Abu Ghraib inmates sue defense contractors

July 1, 2008
Former detainees seek compensation for alleged abuse at Iraqi prison


Three Iraqis and a Jordanian filed federal lawsuits Monday alleging they were tortured by U.S. defense contractors while detained at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

The lawsuits allege that those arrested and taken to the prison were subjected to forced nudity, electrical shocks, mock executions and other inhumane treatment. They seek unspecified payments high enough to compensate the detainees for their injuries, and to deter contractors from such conduct in the future.

"These innocent men were senselessly tortured by U.S. companies that profited from their misery," said lead attorney Susan L. Burke, of the Philadelphia law firm Burke O'Neil. "These men came to U.S. courts because our laws, as they have for generations, allow their claims to be heard here."

Allegations of abuse at the Baghdad prison first erupted in 2004 with the release of pictures of grinning U.S. soldiers posing with detainees, some naked, being held on leashes or in painful and sexually humiliating positions. Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted of breaking military laws, and five others were disciplined in the scandal.

Neither U.S. civilian nor military authorities have charged private contractors with crimes at Abu Ghraib.

The contractors named as defendants in the lawsuit are CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., and New York-based L-3 Communications Corp., formerly Titan Corp.

Three of the complaints were filed in U.S. district courts in Seattle, Greenbelt, Md., and Columbus, Ohio, jurisdictions where three former workers reside. The fourth was filed in Detroit, where L-3 recruited heavily for translators, according to that complaint.

The lawsuits repeat "baseless allegations" made more than four years ago in another case brought by the same lawyers, CACI spokeswoman Jody Brown said in a statement.

"In the years that have passed since these claims first surfaced, nothing has changed to give any merit to unfounded and unsubstantiated claims," the statement read. "These generic allegations of abuse, coupled with imaginary claims of conspiracy, remain unconnected to any CACI personnel."

L-3 didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Three of the lawsuits name individual employees of those companies as defendants. They are Adel L. Nakhla, a former L-3 translator, of Montgomery Village; Daniel "DJ" Johnson of Renton, Wash., who worked as a CACI interrogator, and Timothy L. Dugan of Pataskala, Ohio, who also worked as a CACI interrogator, according to the complaints.

Nakhla's wife, Nadine, told an Associated Press reporter on her doorstep that her husband wasn't home. She declined to say how he could be reached.

Johnson's lawyer, Patrick O'Donnell, said in an e-mail the allegations against his client are false. "Daniel Johnson went to Iraq as a 21-year-old, fresh out of the Army, in order to serve his country, which he did honorably," O'Donnell wrote.

Johnson didn't leave a forwarding address after he moved about 10 days ago, his landlord in Renton said.

A phone listing for Dugan went unanswered Monday.

Burke said all four plaintiffs were released from Abu Ghraib without charges after they were held for as long as four years and four months in the case of Dugan's accuser, Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari, an Iraqi farmer.

Al Shimari claims he was subjected to electric shock, beaten, deprived of food and sleep, threatened with dogs, stripped naked, forcibly shaved and forced to watch Dugan and others choke another prisoner.

He claims Dugan, 48, beat an Iraqi civilian suspected of terrorism, threw him handcuffed and hooded from a vehicle, and dragged him across rocks.

Nakhla's accuser, Wissam Abdullateff Sa'eed Al-Quraishi, 37, of Amman, Jordan claims that Nakhla held Al-Quraishi down while a coconspirator poured feces on him.

Al-Quraishi also claims Nakhla and others stripped Al-Quraishi and other prisoners naked and piled them atop one another, separated by boxes.

Al-Quraishi also claims he watched Nakhla hold down a 14-year-old boy while an unidentified coconspirator sodomized the boy with a toothbrush.

Sa'adoon Ali Hameed Al-Ogaidi, a 36-year-old Arabic teacher from Baghdad, claims he was beaten by Johnson, threatened with execution and stripped naked and paraded before other prisoners.

Mohammed Abdwaihed Towfek Al-Taee of Baghdad claims an unidentified L-3 translator forced him to consume so much water that he vomited blood several times and then fainted. He claims the translator and others later tied a plastic line around his penis, preventing urination, and made him drink more, nearly killing him.

Burke and her associates filed a similar federal lawsuit in May in Los Angeles, claiming L-3 and CACI employees, including former CACI interrogator Steven Stefanowicz, abused an Abu Ghraib detainee named Emad al-Janabi.

All five cases stem from a District of Columbia federal judge's refusal to grant class-action certification to a 2004 lawsuit brought by the same attorneys and 237 plaintiffs. That complaint, which is still pending, consolidated two cases that originally named Stefanowicz, Nakhla, Dugan and Johnson. They were dismissed as defendants in the original cases for lack of jurisdiction.

Burke said more workers may be sued, and more plaintiffs may be added to the existing lawsuits.

Trying multiple cases has less potential impact than a class-action lawsuit, partly because individual plaintiffs have less clout, said Herman Schwartz, a law professor at American University in Washington. Also, individual plaintiffs may be inclined to settle for less money than a large group, he said.


Associated Press writers Stephen Manning in Montgomery Village, Md., and Dan Catchpole in Seattle contributed to this report.

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