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The Crucifixion of Manadel al-Jamadi


al-Jamadi's Widow and Son

Manadel al-Jamadi's widow and son, whose names have been withheld, hold a photograph of convicted Abu Ghraib torturer Sabrina Harman smiling over his frozen corpse. al-Jamadi had been tortured to death by U.S. personnel.

Released to the public domain by al-Jamadi's family. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Manadel al-Jamadi was tortured to death by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib Prison on November 4, 2003.


At approximately 2am on November 4, 2003, Navy SEALs arrested Manadel al-Jamadi on the suspicion that he might have somehow been involved in the production of explosives later sold to terrorists. The evidence linking al-Jamadi to the crime is secret and may, in fact, not exist; according to the International Red Cross, 70 to 90 percent of Abu Ghraib prisoners were arrested without probable cause.

Ghost Prisoner:

al-Jamadi was arrested as an enemy combatant. No records of his arrest were kept--like many detainees, he was a "ghost prisoner" who was to have disappeared without any official record of his status. The CIA officer who interrogated him did not feel obligated to observe the Geneva Conventions and, were it not for the release of Abu Ghraib photographs in 2004, would have most likely never disclosed the circumstances surrounding his death.

Initial Abuse:

At the time of his arrest, al-Jamadi was restrained in plastic cuffs, nude from the waist down, with a bag over his head. At some point either during or immediately following the arrest but prior to his interrogation, he sustained a black eye, a laceration on his face, and six fractured ribs.

Palestinian Hanging:

The CIA interrogator ordered that al-Jamadi be stripped, hooded, and hung from bars above his shoulders in the manner referred to as Palestinian hanging, which is a form of crucifixion. In this case, crucifixion was apparently used as a means of torture rather than a means of deliberate execution, but it had the latter effect.


After 45 minutes of hanging, al-Jamadi became non-responsive and the CIA interrogator, certain that al-Jamadi was faking unconsciousness, called for additional interrogators. Personnel who entered the room lifted the hood and discovered that al-Jamadi had died.

Official Cause of Death:

An autopsy revealed that al-Jamadi had died due to a combination of compromised respiration and blunt force trauma to the head and torso. Medical examiners were not, however, privy to the circumstances of al-Jamadi's death. After being briefed on the circumstances, later medical examiners reviewing the autopsy notes came to a more specific conclusion.

The Testimony of Dr. Stephen Baden:

According to Dr. Stephen Baden, chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police:
If his hands were pulled up five feet—that’s to his neck. That’s pretty tough. That would put a lot of tension on his rib muscles, which are needed for breathing. It’s not only painful—it can hinder the diaphragm from going up and down, and the rib cage from expanding. The muscles tire, and the breathing function is impaired, so there’s less oxygen entering the bloodstream ... (A)sphyxia is what he died from--as in a crucifixion.

Hiding the Body:

CIA personnel destroyed evidence of wrongdoing, including the bloody hood al-Jamadi wore at the time of his death. An IV was attached to the corpse's arm and he was taken through the prison in view of other prisoners and personnel, who were told that he had suffered a heart attack and that they were attempting to save him. His body was later frozen in a shower room for several days, during which time other Abu Ghraib personnel posed with his corpse.


Eight Navy SEALs involved in al-Jamadi's capture were issued letters of reprimand that essentially ended their military careers, but were acquitted on criminal charges when medical expert testimony determined that it was the interrogator who was responsible for al-Jamadi's death.

The Abu Ghraib personnel who posed with his corpse, Charles Graner and Sabrina Harman, were later convicted on other charges and sentenced to prison time.

The CIA interrogator, who had presumably acted under orders, was never charged.
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