In his first interview about the incident since his release, al-Dhari started by explaining to Aljazeera.net why he was driving in a Baghdad street at that hour of the morning.
“On 1 August, I participated in a live talk show on LBC television (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation), I left the studio shortly after midnight. I headed to the headquarters of the AMS intending to spend the night there and do some work for the newspaper”.
US soldiers identified al-Dhari and the officer told him that he knew his father Shaikh Harith al-Dhari, secretary-general of the AMS, but said the patrol was searching for possible attackers who had fired RPG missiles at US forces in the neighbourhood a few hours earlier.
“I told them where I had been, that millions around the world would have seen me live on TV, but they searched the cars and started serious discussions with their base. We were six in total, they separated us and military vehicles continued to patrol the area.
“After some time they searched the cars again much more aggresively this time, and threw our belongings on the ground. An officer approached me and said we are going to give you a body scan. Then they said that explosives residue had been detected on me and two of my colleagues.
“The officer requested an explanation for them finding evidence of the residue, I told him that I had been speaking live on air, and that I could not give an explanation. He said you are not cooperating and we are going to arrest you.
“They handcuffed us and blindfolded us and put us in a military vehicle. I could not see anything, but being a son of Baghdad, I could figure out that we were heading to the airport area, which was proved right the next morning.”
What were conditions like in the detention centre?
“I spent the first hours until the morning sitting on a chair. Then they took us to a prison cell where they did an initial interrogation. Then a doctor checked us, and said everything is OK.
“But his diagnosis was wrong, because the next morning an Egyptian doctor came and gave us another checkup, and found my blood pressure was high, while my colleague had breathing difficulties.
“He was very angry and sent every US soldier out of the room, and made another thorough check. The doctor then wrote a report that we needed medical care.
“At 10 in the morning, we were introduced to the prison reception. They took our pictures and fingerprints. We were very tired; we spent the whole night sitting on a chair with a huge generator roaring in the next room.
“After that they kept me in a good room, they gave me a copy of the Quran and a prayer rug. The food was terrible, some cheap soup, a piece of mandarin, and dry biscuits. That same meal was served as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
He spent four days in prison, and his release was just as curious as his arrest.
“I prepared myself for a long stay in the detention centre, but I learned after my release that high-ranking US officials intervened and said they did not want to lose the involvement and efforts of the AMS.”
What subjects did they bring up during the interrogation?
“Basically, because the AMS have made efforts in the releasing of several captives in Iraq, they suspected that we have links with the captors, but the truth is that the AMS is highly respected and the only link between us and the them is our appeals in which we remind them of the principles of Islam which prohibits Muslims from harming people.”
“They also mentioned the names of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and wanted to know if I knew any of them. The interrogators were keen to find out anything about the Iraqi resistance.”
“They think because we are a revered Sunni Muslim organisation, we might have information about the so-called Sunni resistance, but the truth is the resistance is Iraqi not Sunni.”
“They asked me, why we hate them? I told them that we do not hate the American people, they are welcomed as tourists, traders…etc., but not as occupiers.
“An interrogator blamed the Israeli-Arab conflict for the hostility between Arabs and Americans, and if Israel removes the settlements everything would be alright.”
“I did not agree with him, and reminded him of Jerusalem, and how it is occupied. I let him know that Muslims do not mind Jews and Christians living with them in Jerusalem, but they must ask for permission not come by force.”
What was your conclusion?
“I got the impression that US interrogators and CIA officers have not a clue about what they are doing. Their questions were shallow and indicated serious ignorance of the Iraqi scene.”
“I also noticed they are so keen to mock, ridicule, and insult us. Some of them are good people, and are very angry at [President] George Bush, one of them told me if he (Bush) loves Iraq so much, why does he not bring his family and live here?”
“But interestingly, some of them (US soldiers) are just thieves. They stole my agenda and wrist watch in front of my eyes.”