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Iraqi sues over alleged Abu Ghraib torture

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- An Iraqi man sued two U.S. military contractors Monday, claiming he was repeatedly tortured while being held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison for more than 10 months.

Emad al-Janabi's federal lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles, claims that employees of CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. punched him, slammed him into walls, hung him from a bed frame and kept him naked and handcuffed in his cell beginning in September 2003.

Also named as a defendant is CACI interrogator Steven Stefanowicz, known as "Big Steve." The suit claims he directed some of the torture tactics.

Phone messages left for Arlington, Va.-based CACI and New York City-based L-3 Communications, formerly Titan Corp., were not immediately returned Monday. There was no phone number listed for Stefanowicz at his Los Angeles address.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles because Stefanowicz lives there, seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The firms provided interrogators or interpreters to assist U.S. military guards at Abu Ghraib, which became notorious when photos made public in 2004 showing U.S. soldiers abusing and humiliating detainees. Military investigators later concluded that much of the abuse happened in late 2003 -- when CACI and Titan's interrogators were at the prison.

CACI and L-3 were accused of abusing Abu Ghraib prisoners in earlier lawsuits. In November a federal judge in the District of Columbia dismissed the suit against L-3 but allowed the one against CACI to proceed.

In an interview Monday in Istanbul, Turkey, al-Janabi said he hopes the lawsuit sheds light on what happened to him and other detainees.

"God willing the righteousness will emerge and God willing the criminal will receive his punishment," al-Janabi said.

Al-Janabi, 43, said he was detained by U.S. troops during a late-night raid in which he and his family were beaten by their captors. He said he was taken to a military base where he was stripped naked, a hood was placed on his head and his hands and legs were chained.

U.S. troops "did not tell me what was the reason behind my arrest ... during the interrogation, the American soldier told me I was a terrorist ... and I was preparing for an attack against the U.S. forces," said al-Janabi, who denied the accusation and claims he was forced to give confessions under "savage" intimidation.

The lawsuit also claims the contractors conspired in a cover-up by destroying documents and other information, hid prisoners during periodic checks by the International Red Cross and misled military and government officials about what was happening at Abu Ghraib.

Al-Janabi was released in July 2004 and wasn't charged with any crime, according to the lawsuit. He also was forced to form a human pyramid in the nude with other prisoners, according to the lawsuit, but his Philadelphia-based attorney Susan Burke said it wasn't known if he was in the infamous photo that became public.

"Most of this conduct was repeated on more than one occasion," Burke said.

At one point after passing out, al-Janabi said, he was told by an L-3 translator "welcome to Guantanamo." He said he even asked a cellmate whether he could see the ocean from a window.

"I lost the sense of time after the prolonged hours of abusive interrogation and thought that I was transported to Guantanamo," al-Janabi told the AP.

The Abu Ghraib photos drew international criticism about the way detainees were treated and damaged the U.S. military's image in Arab countries. Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted of crimes at the prison, which was closed and transferred to Iraqi control.


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