BASRA, Iraq – Iraqis showed journalists a white stone jail where they claim Saddam Hussein's secret police for decades tortured inmates with beatings, mutilations, electric shocks and chemical baths.
The jail, known as the "White Lion," was charred and half-demolished Tuesday after two days of bombing by British forces fighting for control of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.
People taken behind the jail's sandstone facade usually did not come out, residents said.
Hundreds of Iraqis came to see the now-empty jail, according to British press reports. Relatives of missing inmates checked fingerprinted files and lists of names found amid the fallen bricks.
"It was a place of evil," resident Hamed Fattil said.
Hamed told British reporters that Iraqi police locked him and his two brothers in a jail dungeon in 1991, and that he was freed after eight months but his brothers were still missing.
"They used to strap a leather cord around our head, hands and shoulders and hoist us two feet off the ground. Then they would beat us as we hung there," Hamed said.
"They did unthinkable things -- electrocution, immersion in a bath of chemicals and ripping off people's finger and toenails."
The jail basement was a warren of cells, chambers and cages where the ground was strewn with an insect-eaten gas mask and bottles, according to Associated Press Television News footage.
For the cameras, two men re-enacted how jailers allegedly tortured prisoners.
One man, hands tied behind his back with a rope attached to a hook on the ceiling, bent over while another man pantomimed hitting him on the back and the face with his hands and a long, white rod.
One man shuddered while the other gave him a pretend electric shock.
Outside the jail, a man showed APTN his mangled ears.
Hamed took British reporters into a yard behind the jail into a set of white boxy cells, surrounded by red wire mesh with a low, wire roof.
He said some of the cells, which had red doors with large bolts, were used to hold women and children. He also said hundreds of men were kept in a single cell about the size of a living room, which had one rusted grate window.
Between the men's and women's cells was a long mesh cage. Hamed said here, jailers pressed prisoners against the mesh and squeezed hot irons against their backs or threw scalding water on them in front of other inmates.