Iraqi police arrested him because of his name and an Israeli stamp on his passport. From The Age:
Hugo Infante, 31, a Chilean photographer said he re-met Mr Berg around April 6 when the American returned to Baghdad, two weeks after he said he was going to Mosul for two days on business. “He said: ‘They arrested me because I had a Jewish last name and an Israeli stamp in my passport.’ Then the Iraqi police put him with the US military because they thought he was a spy.
“Nick told me all this. He wasn’t mad. It was just an adventure for him. He said: ‘This shit happens. It was bad luck.’ ”
In the Arab world, any indication that someone is a Jew or has links with Israel can be potentially fatal, as Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was beheaded on video in Pakistan two years ago, found out to his cost.
Mr Berg, 26, an independent businessman, came to Iraq to repair communications towers and had no affiliation with the US Government, officials said. In a lawsuit filed in the US District Court in Philadelphia, Mr Berg’s parents contend that his incarceration, which began with his arrest on March 24, prevented him from returning to the US on a flight that was to have arrived in New York on March 30.
As arrangements were made instead to fly Mr Berg’s remains to Kuwait and then to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, important questions about his death remained unanswered, including why he was detained for nearly two weeks and how and when he was abducted and killed.
“He knew who he was and he was not unaware of the risks here,” said Andrew Duke, 49, a Colorado businessman who drank beer with Mr Berg at the hotel the night before he was abducted, apparently on the way to Baghdad International Airport. Mr Duke said Mr Berg had given him a similar account of what happened in Mosul. “His attitude was it was all a bit of fun (being arrested). Inconvenient, but in the bigger picture, not a big deal,” Mr Duke said.
“How did it happen? All you have to do is be at a checkpoint and not take it seriously.”
Dan Senor, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq, insisted on Wednesday that Mr Berg was arrested and held by Iraqi police and was never in American custody, although the FBI visited him three times and US military police checked that he was being treated properly.
“My understanding is that they suspected that he was involved/engaged in suspicious activities,” Mr Senor said, referring to the Iraqi police.
The FBI released a statement indicating that coalition authorities had warned Mr Berg that the environment was dangerous but that he had refused offers to help get him out of Iraq safely.
Back in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the Berg family lashed out at US military officials for failing to do more to protect Mr Berg and disputed repeated US military statements that he was in the custody of Iraqi police.
Mr Berg’s older brother, David, emerged from the family’s home in suburban Philadelphia with a four-page email that he said was sent by Mr Berg just hours after he was freed from jail. He was freed on April 6, the day after the Berg family filed a lawsuit in the US that Nicholas was being held illegally by American forces. In the email, addressed to his parents, brother and sister, Mr Berg described the 13 days he spent in the Shirdta Iraqiyah station near Mosul, an Iraqi detention facility where he said the US military police supervised and trained Iraqi officers.
“The MPs were a little surprised to see an American in civilian clothing and I think out of formality and boredom they decided to do a background check, which involved CID,” Mr Berg wrote, referring to the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.
The next morning, Mr Berg described the questioning by the FBI agents as amicable but pointed. Among the questions he wrote that he was asked were: “Why was I in Iraq? Did I ever make a pipe bomb? Why was I in Iran?” He believed that their questions arose from some Farsi literature and a book about Iran that he carried.
Mr Berg wrote that after four days, he was transferred to a cell block that included prisoners charged with petty offences and suspected war criminals.
“Word had spread, due to the presence of certain items among my stuff, that I was Israeli,” Mr Berg wrote, later noting that his passport contained an Israel stamp. “So I felt a bit like Arlo Guthrie walking into a jail full of mother-rapers and father-stabbers as an accused litterbug.”
When he left the Baghdad hotel for the last time on April 10, he told Mr Infante he was heading for the airport but would return. He phoned his family on April 9. A month later, his body was discovered on a Baghdad roadside. On Tuesday, militants posted a grisly video showing his decapitation on a website linked to al-Qaeda.