Damning new photographs and videos purporting to show the abuse and even murder of Iraqi prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib jail have been broadcast on Australian television and picked up by Arab channels.
The images are likely to trigger outrage because they show more graphically than before the scenes of humiliation which took place at Abu Ghraib in late 2003.
Iraqis will be watching them on television days after seeing film of British soldiers beating up young men in the city of Amarah in southern Iraq and amid continuing Muslim fury over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed.
The 60 pictures appearing to show a man with a cut throat, another suffering from severe head injuries and a naked man hanging upside down from a bed were broadcast last night on the Dateline programme by the state-owned Special Broadcasting Service.
SBS said in a statement: "The extent of the abuse shown in the photos suggests that the torture and abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib in 2004 is much worse than is currently understood."
They include photos of six corpses and injuries which could have been caused by shotguns. One reveals a prisoner with apparent burn marks on his left forearm and another shows a bound man in an orange jumpsuit being menaced by a dog.
Video broadcast by Dateline appears to show prisoners being forced to masturbate to the camera with another showing a man hitting his head against a wall. The still images show soldiers who have already been prosecuted for their part in the abuse, including Pte Lynndie England and Spc Charles Graner.
An SBS spokeswoman declined to reveal how the images were obtained but said that the programme, which specialises in low-budget reports from around the world, was confident in the credibility of the source.
"When the original Abu Ghraib photographs were leaked to the press, members of Congress were given a private viewing of photographs including the images which appear in this Dateline programme," said SBS. "They were shocked by what these extra images revealed of the full horror of the abuses taking place at Abu Ghraib."
The new pictures, broadcast at a time when anti-Western feeling is running high among Muslims across the world over the publication of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed, may finally torpedo the reputation of the US occupation in the eyes of Iraqis. The pictures were among dozens at the centre of a legal battle in the US to block their publication. They are among more than 100 stills and four videos taken at the Baghdad prison which the US administration is fighting to keep secret in a court case with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
A New York judge granted a freedom-of-information request to the ACLU last year for access to 87 of the unseen images but the administration has appealed against the decision, saying their release would fuel anti-American sentiment.
An ACLU lawyer, Amrit Singh, told Dateline: "The photographs have to be released so the public have some idea of what happened at Abu Ghraib. It is for the public to decide on looking at them what needs to be done."
The pictures show guards smiling as they stand beside blood-soaked and hooded prisoners, some of whom are tied to an unidentified apparatus. The release of further pictures of torture will make it more difficult for the US to claim that what happened in Abu Ghraib in 2003 and 2004 was isolated and the work of low-level guards acting on their own initiative. Mr Singh said the images were evidence of "systematic and widespread abuse" of prisoners by US soldiers.
The impact of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, the video of British soldiers beating up Iraqi youths and now pictures of further abuse at Abu Ghraib are likely to have a serious cumulative impact on Iraqis, accustomed though they are to acts of violence by the state.
The photos were being broadcast by Arab television stations yesterday evening.
Opinion polls have shown since the middle of 2003 that all Arab Iraqis, both Sunni and Shia, want the US-led occupation to end and foreign troops to leave the country.
A problem now facing the US and Britain is that one of the most powerful groups within the Shia United Iraqi Alliance, with 128 seats in the 275 seat parliament, wants foreign forces to leave. This is the party following Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical nationalist cleric, which is staunchly anti-occupation.
The provincial council in Basra has voted to maintain a boycott of British forces which are supposedly in Iraq only to support local security forces, though some of these are now refusing to have anything to do with the British Army.
Denmark yesterday said it wanted a clear declaration of support for its troops from the Iraqi government. The Iraqi Ministry of Transport, under the control of followers of Mr Sadr, has frozen all contracts with Danish and Norwegian companies in protest at the publication of the cartoons.Reuse content