Iraqi woman tells of US abuse

A wealthy Iraqi businesswoman said to have been the last female prisoner at Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison said she saw soldiers there abuse other prisoners, it was reported today.

Houda Al-Azzawi also said that, while held in another detention centre before being transferred to Abu Ghraib, she was beaten, deprived of food and sleep and had her shoulder dislocated by a guard, French newspaper Le Monde reported.

The newspaper did not specify the nationality of the guards alleged to have mistreated her.

Ms Al-Azzawi, 49, was arrested by US forces on December 22 and accused of financing the Iraqi resistance, the newspaper said. She was initially held in the Adhamiya detention centre, sharing a cell with her sister, who also was arrested along with their three brothers, the newspaper said.

One night, the dead naked body of one of the brothers was thrown into the cell, on top of the sister, Nahla, the newspaper said.

“She was panicking. She realised that the body was inert. With my hands cuffed in front of me, I was able to lift up a corner of my blindfold. The naked man was Ayad, my brother, and his face was covered in blood,” the newspaper quoted Al-Azzawi as saying.

She said: “I asked Nahla to bow her head to verify whether his heart was still beating. It wasn’t. She spent the night with Ayad’s body on her knees.”

The newspaper did not specify who allegedly threw the body into the cell. Ayad’s death certificate cites coalition forces as saying he died of a heart attack, the causes of which were unknown, the newspaper said.

Al-Azzawi was transferred on January 4 to Abu Ghraib, where she was interrogated 30 times, the newspaper quoted her as saying. She said she only learned of the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib after her release on July 19. <>Le Monde<> said she was the last woman held at the prison.

The publication in April of photographs showing naked, terrified Iraqi prisoners being abused and humiliated by grinning American guards at Abu Ghraib caused outrage in Iraq and internationally.

“We were all witness to scenes that were similar or worse,” <>Le Monde<> quoted Al-Azzawi as saying. “I saw men having bottles of water forced into their backsides by soldiers.”

Al-Azzawi said, however, that conditions improved after the scandal erupted.

US forces say there are no more women in their custody at Abu Ghraib, but there is a section run by Iraq for ordinary criminals and it is unclear if there are any women there.

Courtesy News Watcher