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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 04:54 GMT 05:54 UK
Iraq abuse allegations multiply
Picture of Iraqi prisoners being abused in Abu Ghraib jail (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
The images from Abu Ghraib have shocked the world (AP Photo/Courtesy of The New Yorker)
More allegations of mistreatment by US and British prison staff in Iraq have emerged in the international media.

The alleged abuses include the stripping and beating of a 12-year-old girl and an imam being forced to wear women's underwear and locked up with female prisoners.

According to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper, a group of Sunni clerics is compiling a list of complaints from inmates at Baghdad's infamous Abu Ghraib jail.

The Council of the Ulema is about to make its findings public, the paper said.

The acts described by the alleged victims seem to have one trait in common - all involve some form of humiliation or degradation, often of a sexual nature.

Taboo

Several former prisoners reported having been forced to strip and wear female underwear in front of fellow prisoners, according to Le Repubblica.

I stood naked while they were making fun of my embarrassment
Former Abu Ghraib inmate
Other alleged abuses include forcing prisoners to simulate homosexual acts - a taboo in the Arab world.

A 30-year-old imam from Baghdad was arrested after urging people to expel occupying forces in his sermon, La Repubblica reported.

He was taken to Abu Ghraib prison where he was questioned by female guards.

"They told me to take off my clothes. I stripped down to my underpants but they shouted I had to take those off, too," the imam is quoted as saying.

"I stood there, naked. I was ashamed, while they were making fun of my embarrassment.

"At that point, one of the wardens took something red out of a bag. It was very small panties. 'You can put that on if you are ashamed' she said."

The imam was then put into a cell with 16 women, some of whom knew him as their spiritual leader, La Repubblica says.

Competition

The inmates at Abu Ghraib reportedly include children.

Suhaib Baz, a journalist for the Arab-language television station al-Jazeera, told Britain's Independent newspaper that he saw a little girl being stripped and beaten at the jail.

"She was naked and screaming and calling out to him as they beat her," Mr Baz says.

He added that a teenage boy was made to carry two jerry cans full of water, and an American soldier would beat him with a stick if he stopped.

The boy eventually collapsed and the guards stripped him and poured cold water over him, Mr Baz says.

"When he recovered, he saw his father dressed in women's underwear and the Americans laughing at him."

Mr Baz also claimed that guards at the prison would take gruesome pictures of the abuses in some sort of bizarre competition.

He said that winning pictures would be used as computer screensavers by the troops.

'Torture room'

A prisoner released from Abu Ghraib earlier this week told La Repubblica that inmates were kept naked all the time and that air conditioning would be switched on in the winter "to freeze us to death".

"Every evening the soldiers would tell me that they were going to pour hot water and sand into my ears, and sometimes they did. It turned out to be a cement-like substance, and the pain was unbearable," he said.

"I screamed, I cried, and they pretended not to hear and kept on pouring water and sand in my ears through a funnel."

In an unrelated interview to al-Jazeera, Hudhayfah al-Shabib, a Jordanian student who spent some time at the prison, described similar practices to which he was exposed during his detention.

"They would interrogate us for 15 minutes and then move us to the torturing room.

"There they would pour cold water on us and put us naked in front of an air conditioner".




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