New abuse photos may inflame anger in Iraq

NEW images of naked prisoners, some bloodied and lying on the floor, threatened to revive public anger over abuse by US guards at Abu Ghraib prison at a time when tensions with the West are already running high in the Middle East.

The images were taken about the same time as the earlier photos three years ago that triggered a worldwide scandal and led to military trials and prison sentences for several lower-ranking American soldiers.

Some key Iraqi officials urged their countrymen to react calmly since the pictures were old and the offenders had been punished.

Many of the pictures broadcast on Wednesday by Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) - including some that appear to show corpses - were more graphic than those previously published.

One of the video clips depicted a group of naked men with bags over their heads standing together and masturbating. The network said the men were forced to participate.

New images appeared yesterday on the website Salon.com, which said it had obtained more than 1,000 photographs, videos and supporting documents from the Army Criminal Investigation Command investigation of the case.

The 18 new pictures posted on the site included an image of an Iraqi strapped face down on a bunk bed with women’s underwear over his head, blood smears indicating a body had been dragged along the floor and a prisoner apparently sodomising himself with an object.

Salon.com said the material was provided from an unnamed person “who spent time at Abu Ghraib as a uniformed member of the military and is familiar with the CID investigation”.

Salon.com said the material was believed to include all photographs published after the scandal broke in April 2004, as well as the photographs and videos published by SBS.

Salon.com said the material includes a June 6, 2004, CID report that refers to 1,325 images of detainee abuse, 94 video files of abuse as well as images of adult pornography, suspected dead Iraqi detainees, soldiers in simulated sexual acts, “a soldier with a swastika drawn between his eyes”, dogs used in abuse of detainees and “125 images of questionable acts”.

Iraq’s prime minister condemned the new images of abuse, but noted that those responsible had already been punished.

In the Middle East, where there have been widespread anti-Western protests recently over caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, reaction so far has been muted.

Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya TV aired some of the Australian station’s footage but refrained from using the most shocking and sexually explicit images. CNN also broadcast excerpts.

The newspapers al-Hayat and al-Sharq al-Awsat ran some of the images on their front pages yesterday, as did newspapers in Lebanon.

The Egyptian opposition newspaper al-Wafd also ran them on its front page with the headline: “New scandals from the angels of punishment of the American occupation in Iraq.”

But Egyptian government papers kept the photos on inside pages.

Iraq’s acting human rights minister, Nermine Othman, said she was “horrified” by the pictures and would study whether any action could be taken against those responsible, even though some offenders have been imprisoned.

“There will be two kinds of reactions from Iraqis,” she said. “One will be anger and others will feel sorry that [SBS] didn’t give them to the Iraqi government to investigate. Why use them? Why show them? We have had enough suffering and we don’t want anymore.”

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defence Department believed the release of additional images of prisoner abuse was harmful and “could only further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world”.

Mr Whitman said he did not know whether the photos and video clips were among images the Pentagon has been withholding from public release since 2004.

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