Documents give different explanation for inmate’s death

June 28, 2004, Monday, FINAL EDITION
BYLINE: Tom Squitieri
LENGTH: 296 words

Conflicting accounts of the death of one Iraqi prisoner illustrate what investigators are grappling with as they re-examine cases to see whether U.S. military or civilian personnel should be charged with crimes.

Nasef Ibrahim, 63, died at Abu Ghraib on Jan. 8.

The death certificate released by the Pentagon attributes his death to hardening of the arteries and a fluid buildup around his heart.

However, in a lawsuit against private interrogators and interpreters at the prison, lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights allege that for three days in a row, Ibrahim was stripped, doused with cold water and put outside in the winter weather. Records for Baghdad show temperatures dipped into the low 40s during January. Witnesses mentioned in the lawsuit said Ibrahim became ill four hours after he was brought inside on the third day. He died three days later.

An internal military report gives another account. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba says the “prisoner was brought to the compound gate unconscious. Medics were dispatched to the compound. The prisoner was reported as deceased. Cause of death is being speculated as being cardiac arrest.”

The report noted that Ibrahim had been accused of planning bomb attacks against U.S. troops.

Separately, a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross described a visit to Camp Bucca, another prison near Baghdad, on Sept. 22, 2003, where representatives interviewed a 61-year-old Iraqi detainee who said he had been tied, hooded and forced to sit on the hot surface of what he surmised was a vehicle engine. That caused severe burns to his buttocks and he lost consciousness, he said. Red Cross representatives saw large crusted lesions consistent with his allegation.

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