Bashar Jaburi said he was abucted, beaten and then held for ransom by men he is sure were Iraqi police.
It began one night last month when five men in police uniform fired warning shots over Jaburi’s car and arrested him, saying his vehicle resembled that used by fighters opposed to the US-backed interim government to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at one of their barracks, Jaburi said.
He said he was sure from the way they were equipped and behaved that they were members of the police force.
There was no independent corroboration of Jaburi’s story that police officers kidnapped him and then secured a ransom for his release.
“I have not heard of this case,” interior mMinistry spokesman Sabah Kathim said. “We hear lots of rumours about these matters. If anyone has a complaint, they can go to a judge.”
After the incident, Jaburi said in an interview that he refused to get involved with Iraqi law enforcement agencies despite his violent ordeal.
“They hit me with the butts of their rifles and said they were taking me to a police station for questioning. But it was clear we were going somewhere else,” said the 23-year-old Jaburi.
Scores of Iraqis and foreigners
Although some fighters and bandits have posed as policemen during abductions, Jaburi said he had no doubt that the men who blindfolded and abducted him were real police officers.
“I could tell they had modern equipment and weapons and by the way they were talking with each other,” he said.
“I remember they were pointing a gun with a red laser at my car when they stopped me.”
Jaburi was soon face down in a rooftop room in a Baghdad house beside sacks of onions and jars of cooking oil, another Iraqi victim of kidnappings that the US-backed interim government blames on fighters opposed to the presence of foreign troops in Iraq and criminal gangs.
Having purged the security forces of those most loyal to Saddam Hussein, the interim government is struggling to build a credible police force.
“As soon as I can I will get my things together and leave Iraq. I will never come back”
Many new officers have been fired for corruption or incompetence. Others have been killed or have deserted in the face of violence and intimidation.
For four days, Jaburi said, he was beaten with steel cables and iron bars by four of the policemen and three other men who were in the house where he was held. He was fed one loaf of bread during his time in captivity.
“When I asked them for water, they gave me arak (liquor) and they would not let me go to the bathroom. They gave me a plastic bottle only,” he said.
Kidnapping for profit
Many of Iraq’s kidnappers make money from the chaos gripping the country. Their goal is not high-profile political abductions that make the news. When they cannot get cash, they can kill.
Jaburi was the son of a wealthy Baghdad merchant. After demanding $100,000 they settled for $15,000 in negotiations that dragged on as Jaburi was tortured.
As Iraq prepares to hold elections amid relentless bombings, Jaburi said he can never trust the police.
“When I see a police car in my neighbourhood I quickly pull over to get far away from them,” he said. “As soon as I can, I will get my things together and leave Iraq. I will never come back.”