WILKES-BARRE, Pa.—A U.S. resident who was held prisoner in another detention center in Iraq last year said prisoners there were also beaten and sexually humiliated.
Hossam Shaltout said widespread mistreatment by soldiers in Camp Bucca detention center in southern Iraq was as inhumane as that depicted in recent photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
He described Camp Bucca as a "torture camp," where soldiers beat and humiliated prisoners—including having them lie naked atop each other or pose in sexual positions.
Shaltout said he saw soldiers tie groups of naked prisoners together. He said they hogtied his hands and legs and placed scorpions on his body.
"American soldiers love scorpions," Shaltout said in a telephone interview from Saudi Arabia that was arranged by his American lawyer.
Shaltout, a native Egyptian, said he's a Canadian citizen and permanent U.S. resident but hasn't been allowed to return to the United States. He's now living in Saudi Arabia and is seeking $350,000 from the government through the U.S. Army Claims Service for "torture and other personal injuries" while at Camp Bucca.
Attorney Thomas Nelson of Portland, Ore., filed the claim. It said Shaltout entered Iraq in January 2003 as a member of a peace organization called Rights and Freedom International. The organization tried to persuade Iraqi leaders to step down to avoid war with the United States, the claim said.
Shaltout described himself as a "peacemaker" and said soldiers at Camp Bucca wanted him to admit to being Saddam Hussein's "right-hand man," but he refused to confess during daily interrogations.
In his claim, Shaltout said the word "Canadian" was written on his white shirt and he was "interrogated and tortured on a daily basis." Gun muzzles were put to his head and body, he said.
Shaltout alleged that several soldiers under the direction of 320th Military Police Master Sgt. Lisa Girman, of Hazleton, Pa., placed handcuffs and leg irons on him. He said Girman beat him in the face and kneed him in the groin after he went on a hunger strike.
Girman, 35, a Pennsylvania state police trooper, didn't return phone messages seeking comment. A military spokesman in Iraq had no immediate comment about Shaltout's claim.
Shaltout was released in mid May 2003. He said he has forgiven Girman.
Girman was among four soldiers with the 320th Military Police Battalion accused of beating prisoners last May. She was found guilty of one count each of abuse of prisoners and failing to safeguard them.
"They're making them a scapegoat for the whole problem," Shaltout said. He said all of those responsible should be punished.
Girman was given an other-than-honorable discharge in connection with a May 12, 2003, incident at Camp Bucca. By accepting the Army's punishment, she avoided court-martial and a potential prison sentence.
Three officers with the 320th face military discipline in connection with the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.
Shaltout said he's an aerospace engineer and an exporter for an American company that distributes global positioning equipment. He said he's at least able to afford psychological treatment, compared with other prisoners freed from camps in Iraq.
"Their lives will be destroyed," he said.
(Drew Brown in Washington contributed to this report.)
(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.