"I will always hate you people"

24 May 2004, Luke Harding, Guardian Unlimited

The first Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly's family knew of his death was when his battered corpse turned up at Baghdad's morgue. Attached to the zipped-up black US body bag was a laconic note.

The US military claimed in the note that Dr Izmerly, a distinguished chemistry professor arrested after US tanks encircled his villa, had died of "brainstem compression."

Dr Izmerly's sudden death after 10 months in American custody left his family stunned, not least because three weeks earlier they had visited him in the US prison at Baghdad airport. His 23-year-old daughter, Rana, recalled that he had seemed in "good health."

The family commissioned an independent Iraqi autopsy. Its conclusion was unambiguous: Dr Izmerly had died because of a "sudden hit to the back of his head," Faik Amin Baker, the director of Baghdad hospital's forensic department, certified.

The cause of death was blunt trauma. It was uncertain exactly how he died, but someone had hit him from behind, possibly with a bar or a pistol, Dr Baker confirmed yesterday.

The first Red Cross letter arrived last May, but the family was still no wiser as to where the US was holding him. After six months, they were allowed to drop off some winter clothes at al-Taji, a US military base north of Baghdad. There were three telephone calls. But their attempts to visit him got nowhere.

Finally, Rana and her elder sister, Nuha, 27, and brother, Ashraf, 21, discovered that their father was being kept at the US base at Baghdad international airport. On January 11, they managed to see him.

A US officer, known as Mr Jakey, drove them blindfolded on a zigzagging route through the camp. They were taken to an empty tourist villa. Her father emerged from a side door. They gave him some sweets. "When I saw him his health was good. He was normal. He was dressed in the clothes we sent him earlier," Rana said. "But he refused to talk about what had happened to him in custody. I asked the Americans why they had arrested him. They told me simply, 'He is a witness'."

The Red Cross visited him on January 19. On February 17, the organisation informed the family that he was dead. "I went to the morgue in the hospital and found him in a black US body bag," Ashraf said yesterday. "There was a cut on his head behind his right ear. It was hard to miss."

It was discovered that US doctors had made a 20cm incision in his skull, apparently in an attempt to save his life after the initial blow.

The family presented its autopsy findings to an Iraqi judge. "He told us, 'You can't do anything to the coalition. What happened is history,'" Ashraf said.

Yesterday, as darkness fell around the scientist's home, the family showed some of their father's belongings returned from the jail - a few Red Cross letters, a bag of clothes and a framed photo.

But there also was the legacy of emotion - of a kind now common across Iraq, and swelling into a storm. "I won't allow myself to rest until I have got revenge for him," Rana said.

Full article: "I will always hate you people"

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