Escaped Minister Says He Fled Iraqi Jail 'The Chicago Way'

Escaped Minister Says He Fled Iraqi Jail 'The Chicago Way'
December 20th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Escaped Minister Says He Fled Iraqi Jail 'The Chicago Way'

Escaped Minister Says He Fled Iraqi Jail 'The Chicago Way'
New York Times
December 20, 2006
Pg. 16

By James Glanz
BAGHDAD, Dec. 19 — In a lengthy phone conversation on Tuesday, the former Iraqi electricity minister who escaped from a Baghdad jail on Sunday ridiculed American and Iraqi officials and said he fled because he did not trust the police and had received a tip that he would be assassinated within days.
The official, Aiham Alsammarae, who telephoned this reporter, said, without offering proof, that he was already outside Iraq after finagling his way aboard a flight at the Baghdad International Airport.
Incredulous Iraqi security and justice officials disputed parts of his account, saying that a figure as recognizable as Mr. Alsammarae could not possibly have slipped onto a flight when he was the subject of a manhunt.
Mr. Alsammarae, who holds dual American and Iraqi citizenship, scoffed at those assertions and said they were made by officials who spent too much time inside the protected Green Zone in central Baghdad and did not understand how the country really worked.
“Those suckers who are sitting in the Green Zone, they cannot go out and see the people they are governing?” asked Mr. Alsammarae, whose unmistakable speech patterns in English reflect his Iraqi and American backgrounds. “This is a joke.
“So why I cannot take the airport? It’s not because I am a smart cookie. Any Iraqi can do it, even if they have 10,000 court orders against him. This is Iraq.”
One fact Iraqi officials could not dispute: Mr. Alsammarae, who had been jailed four months ago on corruption charges stemming from deals made when he was the electricity minister from August 2003 to May 2005, was still free.
If correct, Mr. Alsammarae’s tale of escape would mean that he not only worked his way free of the Iraqi police guarding the jail but also eluded the thousands of Western and Iraqi security forces stationed in the dense maze of checkpoints and blast walls in the Green Zone, which is the fortified heart of the American occupation and the Iraqi government.
When asked how he could have pulled off such an escape, Mr. Alsammarae, who moved to Chicago in 1976 but returned to Iraq just after the invasion, laughed uproariously for 20 seconds. Then, recycling a famous line from an exchange about Al Capone in “The Untouchables,” Mr. Alsammarae said with undisguised glee: “The Chicago way.”
Mr. Alsammarae was the most senior Iraqi official of the post-Saddam Hussein era to be arrested and jailed. His career over the past three years has had a meteoric trajectory, from his meeting with President Bush at the White House in September 2003 to his arrest in August.
Although an appeals court overturned his only conviction last week, he faced additional charges and it was unclear whether he could be freed on bail under Iraqi law.
His escape is a serious embarrassment for the Interior Ministry and the American-led forces that are guarding the Green Zone and struggling to shape the Iraqi police into an effective security force. Iraqi officials expressed consternation when informed that Mr. Alsammarae had telephoned a reporter while on the lam.
“I have no information,” said Brigadier Abdul Karim Khalif, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. “He escaped from us.”
Mr. Khalif did say that the police chief and his assistant at the station where Mr. Alsammarae had been held were under arrest and that they were being questioned on the escape.
“We are not just embarrassed by that, but we are very angry with our employees and this thing should not happen again,” Mr. Khalif said.
Mr. Khalif said that a jailbreak was a crime under Iraqi law and that Mr. Alsammarae would be pursued on those grounds as well.
“Now, he is a fugitive from justice,” said Rathi al-Rathi, head of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, whose investigation led to Mr. Alsammarae’s prosecution. “He will be on the run, and he will be pursued by Interpol for the rest of his life.”
But Mr. Rathi said he did not believe Mr. Alsammarae had left Iraq yet because the borders had been sealed. When informed of that assertion in an e-mail message, Mr. Alsammarae could scarcely contain his disdain of Mr. Rathi, whose investigations Mr. Alsammarae believes are politically motivated.
“Ask him if he wants me to stop and pick him up tomorrow and show him the way out!!!” Mr. Alsammarae wrote in response.
In a measure of just how murky the matter has become, Mr. Rathi himself has recently been accused of corruption in the finances of his own office. He has in turn dismissed those charges as political.
Mr. Alsammarae shed little direct light on the two leading theories of how he escaped: either with the help of a mysterious Western private security firm that appeared at the station on Sunday, or with the complicity of the Iraqi police.
“I don’t like to harm these people who helped me,” he said.
Despite the charges against him, Mr. Alsammarae said he did not believe that the American authorities would arrest him in Chicago. “I hope they are smarter than that,” he said.

Similar Topics
What should fly in the Iraqi Air Force?
U.S. Commanders Advance Plan To Beef Up Training Of Iraqi Army
Bush Adviser's Memo Cites Doubts About Iraqi Leader
Iraqi prime minister disavows raid, says timeline a matter of U.S. politics
Day In Pictures - September 19 (British tanks Attacked )