Prisoners sue Abu Ghraib security firms

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The Independent Online

Lawyers representing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison are taking two US-based security companies to court, accusing them of conspiring to "direct and conduct a scheme to torture, rape, and, in some instances, summarily execute plaintiffs".

Lawyers representing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison are taking two US-based security companies to court, accusing them of conspiring to "direct and conduct a scheme to torture, rape, and, in some instances, summarily execute plaintiffs".

The class-action suit, filed this week in federal court in San Diego by a law firm from Philadelphia and the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, accuses the two firms - Titan Corporation and CACI International - of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, or RICO, which was passed to fight organised crime. The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for their suffering, punitive damages and an injunction banning the firms from government contracts.

It is the first suit of its kind to have arisen from the revelations of torture and killings at Abu Ghraib, but is unlikely to be the last. Nine Iraqi individuals are mentioned in the suit, not all of them named. Another 1,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib are also included in the action.

Although most accusations to date have focused on military policemen at Abu Ghraib, the lawsuit accused the two companies of carrying out "heinous and illegal acts to demonstrate their abilities to obtain intelligence from detainees, and thereby obtain more contracts from the government".

Some of the soldiers being court-martialled in Iraq have alleged they were acting, at least in part, on the instructions of private interrogators hired by the Pentagon. One civilian contractor out of the reach of military justice has been accused of the rape of a male prisoner.

A spokesman for San Diego-based Titan said the charges were "frivolous" and that the company's employees were hired strictly to provide translation services at Abu Ghraib.

Stories of abuse continue to emerge from multiple sources. Yesterday's Washington Post detailed testimony from a military intelligence interrogator who said two dog-handlers at Abu Ghraib competed to see how many detainees each could make urinate out of fear.

The revelations are having an effect on public opinion. A poll in yesterday's Los Angeles Times showed 53 per cent of respondents saying the war had not been worth it, compared with 43 per cent who said it was, the widest margin since the fall of Baghdad 14 months ago.

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