Iraq’s first human rights minister launched a blistering attack yesterday on America’s chief administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, saying that he had warned him repeatedly last year that US soldiers were abusing Iraqi detainees.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Abdel Bassat Turki, who resigned a month ago, said he informed Mr Bremer last November and again in December of the rampant abuse in US military prisons. “He listened very well. But that was all he did,” he added.

Dr Turki also claimed that he had received “information” of abuses committed against prisoners “just this week”, but refused to give details.

Following allegations of abuse, he said, he had asked for permission to visit Abu Ghraib prison last November – the month the photos were taken of US guards abusing naked Iraqi inmates. But Mr Bremer refused his request.

In December, a month before the US military set up its own secret inquiry into Abu Ghraib, he telephoned Mr Bremer to complain about the treatment of female detainees.

“They had been denied medical treatment. They had no proper toilet. They had only been given one blanket, even though it was winter,” he said.

Dr Turki’s claims heap embarrassment on the US-led coalition and the Pentagon, and suggest both had been aware of the widespread abuse much earlier than previously admitted. Dan Senor, Paul Bremer’s spokesman, told the Guardian that Mr Bremer only found out about the “humiliation” of prisoners in January.

Yesterday Dr Turki said that in March he and other US-appointed ministers had demanded an investigation after a US soldier raped a woman prisoner, documented by Major General Antonio Taguba in his report on Abu Ghraib.

“We were told this matter would be dealt with in secret, and with only Americans attending,” he said.

Originally published in The Guardian