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Context of 'April 3, 2004: Father Recovers Body of Son Killed While in US Custody'

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Huda al-Azzawi, said to be Iraq’s richest woman after Saddam Hussein’s wife Sajida, and owner of the Ishtar Mercedes import company, becomes a victim of blackmail. An informant working for the US military demands that she gives him 10,000 dollar or else he will report to the Americans that she and her family are working for the Iraqi resistance. She does not give in. That month the blackmailer follows up with his threat. US soldiers interrogate Al-Azzawi’s brother, Ali, and her older sister, Nahla. The informant also leads a number of raids with US soldiers on her family’s properties. [Guardian, 9/20/2004; Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Nahla al-Azzawi, Ali al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

On December 22 [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] or 23 [Guardian, 9/20/2004] , Ayad, one of Huda al-Azzawi’s brothers is arrested by US troops, apparently as a result of her ignoring an Iraqi who is trying to blackmail her (see November 2003). In an effort to get Al-Azzawi out, she goes to the US base in Adhamiya, one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, where Ayad is presumably being held. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] “A US captain,” she recalls, “told me to come back with my two other brothers. He said we could talk after that.” She did what she was told and returned, on Christmas Eve, together with her brothers Ali and Mu’taz. After waiting four hours, an American captain begins interrogating her. [Guardian, 9/20/2004] “An officer listened to me politely for ten minutes. Then we were interrupted by a soldier who brought in a document. The officer read it. One second later, I wasn’t ‘Mrs.’ anymore, but ‘terrorist.’” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] The captain says she is under arrest. [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Her brothers, as well as her sister, Nahla, are detained. But she is not aware of this at this time. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] “They handcuffed me and blindfolded me and put a piece of white cloth over my eyes. They bundled me into a Humvee and took me to a place inside the palace. I was dumped in a room with a single wooden chair. It was extremely cold. After five hours they brought my sister in. I couldn’t see anything but I could recognize her from her crying.” That whole night US guards keep her sitting on the chair. [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Ali al-Azzawi, Nahla al-Azzawi, Ayad al-Azzawi, Mu’taz al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The day after her arrest, Huda al-Azzawi is taken from her cell to another room, which other detainees call “the torturing place,” she says. “The US officer told us: ‘If you don’t confess we will torture you. So you have to confess.’ My hands were handcuffed. They took off my boots and stood me in the mud with my face against the wall. I could hear women and men shouting and weeping. I recognized one of the cries as my brother Mu’taz. I wanted to see what was going on so I tried to move the cloth from my eyes. When I did, I fainted.” She allegedly sees her brother being sexually assaulted. After that she is questioned. “The informant and an American officer were both in the room. The informant started talking. He said, ‘You are the lady who funds your brothers to attack the Americans.’ I speak some English so I replied: ‘He is a liar.’ The American officer then hit me on both cheeks. I fell to the ground.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] For the next 12 hours, US guards make her stand with her face against the wall. Approaching midnight she and her sister are returned to a cell. “The cell had no ceiling. It was raining,” she later tells the Guardian. The Americans have another surprise in store for her. “At midnight they threw something at my sister’s feet.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Both women are blindfolded. “I heard a muffled noise and my sister’s screams,” Al-Azzawi says. “The naked body of a man had been thrown across her. She was panicking. She then realized that the body didn’t move. With my hands cuffed in front of me, I was able to lift a corner of my blindfold. The naked man was Ayad, my brother, and his face was covered in blood.” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] Ayad, she remembers, “was bleeding from his legs, knees, and forehead. I told my sister: ‘Find out if he’s still breathing.’ She said: ‘No. Nothing.’ I started crying.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Nahla “spent the night with Ayad’s corpse on her knees.” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] “The next day they took away his body.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] A death certificate is later issued by the US military. It cites the cause of death as “cardiac arrest of unknown etiology [cause].” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Ayad al-Azzawi, Huda al-Azzawi, Nahla al-Azzawi, Mu’taz al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

News of the commotion surrounding the Abu Ghraib scandal apparently does not reach prisoners at the Hard Site. Huda al-Azzawi says she heard about the scandal only after her release in July 2004. “Retrospectively, I realize that after the scandal broke, our situation improved,” she later recalls. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] She is now allowed to exercise in the yard outside for 10 minutes a day. She is given a bed, and assigned a new female guard, “Mrs. Palmer,” who tries to learn Arabic. Later, as hundreds of detainees are released, Al-Azzawi and her sister are moved from their cells to a tent. Three US generals will come to interview her in an apparent investigation of the death of her brother Ayad (see December 24, 2003). But according to her, no apology is offered. [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Four months after the death of Ayad al-Azzawi (see December 24, 2003), his father, Hafez Ahmed Ali Al-Azzawi, is permitted to recover his body from the morgue. The father also buys one or more photographs of the body. Le Monde describes the picture of a young man, detainee no. 1640, “with his face deformed at the left temple and his abdomen covered in brown spots.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004; Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] According to the Guardian, a number of photographs show “extensive bruising to the chest and arms, and a severe head wound above the left eye.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Ayad al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

MPs evacuate all the prisoners from the Hard Site at Abu Ghraib, except Huda al-Azzawi and a small number of other women in the upstairs cells. The guard assigned to her, “Mrs. Palmer,” tells them, according to Al-Azzawi, that during the inspection prisoners must lie quietly on their beds. They are promised with more time outside of their cells if they behave well. [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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