posted on Apr, 8 2003 @ 06:31 PM
April 09, 2003
Inside the hell of Saddam's torture chambers
By Daniel McGrory
ABID HUSSAN took one step inside the foul-smelling prison cell and began to shake. Beads of sweat ran down his forehead and behind his gold-rimmed
spectacles. The 45-year-old shopkeeper pointed to the electric cables hanging from the ceiling where President Saddam Husseinís security police would
torture him three times a day.
People tried to elbow their way inside this impossibly small 6ft by 4ft torture chamber. They were anxious to sift through the documents carpeting the
floor to see if it gave a clue as to what became of a loved one, or friend, who had been dragged inside here and was never heard of again.
Until yesterday, when British troops finished their search for booby traps inside the State Security headquarters, no one in Basra would have dared to
set foot in this building. It was forbidden even to walk on the pavement outside what residents nicknamed ìthe white lionî, a big white building, a
fearsome creature that devoured people. But everyone knew what went on behind the thick concrete walls.
The torture cells lay in squat, rectangular rows in landscaped grounds tucked behind a six-storey tower block, where floor after floor of filing
cabinets were stuffed with the records of untold numbers of citizens.
One old man studying the jumble of paperwork pointed out that the files with red edges were of those who had been executed.
Saddamís jailers were meticulous record-keepers. They pinned photographs inside the documents showing how the prisoner was bearing up to various
stages of torture. They finished with pictures of the battered and bloodied body after execution.
Standing inside his former cell at the end of a dark corridor, Mr Hussan described, in a low whisper, how he had been seized in the street in March
1999 because he was standing close to a prominent Shia cleric in Basra.