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Parents blame Bush for son's execution
By Joshua Chaffin in Washington
Published: May 12 2004 5:00
 
Parents of a US contractor executed by Islamic militants in
Iraq are blaming the Bush administration for his death,
saying that US authorities had contributed to the tragedy
by unlawfully detaining their son for nearly two weeks
before his disappearance.
 
Michael Berg claimed yesterday that his son, Nick, was held
by US authorities without access to a telephone or lawyer
because of suspicions that he was an insurgent or
terrorist. By the time he was finally released in early
April, according to Mr Berg, the security situation had so
deteriorated that it was difficult for him to make his way
home.
 
"That's really what cost my son his life, the fact that the
United States government saw fit to keep him in custody for
13 days without any of his due process or civil rights," Mr
Berg said.
 
Nick Berg, a small business owner from Pennsylvania, went
to Iraq in December to help rebuild the country's
infrastructure. Instead, he became the latest western
contractor to have died a grisly death in that pursuit.
 
His headless body was found on a roadside by US soldiers
yesterday. A video from an al-Qaeda-affiliated website
depicted his decapitation by a gang of men who claimed to
be taking revenge for the abuses committed by US soldiers
at the Abu Ghraib prison.
 
The execution drew outraged comments from US leaders. White
House spokesman Scott McClellan said those responsible had
"no regard for the lives of innocent men, women and
children".
 
Rick Santorum, a Republican senator from Mr Berg's home
state, called it "an outrage to the civilised world", and
said: "If anyone wants to know what we're fighting and why
we're fighting this war on terrorism, this is a very good
example of it."
The family's accusation comes as the Bush administration
struggles to fend off allegations that it has denied the
civil rights of thousands of mostly Arab detainees it is
holding in military prisons around the world on suspicion
of terrorism.
 
Mr Berg was apprehended by Iraqi officials near the
northern city of Mosul on March 24, according to his
father, who claims that he was then interrogated by FBI
agents.
 
Mr Berg was released on April 6, a day after his parents
filed a lawsuit in federal court naming defence secretary
Donald Rumsfeld as a defendant, and claiming that their son
was being unlawfully held. They last heard from him on
April 9.
 
The FBI said it was premature to comment on the case. An
official familiar with the case acknowledged that FBI
agents had interviewed Mr Berg, but said he was in Iraqi -
not American - custody. The official was unable to clarify
the legal difference between the two, given the US
occupation.
 
But Mr Berg's father disputed this, saying it was "the
FBI", when asked in a radio interview who had detained his
son.
 
"We named Rumsfeld as the responsible person, and I still
hold him responsible," Mr Berg said. "It's the whole
Patriot Act. It's the whole feeling of this country that
rights don't matter any more because there are terrorists
about," he added. Additional reporting by Edward Alden