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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Friday, August 17, 2018

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Former Abu Ghraib inmates get $5 mn settlement

US firm Engility Holdings paid 71 people held at Abu Ghraib

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NEW YORK - A defence contractor accused of conspiring to torture prisoners at Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison has agreed to pay former inmates $5m to settle a lawsuit.

US firm Engility Holdings paid 71 people held at Abu Ghraib, Baghdad, and other US-run prisons, on behalf of L-3 Services, according to a legal filing.

The plaintiffs, former detainees, alleged that L-3 Services Inc. (now called Engility Holdings) and others, "either participated in, approved of, or condoned the mistreatment of prisoners by United States military officials," according to the document.

"On October 5, 2012, we and the plaintiffs agreed to resolve and dismiss the action in return for a payment of $5.28 million," the company wrote in its third quarter report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Abu Ghraib prison became infamous after the publication in 2004 of photographs showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated and abused by their US guards in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion.

The scandal led to the sentencing of 11 soldiers up to 10 years in prison.

L-3 Services Inc provided translators to the U.S. military in Iraq. In 2006, L-3 Services had more than 6,000 translators in Iraq under a $450 million-a-year contract, an L-3 executive told an investors conference at the time.

On Tuesday, Baher Azmy, a lawyer for the ex-detainees, said that each of the Iraqis received a portion of the settlement.

Azmy declined to say how the money was distributed among them. He said there was an agreement to keep details of the settlement confidential, AP reported.

"Private military contractors played a serious but often under reported role in the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib," said Azmy, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. "We are pleased that this settlement provides some accountability for one of those contractors and offers some measure of justice for the victims."

Jennifer Barton, a spokeswoman for L-3 Communications, the former parent company of L-3 Services, said the company does not comment on legal matters.

Eric Ruff, Engility's director of corporate communications, also said the company does not comment on matters involving litigation.

The Engility settlement marks the first successful effort by lawyers for former Iraqi prisoners against defence contractors in lawsuits alleging torture.

L-3 Services "permitted scores of its employees to participate in torturing and abusing prisoners over an extended period of time throughout Iraq," the lawsuit stated.

The company "willfully failed to report L-3 employees' repeated assaults and other criminal conduct by its employees to the United States or Iraq authorities."

One inmate alleged he was subjected to mock executions by having a gun aimed at his head and the trigger pulled. Another inmate said he was slammed into a wall until he became unconscious.

A third was allegedly stripped naked and threatened with rape while his hands and legs were chained and a hood placed on his head. Another said he was forced to consume so much water that he began to vomit blood.

Several of the inmates said they were raped and many of the inmates said they were beaten and kept naked for extended periods of time.

A military investigation in 2004 identified 44 alleged incidents of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib. No employee from L-3 Services was charged with a crime in investigations by the U.S. Justice Department. Nor did the U.S. military stop the company from working for the government.

Fifty-two of the 71 Iraqis alleged that they were imprisoned at Abu Ghraib and at other detention facilities. The other 19 Iraqis allege they were detained at detention facilities other than Abu Ghraib, writes AP..

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