BAGHDAD, Iraq – Saddam Saleh says his U.S. torturers told him he was one of the hooded Iraqi prisoners shown in a picture standing in a row as a grinning female soldier pointed at their genitals. "This is your picture," one of the guards taunted him, displaying the now infamous photo. "You are the fattest one here and that must be you."
Saleh, 29, says he plans to attend Wednesday's court-martial of Army Spc. Jeremy Sivits (search) — the first soldier to stand trial in the alleged abuse of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison.
Saleh, who was released March 28 after four months in Abu Ghraib (search), is the second Iraqi to come forward and identify himself in one of the photographs that triggered international outrage at the U.S. treatment of captives. The first was Haidar Sabbar Abed, who believes he was in a couple of the pictures.
Saleh, who speaks some English, said he remembered the names of his tormentors and plans to file lawsuits against them. The Army has already charged two of them, Cpl. Charles A. Graner (search) and Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick II (search).
Besides Graner and Frederick, Saleh recalls others only by partial names or nicknames: a sergeant named Schneider, another named Pearl, and "Nicolai" — one of the intelligence officers who he says directed the torture in Cellblock I/A, where he spent all but one month of his time in Abu Ghraib.
"One of them wore glasses and one urinated on me," Saleh told The Associated Press on Saturday at the office of an Iraqi human rights organization.
Saleh said he recalls guards taking several photos of prisoners. Even though he was hooded, he could hear the shutter click and sense the camera flash.
But it wasn't until Graner showed him the photos that he realized that a woman guard — Pfc. Lynndie England — was posing in front of the naked prisoners.
Saleh blames his arrest on a misunderstanding and bad luck.
He went to the Iraqi police to report a suspicious vehicle. He was carrying a large amount of cash, which he planned to use to buy furniture for his wedding. Once they discovered the cash, the police got suspicious of him and turned him over to the Americans.
The dark-haired, blue-eyed Saleh was no stranger to Abu Ghraib, located on the western edge of Baghdad. He was arrested by the regime of Saddam Hussein in 1999 and sent to Abu Ghraib because he tried to evade military service.
"I was tortured under Saddam, but the torture was much more preferable to this because they didn't strip off my clothes and make me naked," he said, pointing to scars on his neck.
Saleh said the torture at the hands of the Americans began seven days after he arrived at the prison, when Graner put a bag on his head and tied his hands in the back.
"He pulled me by the back of the neck and started hitting me with an iron bar," he said. "Then he threw me into a room.
Saleh asked a fellow prisoner, whose hands were also tied behind his back, to lift his hood with his shoulder.
"I quickly told him to put the hood back on," Saleh said. "I became hysterical. I couldn't believe what I saw. Everyone was naked in the room. I never saw such a thing under Saddam."
After what seemed like an hour, Graner returned and led Saleh out of the room. The American told him to remove his orange prison jumpsuit.
"I said 'no.' So he beat me and forced me to take off my clothes," Saleh recalled. "He made me stand on a box and put my hands on my head. Then he gave me a plastic chair and made me hold it up in the air by the legs."
Saleh said he held the chair so long that he became disoriented and fell to the floor.
"They were laughing at me," he said. "They threw cold water on me to make me get up."
He said he was kept naked for 18 days.
Other measures included making him sit on the floor of his cell — No. 42 — with his arms and legs stretched out through the iron bars while deafening music played on a stereo.
More frightening were the dogs, a brown one and a black one with its tail cut off. Guards held them on leashes as they snarled and charged at the prisoners, though none bit him, he said.
"There was an intelligence officer named Steven who had a goatee and was in charge of the torture. He would tell the torturers, 'this guy had enough or that guy should be tortured more,'" Saleh said.
After the inmates were "softened up" by torture, the interrogations began.
"One of the interrogators was a guy by the name of Carlos and there were Mrs. Liz and Staff Sgt. Chris," a woman, he said.
They asked him about his ties to Al Qaeda or Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian the Americans blame for a series of car-bombings here and the murder of Nicholas Berg, the young American businessman decapitated on a videotape posted on an Al Qaeda-linked Web site.
To avoid more torture, Saleh said he told his interrogators that he had ties to Al Qaeda. "I just wanted to say that so they would execute me, kill me," he said.
Apparently the interrogators realized he was lying about terrorist links, because they eventually released him.