Video: Iraqi diplomat faces allegations

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updated 11/8/2004 7:34:24 PM ET 2004-11-09T00:34:24

The second-in-command at the Iraqi mission to the United Nations in New York is a former top Iraqi police official. NBC News has learned that, before he became a diplomat, he was under investigation in Iraq for allegations of abuse and corruption.

Gen. Ahmed Ibrahim, the former head of the Baghdad police and a favorite of United States authorities is tough and passionate about tracking down insurgents.

“We catch the terrorist, we catch the criminal, we do the big job to control for everything -- and the people happy,” says Ahmed.

Ahmed is currently in New York as Iraq's number-two man at the United Nations. But two Americans who worked closely with the Iraqi Police tell NBC News of troubling allegations against Ahmed.

“The Iraqis were calling him ‘Little Saddam’ or ‘Saddam wannabe,’” says Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton.

Holton, an intelligence specialist in Iraq, investigated Ahmed and heard a steady stream of civilian complaints.

“It was corruption, accepting bribes,” says Holton. “It was stealing things, going to people homes and taking their money, taking their jewelry.”

Massachusetts Police Chief Roy Melnick helped set up the Iraqi police Internal Affairs unit. In a memo to U.S. officials last year, Melnick alleged that Ahmed accepted bribes and brutalized prisoners.

“Based on what I investigated when I was out there,” says Melnick, “it is my opinion he should not have been allowed into this country.”

A report by the International Red Cross says there was a special prison at the Police Academy which Ahmed ran. Detainees there allegedly were “hooded and cuffed” during a “mock execution,” shocked with electric wires and beaten. The report doesn't mention Ahmed or specifically link him to any wrongdoing.

In January, Holton wrote to top American and Iraqi officials about the alleged misconduct. Their response was to transfer Holton out of the country and promote Ahmed to an important job in New York City.

Ahmed insists he did nothing wrong, but concedes mistakes by some police.

NBC News asked him: “You're acknowleging there were allegations that some of your men beat prisoners, but that you didn't know anything about it?”

“I can't know for everything,” says Ahmed. “If someone do it mistake, that mean I am no good? Maybe he do it in the night, maybe he do it when I sleep. I don't know.”

Did he ever tell his people to beat or torture anyone?

“No,” says Ahmed. “Never and ever do that. No, no, no.”

Has he ever taken a bribe?

“No, no, no, no, no.”

In February, former U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer sent Ahmed a letter praising his leadership with “extraordinary professionalism” of police under his command. U.S. officials say the allegations against Ahmed remain unproven.

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