BROOKLYN (CN) – Two airlines rerouted a Baghdad-bound U.S. defense contractor to Abu Dhabi, sending him to 40 terrifying days in one of the world’s most notorious prisons on arms trafficking charges, the man claims in Federal Court. After a hasty trial with no lawyer, he says, he was sentenced to 2 months at Al Wathba Prison, which is known for its stonings, rapes, beatings and murders.
James Hunter, an airport security specialist hired to improve Baghdad International Airport, says Lufthansa Airlines was negligent in not providing him with a visa to enter Abu Dhabi, and that representatives from both Lufthansa and Etihad Airways falsely assured him there would be no problem with guns he was transporting for use in his work.
These failures and falsehoods led directly to his arrest, conviction and incarceration in horrifying conditions, he says. Hunter demands $360 million for pain and suffering.
The resident of Spokane was en route to Iraq when his flight from Frankfort to Dubai was canceled and he accepted Lufthansa’s offer of a seat on an Etihad Airways flight to the neighboring Gulf Emirate.
Before his journey, which originated in the United States, Hunter had been meticulous is securing the proper paperwork to transport arms for himself and his colleagues at Global Strategies Group, a defense and technology company working in Iraq.
Each time he changed planes or airlines, he informed personnel of his cargo, and all agreed to its transport in writing. But after a labor dispute led to the cancellation of his flight to Dubai and threatened his connecting flight to Baghdad, he says, he relied only on verbal assurances about the legality of their transport to Abu Dhabi.
Upon his arrival in the Emirate, Hunter was arrested and held for six days at an airport hotel and an Abu Dhabi police station, and forced to undergo long hours of interrogation. After a hasty trial at which he was denied representation, he was sentenced to 2 months at Al Wathba Prison, which he says is famous for its stonings, rapes, beatings and murders.
Hunter says he was given a malodorous, ill-fitting uniform and put in a cell designed for six inmates, but held 29. The single toilet in the cell barely functioned and overflowed. Bugs and vermin crawled the floor and many of the inmates had open wounds.
Hunter says he was allowed one 5-minute phone call during his first 10 days in stir and was denied his blood pressure medication. The food was “inexplicable, horrible, indefinable and inedible” and served with no utensils. Had it not been for a departing Western prisoner, who gave Hunter an old plastic Coca-Cola bottle, he would have had to use his cupped hands to drink.
After 37 days in this squalor, and after paying a $1,500 fine with the assistance of the U.S. Embassy, Hunter was allowed to leave Al Wathba, then was held in Abu Dhabi for another 17 days, while it investigated further claims “in the system.”
As a final indignity, Hunter was presented with a $7,000 bill for the time he was under house arrest in the airport hotel.
After he was finally released, he says, he was fired on pretextual grounds, as Global Strategies wanted to distance itself from the incident.
Hunter is represented by Thatcher A. Stone.