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[casi] 'It was punishment without trial'

Hundreds of Iraqis civilians are being held in makeshift
jails run by US troops - many without being charged or
even questioned. And in these prisons are children whose
parents have no way of locating them. Jonathan Steele
reveals the grim reality of coalition justice in Baghdad

By Jonathan Steele

It was a warm spring evening in a Baghdad suburb when
American troops stopped the car in which 11-year-old
Sufian Abd al-Ghani was riding close to his home with
his uncle and a neighbour. They were ordered out and
told to lie face down on the road. Sufian's father heard
the commotion and rushed out to find the soldiers
pointing their rifles at his son and the others.
Claiming the uncle had fired at them, they started
beating the three captives with their rifle butts,
according to the father.

A neighbour confirms that a shot had been fired, but it
was part of a row between the Ghanis and another family.
"In Iraq this is normal. Almost every household in
Baghdad owns a weapon. One man was drunk. The Americans
must have heard the shot as they were passing. It was
not directed at them," says the neighbour, who prefers
not to be named.

The American soldiers searched the Ghanis' house, but
found nothing. For three hours Sufian was kept on the
ground with the two adults. Then the Americans put hoods
over their heads, tied their hands with tight plastic
bracelets, and drove them away. "Why are you taking my
son?" a desperate Abdullah Ghani pleaded. "Don't worry.
As he's a child, we'll send him back in a couple of
days," a Sergeant Stark assured him.

The three were driven off to Baghdad airport, where US
forces have set up a makeshift prison in large tents.
Around 500 Iraqis are held in miserable conditions,
sleeping on the ground, with inadequate water rations
and not enough blankets to go round, according to former

Sufian spent eight days in a tent with around 20 adults.
They were given yellow packets of ready-to-eat meals,
the standard US army fare, but no change of clothes.
Then the hood went back on and Sufian was taken to the
Salhiyeh detention centre for women and juveniles - a
holding facility in a police station just outside Saddam
Hussein's Republican Palace, which has become the
headquarters of the coalition authority.

A woman prisoner spotted Sufian and realised he was much
younger than the other inmates. On her release she went
to see the Ghanis, who had been searching frantically
for their son. It was now June 17, almost three weeks
after his arrest on May 28.

You can read the rest here:

Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003,3604,1019096,00.html

~Anai Rhoads

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