It's a prime example of the lawlessness in Iraq. The details are sketchy and disputed, but here they are: An Iraqi corruption judge, continually thwarted
in his pursuit of justice, finally helps convict a high-ranking official. But then the official breaks out of jail. Or, rather, the official is helped out of jail by guards working for one
defense contractor, but is then returned -- only to leave jail with the help of another
Testimony today from Iraqi corruption judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi touched on the conviction of
Ayham al-Samarrai, the former Iraqi electricity minister. al-Radhi helped put al-Samarrai away for what the judge called "wasting" public funds. al-Samarrai is the highest-ranking official to be convicted of corruption in Iraq.
His name may be familiar to Blackwater watchers. Last month, an Iraqi defense official told McClatchy's Leila Fadel that Blackwater helped
break al-Samarrai out of prison in the Green Zone last December. Today, however, al-Radhi suggested that the defense official was wrong. A rival private-security company, DynCorp
, assisted al-Samarrai's prison break, al-Radhi said.
But DynCorp says it's a huge misunderstanding. "It's absolutely untrue," says spokesman Gregory Lagana. "We are absolutely 100 percent convinced it wasn't us." However, Lagana says, he knows why al-Radhi thinks DynCorp was behind it. Two DynCorp employees, one named George Dillman and another whom Lagana didn't recall, were stationed in Iraq to assist in training Iraqi policemen. Among the police stations the two were detailed to was the Green Zone station where al-Samarrai was detained. In October, al-Samarrai, who holds dual U.S.-Iraqi citizenship, told the DynCorp employees that he would be murdered if he was convicted.
When Samarrai was convicted, the DynCorp employees tried to help al-Samarrai, to whom they had become sympathetic. They improperly transported him to the U.S. embassy to seek protection for him. But the embassy told them that their intended transfer was improper, and took al-Samarrai back to the Iraqi police. "That was our last contact with him, and the two guys were fired," Lagana said. "They had no business doing what they did." The story was first reported in The Chicago Tribune last December.
However, al-Samarrai's story doesn't end there. According to Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) -- and confirmed by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction -- al-Samarrai is currently living in Chicago. It's still not certain which contractor sprung al-Samarrai from jail. But beyond that: who helped al-Samarrai get back into the U.S.?