SAMARRA â€” When militant groups in Iraq kidnap those suspected of working with the US-led coalition, what follows is often a long detention, a harrowing trial by kangaroo court and swift execution.
Ghaleb Saadun Al Duri, a 37-year-old contractor, is a rare survivor of such an ordeal.
He spent two months locked in a cellar, praying he would be freed, but fearing he would be slaughtered like many whose death has often been videotaped and broadcast on the Internet as a warning to others.
Duri, who worked on building projects financed by US forces, was kidnapped on March 22.
“I was travelling from [the main northern city of] Mosul to [Saddam Hussein’s hometown of] Tikrit when I saw two people by the roadside, next to a parked car, asking for help. I stopped and looked at my watch for the last time. It was 4:00 pm,” he said.
“A tall man got out of the car and shouted to the others: ‘Throw that dirty collaborator in the boot’. I tried to fight back, but they hit me and locked me in the boot.” Later, he was marched along a dirt road, blindfold and with his hands bound, and taken to a small house “where in the living room there was a television and a sofa.”
“The gang leader told me witnesses would be called for my trial,” he recalled.
He was locked up in the cellar for a week before the tall man returned to interrogate him for six hours.
Duri admitted to working with the Americans, but defended himself against accusations he was “a spy.” His interrogator did not appear convinced.
Another week went by before he was summoned before the religious “tribunal” â€” three men sitting on a platform behind a copy of the Holy Koran.
The ‘judge’ said he was a member of “the religious tribunal of the Army of the followers of the Prophet [Mohammad].”
He then read out a list of charges and called, one at a time, on four ‘witnesses’, including another hostage who had worked as an interpreter on a US base where Duri had been employed. “I was flabbergasted,” Duri said.
Duri admitted he had been to the American base, that he was paid by the US military and that he had even been publicly congratulated by a US officer for his work after finishing building a school.
But he denied accusations by the interpreter that he had built shelters for US troops.
The trial lasted two weeks after which Duri was left alone for several days in the cellar. He was then summoned back before the court where the judge sentenced the interpreter to death for “assisting US troops in carrying out house searches and interrogating Iraqi detainees.”
“I collapsed thinking I too would be sentenced to die,” he said.
But the verdict in his case was not guilty.
“I just shouted out ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is greatest], and everyone laughed.”
At dawn the next day, Duri was freed.
He agreed to tell his story just before leaving for a neighbouring country with his family, including a daughter born just after he was released.