Freed Iranian journalists accuse US captors of torture

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at
Mon Nov 3 21:23:41 MST 2003

Freed Iranian journalists accuse US captors of torture

Jordan Times, Tuesday, November 4, 2003

TEHRAN (AFP) ‹ Two Iranian journalists with state-run television who were
freed Monday by US forces in Iraq after four months of detention have
charged they were subjected to ³severe torture² while in American custody.
³The detention was unimaginable. The first 10 days were like a nightmare. We
were subjected to severe torture,² Saeed Abou Taleb told state television as
he and his freed colleague Sohail Karimi crossed back into Iran.

³The other four months were terrifying. I would rather not remember it. It
was very bad, very bad,² he said as the pair were greeted at the southern
Iranian border post of Shalamcheh, near the Iraqi city of Basra.

He did not elaborate on the allegation of torture.

Karimi only made a brief comment, describing their treatment as ³harsh,

However, he said that on Wednesday, when Iran marks the anniversary of the
1980 storming of the US embassy in Tehran and the start of the hostage
crisis, he would ³shout `Death to America' even louder.²

The two journalists work as documentary filmmakers for Islamic Republic of
Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), and were arrested July 1 in the town of Kut,
southeast of Baghdad, after being spotted filming a US base.

Coalition sources had suggested the pair may have been spying, although IRIB
says the two were merely making a film on the life of the Iraqi people.

They were later transferred to Diwaniyah, and then to Baghdad, before being
handed over to British troops in Um Qasr prison, southern Iraq, and then
released, the state news agency IRNA said.

State television carried pictures of the pair being greeted by a large crowd
of officials, colleagues and family members. Although sporting a wreath of
flowers around their necks, both journalists were visibly thinner and
exhausted by their 126 days in detention.

Abou Taleb said the pair had been filming in an unrestricted area, and added
that a US officer had even apologised to them before they were released and
admitted their arrest had been a mistake.

³It was not a restricted area. We had full authorisation from the
responsible US officer to film the area,² Abou Taleb said.

³After 48 hours of detention and after they were sure we were documentary
filmmakers and they had looked at our films, the torture and the harassment
began,² he said. 

³In our last interrogation which happened a week or 10 days ago, they
themselves said it was a mistake by the soldier or officer who arrested us.
And I told them that this mistake could have been solved after three days,
not four months,² the journalist said.

³These four months have been dreadful. I will give full details later.² Abou
Taleb said more than 50 other Iranian nationals were being held in Baghdad,
adding he believed most of them were people who had crossed into the country
for a pilgrimage to the Shiite Muslim holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.

³The US is nothing but a lie, a big lie,² an embittered Abou Taleb said.

Thousands of Iranians are believed to have crossed into Iraq illegally for
pilgrimages since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in April, and at least 200
have died ‹ many in border minefields ‹ while making the crossing.

But US and British officials in Iraq have accused Iran of supporting
elements inside Iraq that are actively undermining postwar security, a
charge Iran denies.

Last month, the Swiss ambassador, representing US interests in Iran, was
summoned to the foreign ministry here to receive an angry protest over the
detention in Iraq of the two journalists and other Iranian nationals.


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