebles? Is that what you are saying?Ali Aktash: Yes, sir, yes.Gerald Elias: All right. So you are going to tell the Inquiry about something that happened when Lieutenant Crawford and Major Peebles were present in the ops room with you?Ali Aktash: That's correct.Gerald Elias: Yes, well tell us what happened please. What was the conversation that you heard?Ali Aktash: At that time my network wasn't busy. It generally wasn't that busy and I happened to overhear on the battlegroup's network that they had detained some people and Major Peebles was called into the room, and at some point the soldier on the ground asked, "Shall we commence the shock of capture?", and Major Peebles then said something along the lines of, "Yes, but don't go as far as before" and that caught my attention.Gerald Elias: Just pause there, if you will. Just pause. Major Peebles said "Don't go as far as before" or something like that. You say that he had been called into the room. Who called him into the room, do you remember?Ali Aktash: I don't remember. I don't remember.Gerald Elias: Did you hear any further conversation across the airwaves on this occasion?Ali Aktash: I don't remember, no. But then I -- because Lieutenant Crawford was no longer manning the -- their network at that time, I turned and asked Lieutenant Crawford what he meant, because once the soldier on the ground has said, "Can we commence the shock of capture?", Lieutenant Crawford then said, "Well, that sounds a bit ominous", which got my attention, and I asked Lieutenant Crawford what he meant by that and then he explained about the shock of capture.Gerald Elias: So what did Lieutenant Crawford say to you about the shock of capture?Ali Aktash: Well it's when they -- there's a procedure to keep the shock of capture going which I believe is used to help with interrogation. Gerald Elias: I'm going to stop you, Mr Aktash, because if you can listen to the question, I would be grateful. What was it, if anything, that Lieutenant Crawford said to you? You asked him what he meant by "That sounds a bit ominous", as I understand it. Correct? Ali Aktash: Yes, that's correct.At which point, they referred to Aktash's statement from May 7, 2004.Gerald Elias: All right. What I want to ask you about is the second paragraph. You see in the second paragraph -- you refer to Major Peebles in the top line: "When [he] had finished on the net I asked him 'How did you mean, what happened before?' or words to this effect . . ." That's what you have just told us about, isn't it?Ali Aktash: Yes, it is.Gerald Elias: Then you said this: "He said, 'They went too far and beat him up, they were in a state', or words to this effect. I did not ask and Major Peebles did not clarify this comment." Is that true? Ali Aktash: I don't recall exact words now --Gerald Elias: All right. Ali Aktash: -- but I can only rely on my statement. Gerald Elias: I understand. What I do want to ask you about is that you are here reciting in those paragraphs what Major Peebles had said to you in the ops room. Do you see how the next paragraph begins: "Later that same day, the exact time I do not recall . . ."Ali Aktash: Yes.Gerald Elias: ". . . though it was still daylight, I completed my shift and together with Sergeant Hitchins I walked with him to the prisoner holding cell. I knew that prisoners were being held in the cells as I saw that there were members of the guard of 1QLR milling around the holding cells . . ." Do you see that?Ali Aktash: Yes, I do. I understand what you're saying.Gerald Elias: Can that be taken off the screen please? What I want to ask you about, Mr Aktash -- if you can't help us further, you say so -- you seemed to be saying in 2004 that the conversation, if I can call it that for the moment, that you had with Major Peebles was on the same day as your visit to the TDF holding cells. Ali Aktash: When I gave my statement, it was in the context that -- the way the evidence came about was quite stressful for me and it -- at that time all I can put it down to is nerves and stress and I made a mistake. I'm quite clear now that it was the following day that I went to the TDF.They then discussed what he saw there. Ali Aktash estimated he saw eight prisoners whom he testified "weren't in good condition."Ali Aktash: Well, they -- firstly they were hooded with sandbags and they were making noises as if they were distressed. Also, I -- at one point one of the guards took off a hood and I noticed that they had bruising on their face. One of the detainees in the room to the left was falling over and having to be put back up again into their seated position.Gerald Elias: Just pausing there, do you recall, were they all hooded with sandbags?Ali Aktash: There was one guy closest to the door, the right-hand room, that didn't have a hood and was allowed to smoke a cigarette, and I asked about him too and one of the guards mentioned that he had already been through questioning. But I can't 100 per cent say if they were all hooded. All I can remember, the majority were hooded. [. . .] They were huffing and puffing a lot and groaning. Gerald Elias: When you saw one with bruising, you say, to the face because his hood was taken off, where was the bruising do you remember?Ali Aktash: It doesn't -- I can't remember specific. I just remember that there was bruising.

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