Lebanese Says U.S. Troops 'Tortured' Him with Rap
Friday, December 19, 2003; 12:23 PM
By Mariam Karouny
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese Mohammed Jaber said he went to Iraq on a pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites, he ended up being "tortured" with loud rap music by U.S. troops suspicious he might be a foreign fighter against their occupation.
Jaber said an Iraqi taxi driver handed him and three friends over to U.S. troops for $100 each in April apiece as fighters for ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"They asked us why we were there and if we came to fight them. But we said we came only to visit the holy sites in Kerbala," he told Reuters.
"They didn't torture us physically but they did psychologically by raising the volume of rap music all day until it became unbearable and by withholding food," he said.
But Jaber said he kept one secret from his captors, fearing the treatment could get worse.
"I mean I like rap, just imagine them playing jazz."
U.S.-led forces in Iraq freed Jaber and sent him and seven other Arab detainees home on Saturday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said three of them were seriously injured while in U.S. custody. Jaber said they had stepped on land mines while clearing up rubbish in a field for U.S. soldiers.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International has said it has heard complaints of torture and degrading treatment including prolonged sleep deprivation from detainees held by U.S. troops.
Jaber said he and his friends were first held for six days handcuffed and hooded. They were not fed or allowed to sleep.
Later they were sent to a desert detention camp in Umm Qasr near the Kuwaiti border where Jaber stayed until his release.
"Life was really hard inside, especially the weather. In summer it was an oven and in the winter it froze," he said, adding soldiers gave the prisoners heavy coats for the cold.
Jaber said he was held with hundreds of other foreigners including Iranians, Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians and Sudanese all accused of battling U.S. forces.
They lived in large tents each housing 20 detainees and surrounded by watchtowers. He said some prisoners spent their days doing chores for soldiers like filling sand bags, moving boxes of food and cleaning nearby fields of rubbish.
The U.S. military said last month more than 300 suspected non-Iraqi fighters were in its custody in Iraq, mainly Syrians and Iranians. President Bush has blamed violence in post-war Iraq in part on "foreign terrorists." It has asked Syria and Iran to stop infiltrators.
Syria, which neighbors Lebanon, says it is trying to control its long desert border with Iraq, but has called on the United States to do the same from the Iraqi side.
Jaber said he got to know some soldiers by translating for them to prisoners and wounded Iraqis brought in for treatment.
"They didn't treat me like a terrorist. Now that doesn't mean some of them weren't rough with me...There were some really good people and others who were just the opposite," he said.
"I don't hate them at all, but I don't accept their occupation of Iraq."
© 2003 Reuters