Guantanamo inmates shown Saddam hanging photos: lawyer

By Rob Taylor
Thursday, February 1, 2007; 1:14 AM

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Guantanamo Bay prison inmates were shown photographs of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hanging from a rope following his execution, lawyers for Australia's only Guantanamo inmate said on Thursday.

In an attempt to intimidate inmates, the lead American lawyer for Australian detainee David Hicks said, pictures of Saddam's trial were also shown to detainees, along with articles about executions carried out by extremists.

"Displaying photos of condemned men to those who may be facing capital charges can only be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate and compel submission under a threat of death and mentally torture an already abused detainee population," Joshua Dratel said in a statement to media in Australia.

A spokesman for Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he was unaware of whether the accusations were accurate, as they were not raised with an Australian official visiting the prison this week.

"This is the first we've heard of it. Mr Hicks did not take the issue up with the consul-general when he had the opportunity, nor has the legal team made an approach to us to follow it up with the Americans," the spokesman said.

"It's very hard to attempt to verify some of these claims if Mr Hicks himself doesn't feel the need to raise it with us directly."

Dratel said photos of Saddam's 2006 trial were on an exercise yard poster, which also read: "Because Saddam chose not to co-operate and not tell the truth, because he thought by lying he would get released, for that reason he was executed."

Speaking after visiting Hicks at Guantanamo Bay ahead of charges to be laid against the Australian before a late-February deadline demanded by Canberra, Dratel said the photos and articles breached Geneva Conventions protecting prisoners of war.

One of the articles centered on the accidental decapitation of a prisoner while being hanged -- possibly Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim who was executed in Baghdad last month.

"This display is another vivid example of the coercive and dehumanizing environment that exists at (Guantanamo)," Dratel and Hicks's Australian lawyer Michael Griffin said.

"Unfortunately it demonstrates that the lessons of Abu Ghraib and the humane treatment of detainees have not been learned."

Hicks, 31, was arrested in Afghanistan in late 2001 and accused of fighting for al Qaeda. He is among around 395 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters being held in the U.S. enclave, and is tipped to be one of the first to face trial.

Charges against Hicks of conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy were dropped when the U.S. Supreme Court last June rejected the tribunal system set up by President George W. Bush to try foreign terrorism suspects.

Hicks, a convert to Islam, had previously pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday Hicks released a statement though his lawyers claiming abuse and intimidation by his American military jailers, while his legal team called for an independent medical assessment of his mental condition.

His case is straining Canberra's staunch support for the U.S.-led war on terror, as conservative Prime Minister John Howard faces re-election later this year against polls showing 62 percent of Australians oppose the way the Iraq war has been handled.

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