- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Iraqi expatriates who said they were beaten and imprisoned and lost loved ones at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s government shared their stories yesterday with President Bush.

Mr. Bush said the former Iraqi president “will get his due justice.”

There was an emotional atmosphere in the hourlong meeting, participants said, as Mr. Bush went around a table in the Roosevelt Room asking each of the roughly one-dozen Iraqi expatriates to tell their experiences. Mr. Bush said they told “stories of sadness and stories of bravery.”

“One of the interesting moments will come here this year when Saddam Hussein’s trial is brought forth for the world to see, to see the butcherer, the person who brutalized many people or ordered the brutality of many people here at this table, get his due justice under rule of law,” the president told reporters brought in for two minutes at the end of the meeting.

Raid Mohammad, who sat at Mr. Bush’s right arm during the meeting, said he left Iraq permanently on the advice of his father, an outspoken journalist who repeatedly was imprisoned by Saddam’s government.

The father was kidnapped in 1981 and his body was left on the family’s doorstep three days later, Mr. Mohammad said.

“I always say the best thing that has ever happened to Iraq in the last 30 years is the removal of Saddam,” Mr. Mohammad, who now lives in Austin, Texas, told reporters as he left the White House.

“But the scariest thing is that within three years, I can see and I can feel that some of those who were brutalized by Saddam started to feel nostalgic for the days of Saddam. That is the most dangerous scenario.”

The White House, which added the meeting to the president’s public schedule Tuesday evening, said it was not meant to deflect criticism of the administration in an annual report from Human Rights Watch issued yesterday.

The report said the Bush administration has a deliberate strategy of abusing terror suspects during interrogations. The White House accused the organization of having a political agenda and ignoring the fact that the United States has liberated millions from tyranny.

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