28/07/2004 - 14:18:56

The British High Court heard dramatic eye-witness claims today in the case of hotel worker Baha Mousa who was allegedly beaten to death while in British custody in Iraq.

Fellow hotel worker, Kifa Taha al-Mutari, was present in the London courtroom while his witness statement, containing allegations of beatings and ill-treatment, was read out.

It was read out by Rabinder Singh QC, who is representing the families of Iraqi civilians allegedly killed by British troops, in their bid to challenge the British government’s refusal to order independent inquiries into the deaths.

Here is the text of the witness statement by Kifa Taha al-Mutari which relates to Mr Mousa.

“I am a resident of the city of Basra and I am 44 years old. I was employed at the Ibn-Alhaitham Hotel in Al Asshar district.

“On the morning of Sunday 14 September 2003, a British unit raided and searched the hotel. In an office adjacent to the hotel the soldiers found some weapons. They began searching for one of the partners in the hotel, named Haitham Dhahir Ali, but he had escaped from the hotel.

“On the night of the raid Baha Mousa, who later died in detention, was working on the reception desk. The soldiers arrested me, Baha and five other hotel employees. We were made to lie on the floor of the hotel lobby with our hands behind our heads.

“The soldiers were intent on finding Haitham because they had found weapons in the safe. The soldiers asked me and Baha and other employees at the hotel to tell them where Haitham was.

“We told the soldiers that we did not know Haitham’s address, but offered to take them to his house.

“The soldiers were insistent that they wanted us to tell them where Haitham was hiding, but we were unable to do so.

“When we were unable to inform the soldiers of the whereabouts of Haitham they took me and the other detainees to the hotel toilets.

“They started to beat us with their fists and boots. They made us lie on the floor and soldiers stood on our heads.

“One of the detainees was made to stand inside the oriental toilet at ground level and the flush was repeatedly turned on as form of humiliation.

“After the beating we were hooded and our hands were wired. We were taken to a British military base in Basra called Darul Dhyafa, which was known as an ex-guest house.

“When we entered the base the soldiers accompanying us shouted ‘terrorists, terrorists!’. We were placed in a room approximately four metres by three metres.

“At the base further beatings started. The soldiers appeared to be thoroughly enjoying themselves as the beating was accompanied by loud laughter.

“We were warned that if we bent our arms or heads we would be beaten.

“As it was impossible to keep our arms straight for more than a few minutes we were beaten and the beatings covered our neck, chest and genital areas.

“Baha appeared to have much worse ill-treatment than the others. Two or more soldiers would beat him at a time whereas the rest of us were beaten by one soldier.

“Baha may have been punished more than the others in an act of revenge. Baha’s father, who witnessed the arrest, had informed the officer in charge that he had seen the soldiers stealing money from the hotel.

“Baha received much more beating than myself and the other detainees.

“He was not able to stand up and the soldiers continued beating him even while he was on the floor. The soldiers used particular sharp jabbing movements into the area beneath his ribs, which was particularly painful.

“We all had another hood put on top of the first hood. We were given water by it being poured over the hood so that we had to lick droplets that seeped through the hood.

“Freezing water was poured on to us and this was very painful as the temperatures in detention were 40 degrees plus. We were given one meal a day consisting of rice with extremely spicy soup, which we could not eat.

“At the end of the first day I felt that some of my ribs were broken and there was damage to my neck. We were taken for questioning only once in the three day period. On the first day we were taken individually to see the officer in charge. The only question we were asked through the translator was where is Haitham?

“Soldiers took turns in abusing us, at night the number of soldiers increased, sometimes to eight at a time. We were prevented from sleeping throughout the three days as soldiers introduced the ‘names game’.

“Soldiers would mention some English names of stars or players and request us to remember them or we would be beaten severely.

“One terrible game the soldiers played involved kickboxing. The soldiers would surround us and compete as to who could kickbox one of us the furthest. The idea was to try and make us crash into the wall.

“During the detention, Baha was taken into another room and he received more beatings in that room.

“On the third night Baha was in a separate room and I could hear him moaning through the walls. He was saying that he was bleeding from his nose and that he was dying.

“I heard him say, ‘I am dying…blood…blood…’ I heard nothing further from him after that.

“On the morning of the third night, the other detainees and I were woken up from the only two hours sleep we had been allowed in three days. One soldier asked us to dance like Michael Jackson.

“The hoods were lifted from our heads. I was shown a couple of men in the room next door and I was asked whether I knew them. I recognised them as the father and brother of the wanted Haitham Ali.

“I was then taken with the other detainees to Umm Qasar. I was admitted to the camp’s clinic (Camp Bucca). I was not asked any questions after I left detention and no-one in the clinic asked for the reasons behind my deteriorating health.

“The following day I was taken to the British Army Hospital in Shuaiba by a helicopter. I stayed in intensive care overnight. The day after I was taken to the artificial kidney unit at Basra General Hospital, where I stayed for two days.

“I was then taken back to the army hospital in Shuaiba for 62 days. I was told that I had developed an acute kidney problem due to the beating. I had no previous record of kidney problems or other serious health problem.

“I was released without charge. All of the other detainees were also released without charge, except Baha Mousa who had died in detention.”

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