Opinion Columns & Blogs

Musadik Mahdi: Nephew facing execution in Iraq, needs help

My nephew Osama Jamal ‘Abdallah Mahdi faces execution by hanging in Iraq, even though there is indisputable evidence he committed no crime (July 6 Eagle).

Osama, 32, my brother’s son, is a dedicated father of two children, ages 3 and 4. He works as a professional oil technician in the Do’Rah Oil Refinery in Baghdad.

I have lived here in the United States for more than 35 years, and during those years my brother and I remained close, despite the distance between our families. I’ve kept in contact with his sons as well.

Just before my brother passed away, he told me Osama was accused of something he didn’t do. He knew his son was innocent, and it was his dying wish to free his son. Now it is my duty to help free Osama, a very hardworking man who tries to support his family and who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

His life is at risk, and I am urging people in the United States and around the world to join members of Amnesty International (amnestyusa.org/iraqdp) to help save Osama’s life.

My nephew was arrested and convicted for the killing of an Iraqi army officer that occurred on Nov. 26, 2008. For eight months, the family had no contact with him. While he was held incommunicado, Osama was beaten with sharp objects, kicked, suspended by the arms, injured by a drill gun, and electrically shocked on various parts of his body. A medical examination indicated that he had 20 marks on his body. The torture was intended to force him to admit that he killed the officer.

I know without a doubt that he is innocent.

Osama was put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to death. The trial lasted one day – definitely insufficient to prove Osama guilty.

Numerous prisoners in Iraq have been convicted on the basis of coerced “confessions” while being tortured, after being detained without access to a lawyer or any contact with the outside world. Another prisoner, Abdullah al-Qahtani, was also sentenced to death by a court that abuses due process. His family worked with Amnesty International to generate thousands of letters to help stay his execution. Although he has been given a temporary reprieve, he is still at risk.

There was important, indisputable evidence showing that Osama was at work the day of the Iraqi army officer’s murder – proof that he was not involved in the killing. For unjust reasons, the court threw out this piece of evidence, just as it ignored the forensic evidence of torture and allowed his so-called confession to stand.

Two “secret witnesses” who are paid by the Iraqi government turned in Osama. There were no eyewitnesses, according to the court. His sentencing was based on his “confession” under torture.

I became a U.S. citizen 31 years ago, and appreciate the rights we have in the United States. There are rights in Iraq, too, and no matter where you were born, everyone has the right to a fair trial. This is an inherent human right for all.

I am urging people to speak out about this terrible injustice, to pressure the Iraqi government to give Osama and Abdullah fair trials.

Our families are calling on the government to stop the inhumane treatment that Osama and Abdullah are suffering, and to restore their rights and free them from the death sentence.