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Daily News (New York) February 08, 2005

Bone-Crushing Abuse At Bucca, Letters Say

By Brian Kates

NEW ALLEGATIONS OF abuse surfaced yesterday at Camp Bucca, the Army's main lockup for Iraqi prisoners after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.

A group of Muslim clerics told reporters in Baghdad it received letters from detainees charging that American guards broke some prisoners' legs, smashed others' fingers and forced some to sit for hours inside large freezers.

A spokesman for the Muslim Scholar's Association, Sheik Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, declined to show the letters to reporters, saying that doing so might put detainees at risk.

"These allegations are completely unfounded and without merit," said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, an Army spokesman in Baghdad.

On Sunday, the Daily News reported that sergeants at Camp Bucca allegedly lent their rooms to G.I.s for sex parties and arranged a wild mud-wrestling bout with military policewomen.

"There had to have been a progressive breakdown in command and discipline," said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a military think tank. "It makes abuse allegations more plausible to an objective observer and to someone opposed to American presence in Iraq."

The mud-wrestling incident happened last October and involved soldiers of the 160th and 105th Military Police battalions assigned to guard Iraqi detainees transferred from Abu Ghraib.

Last week, in what the military described as the largest prison death toll since the U.S. invaded Iraq, soldiers of the 105th MP Battalion shot and killed four Iraqi prisoners during a riot at Camp Bucca.

Iraqi Human Rights Minister Bakhtyar Amin sent a delegation to Camp Bucca last week to investigate the shooting.

"If we are convinced there was no justification for the degree of forced used, then we want them to be tried," he said of the soldiers involved.

Johnson said that any formal complaints of abuse would be investigated but that none had been filed with military authorities. He said Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights has access to the camp and its detainees and the International Red Cross also makes regular visits.

The current abuse allegations are not the first leveled at Camp Bucca.

Canadian citizen Hossam Shaltout, who lives in Oregon, filed a $350,000 claim alleging he was beaten and tortured at Camp Bucca. It is one of at least 255 claims stemming from abuse allegations at the prison.With News Wire Services


Copyright 2005, Daily News, L.P.