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Suspect's Death Evokes Hussein Era

"I went to see my son at the police station, and I saw the police carrying him in a blanket. . . . He was hardly talking, and he said, 'Father, I was beaten and forced to confess and say that Zawba and Bashar were involved in the attack.' "

Douri said his son told him that after the explosion, he was afraid and started to run, " 'and the police said whoever ran was involved in making the bomb, so they arrested me.' "

Hameed Rasheed Sultan displays photos of his younger brother, Zawba. The photo below shows Zawba before his arrest. The photo above shows his badly beaten body after he turned up dead at a hospital in Tikrit. (Salih Saif Aldin For The Washington Post)

A fourth suspect, Mahmoud Mohammed Ugab, 29, an Iraqi army officer, said in an interview that he also was arrested in connection with the bombing and tortured by officers under Jbara's command. During Ugab's interrogation, Safaa Douri came to the room where he was being held and pleaded with him to say that the four of them were behind the blast, Ugab said.

In an interview at a hospital where he was being treated for his injuries, Ugab said that a police officer beat him later as Jbara demanded that he confess to participating in the bombing. Ugab said he finally relented. But on the third day of his detention, Ugab said, a U.S. Army official who was visiting the police station recognized him from a joint posting in Tikrit's Celebration Park, asked why he was being held and ordered his release.

The officer "went to Col. Jbara's office and said, 'Mahmoud worked with me for 13 days, and I can say he has nothing to do with any attack or operation,' " Ugab said.

Around that time, Hameed and two of Bashar's brothers, Yasser and Qais, had a meeting with Jbara at the police colonel's house to ask for the release of Zawba and Bashar, Hameed and Yasser said in interviews.

According to a complaint filed by Hameed with the U.S. military in Tikrit, Jbara demanded that the families pay $5,000 each for the release of their relatives. Hameed and Yasser repeated the allegation in follow-up interviews.

In a telephone interview, Jbara denied that he or anyone solicited a bribe. "I dare anyone to say that Col. Jasim received $1," he said. "These are lies. There is an Iraqi government, and I am ready for an investigation of this."

Army Capt. Saad Hazim said in an interview that he was at home asleep on Jan. 29 when he received a telephone call at about 3 a.m. from an informant at Tikrit Hospital who said that two bodies had been brought into the morgue by police. One apparently was alive and was immediately taken to the hospital's emergency room. The near-death patient, Hazim said, was Zawba.

The second patient, who remains unidentified, died of "acute failure of the heart as a result of strong shocks," according to a copy of his death report. Hazim said that the hospital source, whom he declined to identify, told him that police evacuated the entire emergency room floor, ordering out all the doctors, nurses and patients. "The police had deployed across the whole floor, all with uniforms, flak jackets and black masks," he said.

According to a second Iraqi army officer, "The police took all the nurses and doctors to one room and locked the door in order not to reveal the secret" that their suspect was in critical condition.

Hazim said Zawba was pronounced dead about two hours later.

Jbara said that Zawba died "because of a health situation he was dealing with even before his arrest."

Pictures of Zawba's body given to The Post by his family show a deep gash above his right eye, a badly bruised right cheek bone and swollen nose. His legs are darkly discolored, with deep purple bruises, and his back and legs are scarred by what appear to be burn marks.

Challenged on his account, Jbara said: "His health situation was not good during the investigation. His blood pressure decreased, and that's in the medical documents." He refused to release the documents.

Hameed said his brother "was completely healthy" before his arrest. He said U.S. Army Capt. Michael Gruber, a liaison officer with the U.S.-Iraqi Army Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit, investigated the death and had an aide read Zawba's death report to him.

"It said there were signs of beating on the skull and torture by electricity," Hameed said. "There were also signs of beating in the chest and abdomen areas and internal damage to the kidney."

An Iraqi army official in the coordination center who reviewed the death report said it showed Zawba had burn marks and was beaten around his head. The cause of death was "torture -- the signs are completely obvious," he said. He added that it was clear from the evidence that Zawba had had nothing to do with the Jan. 26 mall bombing.

Gruber, in a brief telephone conversation, declined to discuss the case without authorization, which his superiors refused to grant.

Anderson reported from Baghdad.

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