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Gulags, Ghost Prisons and Torture

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  • Gary Denton
    Excerpts 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2005

      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
      was Canadian.

      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 diary

      They 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
      they'd say.

      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
      the Americans.

      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.

      Gary Denton
      http://www.apollocon.org June 23-25, 2006

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