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Prisoner Abuse may have been 'order'

05/01/04 "AFP" 

-- Washington - Abuse of Iraqi prisoners that sparked worldwide condemnation may have been ordered by US military intelligence to extract information from the captives, and was possibly more cruel than officially acknowledged, The New Yorker magazine and Britain's daily Guardian reported on Saturday. 

Seymour Hersh, investigative reporter for The New Yorker, said that Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, one of six US military policemen accused of humiliating Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Gharib prison outside Baghdad, wrote home in January that he had "questioned some of the things" he saw inside the prison, but that "the answer I got was, 'This is how military intelligence wants it done'." 

According to his letter quoted by Hersh, military intelligence officers had congratulated Frederick and other soldiers on the "great job" done with prisoners because "they were now getting positive results and information". 

The Guardian newspaper said it had reviewed a journal Frederick began keeping in January after an investigation was launched into the alleged abuse of prisoners. 

"The journals... detail the conditions of the prisoners, apparent torture and the death of one inmate after interrogation," the newspaper said. 

According to Frederick's journal quoted in the Guardian, "prisoners were forced to live in damp cool cells" and those placed in isolation cells were left there with "little or no clothes, no toilet or running water, no ventilation or window for as much as three days." 

Frederick writes in his journal that he tried to raise the issue with his superior who told him: "Don't worry about it".' 

'Stress out' 

He said that soldiers were told to stress out prisoners as much as possible to get information and on one occasion in November soldiers "stressed out (an inmate) so bad that the man passed away". 

Fredericks writes that the man's body was packed in ice for 24 hours before medics "came in and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his arm and took him away". 

The prison scandal broke out on Wednesday, after CBS's "60 Minutes II" programme broadcast a picture showing a prisoner standing on a box with a hood over his head and wires attached to his hands. 

Other pictures showed nude prisoners lying on each other and simulating sex acts as smiling US troops pointed and laughed. 

Six US military police were charged in March with conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty, maltreatment, assault and indecent acts against up to 20 prisoners at the jail last November and December. They may face a court martial. 

But Gary Myers, a civilian defence attorney who represents Frederick, said his client and the other soldiers were only carrying out orders that came from their superiors. 

"Do you really think a group of kids from rural Virginia decided to do this on their own? Decided that the best way to embarrass Arabs and make them talk was to have them walk around nude?" Myers is quoted as asking. 

Edited by Tisha Steyn

Copyright: AFP

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