Video Shows Mistreatment Of Hussein Official's Body

By Nelson Hernandez and Saad Al-Izzi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

BAGHDAD, May 1 -- The dead body of one of Saddam Hussein's top lieutenants was kicked and insulted after U.S. forces transferred it into Iraqi custody, according to a video of the incident that aired on al-Arabiya television on Monday evening.

The brief, grainy video appears to show the pale, lifeless face of Muhammad Hamza al-Zubaydi, a former prime minister of Iraq, with an unidentified man's shoe upon it. "Step over his mouth, step over it," another man says. A man kicks the face. Apart from the obvious indignity of being kicked, being touched by the bottom of a shoe is a grave insult in Arab culture.

Zubaydi was captured on April 20, 2003, as the "queen of spades" in the pack of cards of fugitives distributed by U.S.-led forces early in the war. The new government says he was instrumental in Hussein's brutal suppression of a Shiite uprising in 1991 after Iraq's defeat in the Persian Gulf War.

A video from that period depicted Zubaydi, a Shiite, kicking and abusing Shiites captured by the Iraqi army.

He was set to face charges in the special tribunal trying Hussein on war crimes charges. But in December, U.S. officials announced that Zubaydi had died of natural causes while in U.S. custody. He was 67.

U.S. authorities transferred his body to the Iraqi Ministry of Health for an autopsy. It was there that he received the blows, according to the al-Arabiya report.

Ali Ghalib, the deputy interior minister, said the country's police force had nothing to do with the incident. He promised an investigation.

"This act took place away from the eyes of the police," Ghalib said in an interview broadcast on al-Arabiya. "We do not have any security or administrative supervision over the department of forensic medicine, and it is an open place for any Iraqi citizen to enter. So for those who were harmed by the crimes of this man during his time, this came as a personal, individual reaction."

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