Gulags, Ghost Prisons and Torture
For two and a half years US authorities moved Benyam Mohammed around a
series of prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, before he was
sent to Guantánamo Bay in September last year.
In an statement given to his newly appointed lawyer, Mohammed has
given an account of how he was tortured for more than two years after
being questioned by US and British officials who he believes were from
the FBI and MI6. As well as being beaten and subjected to loud music
for long periods, he claims his genitals were sliced with scalpels.
He alleges that in Morocco he was shown photos of people he knew from
a west London mosque, and was asked about information he was told was
supplied by MI5. One interrogator, he says, was a woman who said she
Drawing on his notes, Mohammed's lawyer has compiled a 28-page diary
of his torture. This has been declassified by the Pentagon, and
extracts are published in the Guardian today.
The lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, says: "This is outsourcing of
torture, plain and simple. America knows torture is wrong but gets
others to do its unconscionable dirty work.
"It's clear from the evidence that UK officials knew about this
rendition to Morocco before it happened. Our government's
responsibility must be to actively prevent the torture of our
Mohammed was arrested in Karachi while trying to fly to Zurich - and
thus entered a "ghost prison system" in which an unknown number of
detainees are held at unregistered detention centres, and whose
imprisonment is not admitted to the International Committee of the Red
His brother and sisters, who live in the US, say the FBI told them of
his arrest in summer 2002, but they were unable to find out anything
else until last February. In recent days the Bush administration is
reported to have lobbied to block legislation, supported by some
Republican senators, to prohibit the military engaging in "cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment", and hiding prisoners from the Red
Mohammed alleges he was held at two prisons in Pakistan over three
months, hung from leather straps, beaten, and threatened with a
firearm by Pakistanis. In repeated questioning by men he believes were
FBI agents, he was told he was to go to an Arab country because "the
Pakistanis can't do exactly what we want them to".
The torture stopped after a visit by two bearded Britons; he believes
they were MI6 officers. He says they told him he was to be tortured by
Arabs. At one point, he says, they gave him a cup of tea and told him
to take plenty of sugar because "where you're going you need a lot of
He says he was flown on what he believes was a US aircraft to Morocco,
while shackled, blindfolded and wearing earphones. It was, he says, in
a jail near Rabat that his real ordeal began. After a fortnight of
questioningand intimidation, his captors tortured him with beatings
and noise, on and off, for 18 months. He says his torturers used
scalpels to make shallow, inch-long incisions on his chest and
Throughout, he was accused of being a senior al-Qaida terrorist and
accomplice of Padilla. He denies these allegations, though he says
that while tortured he would say whatever he thought his captors
wanted. He signed a statement about the dirty bomb plot.
Mr Stafford Smith was first allowed to see him two months ago. He said
there were marks of his injuries, and he is pressing the US to release
the photos taken in Morocco and Afghanistan.
>From his diaryThey took the scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut.
Maybe an inch. At first I just screamed ... I was just shocked, I
wasn't expecting ... Then they cut my left chest. This time I didn't
want to scream because I knew it was coming.
One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did
it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my
reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in
maybe two hours. There was blood all over. "I told you I was going to
teach you who's the man," [one] eventually said.
I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it
to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: "What's the point
of this? I've got nothing I can say to them. I've told them everything
I possibly could."
"As far as I know, it's just to degrade you. So when you leave here,
you'll have these scars and you'll never forget. So you'll always fear
doing anything but what the US wants."
Later, when a US airplane picked me up the following January, a female
MP took pictures. She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me
any sympathy. When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. They treated
me and took more photos when I was in Kabul. Someone told me this was
"to show Washington it's healing".
But in Morocco, there were even worse things. Too horrible to
remember, let alone talk about. About once a week or even once every
two weeks I would be taken for interrogation, where they would tell me
what to say. They said if you say this story as we read it, you will
just go to court as a witness and all this torture will stop. I
eventually repeated what was read out to me.
When I got to Morocco they said some big people in al-Qaida were
talking about me. They talked about Jose Padilla and they said I was
going to testify against him and big people. They named Khalid Sheikh
Mohamed, Abu Zubaidah and Ibn Sheikh al-Libi [all senior al-Qaida
leaders who are now in US custody]. It was hard to pin down the exact
story because what they wanted changed from Morocco to when later I
was in the Dark Prison [a detention centre in Kabul with windowless
cells and American staff], to Bagram and again in Guantánamo Bay.
They told me that I must plead guilty. I'd have to say I was an
al-Qaida operations man, an ideas man. I kept insisting that I had
only been in Afghanistan a short while. "We don't care," was all
I was also questioned about my links with Britain. The interrogator
told me: "We have photos of people given to us by MI5. Do you know
these?" I realised that the British were sending questions to the
Moroccans. I was at first surprised that the Brits were siding with
On August 6, I thought I was going to be transferred out of there [the
prison]. They came in and cuffed my hands behind my back.
But then three men came in with black masks. It seemed to go on for
hours. I was in so much pain I'd fall to my knees. They'd pull me back
up and hit me again. They'd kick me in my thighs as I got up. I
vomited within the first few punches. I reallydidn't speak at all
though. I didn't have the energy or will to say anything. I just
wanted for it to end. After that, there was to be no more first-class
treatment. No bathroom. No food for a while.
During September-October 2002, I was taken in a car to another place.
The room was bigger, it had its own toilet, and a window which was
They gave me a toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste. I was allowed to
recover from the scalpel for about two weeks, and the guards said
nothing about it.
Then they cuffed me and put earphones on my head. They played hip-hop
and rock music, very loud. I remember they played Meat Loaf and
Aerosmith over and over. A couple of days later they did the same
thing. Same music.
For 18 months, there was not one night when I could sleep well.
Sometimes I would go 48 hours without sleep. At night, they would bang
the metal doors, bang the flap on the door, or just come right in.
They continued with two or three interrogations a month. They weren't
really interrogations, more like training me what to say. The
interrogator told me what was going on. "We're going to change your
brain," he said.
I suffered the razor treatment about once a month for the remaining
time I was in Morocco, even after I'd agreed to confess to whatever
they wanted to hear. It became like a routine. They'd come in, tie me
up, spend maybe an hour doing it. They never spoke to me. Then they'd
tip some kind of liquid on me - the burning was like grasping a hot
coal. The cutting, that was one kind of pain. The burning, that was
Note that the torturers are sometimes trying to build a case against
US citizen Padilla, held over 3 years without charges.
http://www.apollocon.org June 23-25, 2006
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