NBC News
updated 6/9/2004 4:28:51 PM ET 2004-06-09T20:28:51

In the first civil action arising from the alleged mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday charged two U.S. companies with conspiring with U.S. officials to “humiliate, torture and abuse persons detained by U.S. authorities in Iraq.”

The lawsuit, filed in San Diego by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and a Philadelphia law firm, alleged that the companies — Titan Corp. of San Diego and CACI International of Arlington, Va. — and three of their employees violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by  "engaging in a wide range of heinous and illegal acts."

The suit, filed on behalf of nine Iraqis and a class of other prisoners, said the plaintiffs were hooded, raped, beaten with chains, shot with stun guns, urinated on and otherwise humiliated. One person, the lawsuit said, was forced to watch his father being "tortured and abused so bad that he died."

The suit charges that the abuse was administered to demonstrate the companies’ abilities to get intelligence and thereby get more government contracts to interrogate detainees.

The three employees named in the suit are Stephen Stephanowicz and John Israel of CACI and Adel Nakkla of Titan.

Wil Williams, a Titan spokesman, called the lawsuit frivolous.

"We do not know of any government allegation against Titan on this issue, nor have we heard of any government allegation or charge against our single former employee who was identified in this lawsuit,” he said. "Titan has never provided interrogators or interrogation services to anyone.  We provide only linguist services — the translating or transcribing of one language into another.”

There was no immediate comment from CACI.

Seven U.S. soldiers — members of a military police company — have been charged in a military court with abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Some have made public statements saying they were merely following instructions from military intelligence officers and, in some cases, civilian contractors.

NBC's Pete Williams contributed to this report.

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