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Man convicted of torture, exporting weapons parts to Iraq

The defendant is only the second to be convicted of torture since a federal statute went into effect in 1994, the DOJ said.

WASHINGTON — A federal jury convicted a man on Friday on charges of torture and exporting weapons parts and services to Iraq, among other crimes, the Department of Justice announced in a Monday press release.

It’s only the second time a defendant has been convicted of torture since the federal torture statute went into effect in 1994, the release said.

Ross Roggio.
Ross Roggio.Ross Roggio / via Facebook

Ross Roggio, a 54-year-old Pennsylvania resident, tortured an Estonian citizen in 2015 in Iraq and illegally exported firearm parts. Roggio was developing a weapons factory in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and the victim was an employee at the facility.

The factory employee "raised concerns about the weapons project," so Roggio was accused of coordinating with Kurdish soldiers to abduct the victim, according to the indictment. Roggio then "suffocated the victim with a belt, threatened to cut off one of his fingers, and directed Kurdish soldiers to repeatedly beat, tase, choke, and otherwise physically and mentally abuse the victim over a 39-day period," the press release details.

When reached for comment on the conviction, Roggio's lawyer wrote in an email, in part, "It was an extremely challenging case, Roggio testified that he shared the fears of his co-workers/employees that if they failed to produce weapons for the Talibani bros they would be killed. When he learned that an employee was detained by the Talibani, he returned to Kurdestan from Greece and undertook a misguided effort to secure the employee’s release. (Which he ultimately did)."

"Roggio brutally tortured another human being to prevent interference with his illegal activities," Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, said in the press release. "Thanks to the courage of the victim and other witnesses, the hard work of U.S. law enforcement, and the assistance of Estonian authorities, he will now be held accountable for his cruelty."

The DOJ defines torture as "acts specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering."

In addition to torture and illegally exporting firearm parts and services to Iraq, Roggio was also convicted of conspiracy to commit torture, conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, smuggling goods, wire fraud and money laundering.

Roggio was arrested in February 2022.