BAQOUBA, Iraq – U.S. soldiers forced female detainees at Abu Ghraib (search) to serve male prisoners meals after the men had been stripped bare and beaten, according to new accounts of psychological abuse described by those freed from the notorious prison.
One man, who identified himself only as Ghazwan, was among 454 detainees released Friday from the American-run prison at the center of an abuse scandal. He was held with his father and brother for nine months and said he spent six in "heavy quarantine."
"They were psychologically torturing us, especially in the heavy quarantines. They were abusing us inside these quarantines by beating us and forcing us to take off all our clothes. They were forcing detained women to distribute food to us while we were naked," said Ghazwan.
Public nakedness, especially in the presence of women, is considered especially degrading in sexually conservative Arab societies.
Following the revelations of abuse, U.S. officials have said they plan to cut the facility's population in half. A U.S. official said there are now roughly 3,700 remaining detainees there.
Investigation into the abuse will "go to the top," the U.S. military has said.
Other prisoners released Friday said their treatment improved after pictures of naked prisoners being sexually humiliated came to light.
Since January, more than 4,500 detainees have been released from Abu Ghraib. Another 394 prisoners are scheduled to be set free May 28, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said.
On Friday, a convoy of at least six buses, accompanied by U.S. troops in armored vehicles and jeeps, took the latest group of released detainees from the prison on the western outskirts of Baghdad (search) to Tikrit and Baqouba, north of Baghdad. Some were also returned to Ramadi and Baghdad.
In one Baghdad neighborhood, there was jubilant celebration in traditional Iraqi style.
Women threw chocolates and clapped their hands to live drum and horn music played on downtown streets. Men slaughtered a sheep, fired rifles into the air and wept as they embraced their returning family members.
The release came two days after the first American accused in the scandal was sentenced to a year in prison for sexually humiliating detainees and taking a photo of prisoners stacked naked in a human pyramid.
Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits (search) was sentenced on Wednesday to one year in prison, reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge — the maximum penalty — after pleading guilty to maltreating detainees in the first court-martial stemming from the Abu Ghraib case. Three others were arraigned and deferred pleading. They will appear before a military judge on June 21.
In Baqouba, two busloads of detainees were handed over to local Iraqi police and were released shortly later. The freed detainees kissed the ground and kneeled to pray after walking out of the police compound in the city, 50 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Abdul Salam Hussain Jassim, 18, said U.S. authorities detained him for three months. He said he was rounded up with others after an explosion in a Baqouba street.
"Don't even talk about torture. They destroyed me," Jassim said of his detention. He said a family of five brothers and sisters was detained in the same block and that one of the men was beaten so badly he died two days later.
The other prisoner, Ghazwan, told the same story.
"Three brothers and sisters were detained together and brought to the prison, the two sisters are still in the quarantine and one of the three brothers was killed while the troops were torturing him," he said. "They took him to the quarantine and brought him dying to his brother's (Ali Alizzi) cell and threatened him that if he will not talk or confess, he would face the same fate."
The prisoner died in his brother's arms, he said.
Another former prisoner released on Friday, Maher Saeed, said he was tied to a car and dragged through the sand for several hundred yards.
The military had said it planned to release 472 prisoners on Friday. There are still between 3,000 and 4,000 people believed held at Abu Ghraib. The military is still sending detainees who are considered security risks to Abu Ghraib.