American Recounts Iraq Prison Ordeal

The maltreatment episode might not sounds new in light of the several US abuse scandals in Iraq .

American Recounts Iraq Prison Ordeal
He was detained incommunicado for 97 days at one of the notorious US prisons in Iraq, deprived of sleep with fluorescent lights in his cell never turned off, handcuffed and shackled and deafened by heavy metal music.

The maltreatment episode might not sounds new in light of the several US abuse scandals in Iraq and elsewhere had it not been for the fact that the detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran and an FBI informer.

"Even Saddam Hussein had more legal counsel than I ever had," Vance told The New York Times on Monday, December 18.

He recalled with bitterness his ordeal as detainee no. 200343 at Camp Cropper, the US military's maximum-security detention site in Baghdad where the ousted Iraqi leader as held.

Vance was working for an Iraqi security firm protecting US reconstruction organizations.

He was also an FBI informer, passing information about suspicious activities including possible weapons trafficking.

US troops raided the firm at tips-off give by Vance himself to the FBI in Chicago about two massive weapon caches.

They rounded up employees including Vance and his American colleague Nathan Ertel.

Days later, they were accused of smuggling weapons to terrorists and Vance's pleas that he was an FBI informer fell on deaf ears.

Maltreatment

At his cell, Vance was maltreated by US jailers and denied his constitutional right to have an attorney.

"While we were detained, we wrote a letter to the camp commandant stating that the same democratic ideals we are trying to instill in the fledgling democratic country of Iraq, from simple due process to the Magna Carta, we are absolutely, positively refusing to follow ourselves."

Vance said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell.

Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold.

He took notes on his prison conditions and smuggled them out in a Bible.

"I paced myself to sleep, walking until I couldn't anymore. I broke the straps on two pair of flip-flops," he wrote.

"Sick, very. Vomited."

Vance and Ertel slept in a 9-by-9-foot cell on concrete slabs, with worn three-inch foam mats.

The New York Times said that five times in the first week, guards shackled their hands and feet, covered their eyes and placed towels over their heads.

The two were further grilled by FBI and CIA officials.

"It's like boom, boom, boom," Ertel said. "They are drilling you. 'We know you did this, you are part of this gun smuggling thing.' And I'm saying you have it absolutely way off."

Freedom

 

At the prison, Vance took notes on his imprisonment and smuggled them out in a Bible. (NY Times)

Vance had tried to no avail to prove his innocence and was losing hope he might be released one day.

He implored, but in vain, the investigators to check his laptop computer and cell phone for his communications with the FBI agent in Chicago.

Of dozens of letters he wrote to US officials and others, only one was sent to his fiancée in Chicago and delivered late last month by the Red Cross.

"Diana, start talking, sending e-mail and letters and faxes to the alderman, mayor, governor, congressman, senators, Red Cross, Amnesty International, A.C.L.U., Vatican, and other Christian-based organizations. Everyone!," he wrote desperately.

"I am missing you so much, and am so depressed it's a daily struggle here. My life is in your hands. Please don't get discouraged. Don't take 'No' for answers. Keep working. I have to tell myself these things every day, but I can't do anything from a cell."

Ertel was released after being deemed an "innocent civilian" by a new group of investigators. It took authorities 18 more days to release him.

But Vance was still being held and considered a "security detainee."

The military has never explained why it continued to consider Vance a security threat, except to say that officials decided to release him after further review of his case.

Lawsuit

Vance plans to sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the violation of his constitutional rights.

"Treating an American citizen in this fashion would have been unimaginable before 9/11," said his lawyer Mike Kanovitz.

In the wake of the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, American media said interrogation tactics amounting to torture were okayed by senior Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld himself.

On his way out, Vance said: "They asked me if I was intending to write a book, would I talk to the press, would I be thinking of getting an attorney. I took it as, 'Shut up, don't talk about this place,' and I kept saying, 'No sir, I want to go home.' "

Now at his home in Chicago, the ordeal left Vance with deep psychological scars.

"It's really hard," he says.

"I don't really talk about this stuff with my family. I feel ashamed, depressed, still have nightmares, and I'd even say I suffer from some paranoia."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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