An Upper East Side mansion that houses the Iraqi diplomatic mission once featured a basement chamber where political enemies of Saddam Hussein were tortured, according to an exposé by the New York Post.
The newspaper cited annonymous sources in describing the torture chamber inside the mansion, which is located across the street from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's residence.
Hussein revamped a room inside the mission into a "detention room" after rising to power in 1979, anonymous Iraqi officials told the Post. It reportedly served as a jail for local Iraqis whose family members living in Iraq had angered the government. Iraqi Intelligence agents imprisoned people there as leverage to persuade their relatives in Iraq to surrender to Hussein's government.
Torture tactics here were brutal, the officials said. The tyrannical president's henchmen would rip the fingernails off prisoners and inflict pain with such items as rubber hoses and wooden planks. In some instances, prisoners were killed and their bodies sent back Iraq in boxes exempt from inspection by U.S. Customs officials
"They just put [the body] in a diplomatic box and it can just be shipped. This is diplomatic—nobody has the authority to examine it or open it," one official told the Post.
"It was a dark room. The doors were reinforced in a way that nobody could break in or out. You didn’t need to soundproof it,” an official said. The other added: "You’re not going to hear someone screaming down there."
No evidence of the torture chamber remains, the Post reported. Officials said that when Hussein's regime fell in 2003, federal investigators stormed the building, seized hard drives and computers and swept the vaults. The mission got its building back in less than a year.
In 2014, the space was renovated into a kitchenette for about $120,000.