OZ ADMITS HABIB ''MAY HAVE BEEN'' TORTURED
- Habib 'may have been tortured'
By Sandra O'Malley and Paul Osborne
February 14, 2005
Emotional ... Mamdouh Habib on 60 Minutes last night.
FORMER Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib may have been abused in
Egypt and a second US investigation might find evidence of
maltreatment in Cuba, the Federal Government said today.
In a paid interview on the Channel 9's 60 Minutes program last
night, Mr Habib detailed a systematic regime of mental and physical
He also claimed an Australian official in Pakistan stood by and
watched as he was tortured.
The Australian Government denies the allegation.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has conceded Mr Habib may have
been abused in Egypt, and does not rule out a second American
investigation finding evidence of ill-treatment at the US military
base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"For all I know he may have been badly treated in Egypt, but we
don't know because the Egyptians have still not conceded to us that
they held him," Mr Downer said.
In December, Mr Downer said a preliminary US investigation found
neither Mr Habib nor fellow Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks had
been tortured in Cuba.
"They've (US authorities) done one full investigation and they're in
the process of completing a second investigation. Nothing's turned
up so far," Mr Downer said today.
"Look, it might be in the next few weeks something will turn up."
The Government plans to hand a tape of Mr Habib's interview to the
US to help with investigations.
The Government meanwhile continued to deny Mr Habib would be
eligible for compensation from Australia for his alleged
Mr Habib was admitted to hospital with chest pains last night after
the interview went to air, Nine reported.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock distanced the Government from
knowledge about why the US failed to pursue its case against Mr
Habib, amid claims military evidence may have been tainted due to
how it was obtained.
He acknowledged judicial proceedings could fail if evidence had been
obtained by torture.
"It is highly unlikely that any evidence obtained by torture would
be seen as having sufficient probative value to be useful," Mr
Mr Ruddock also said Australian officials who visited Mr Habib in
Pakistan denied they had been witness to any interrogations when
torture was applied.
Mr Ruddock told ABC TV officers from spy agency ASIO and the
Australian Federal Police had questioned Mr Habib in Pakistan but
had not been involved in the administration of any torture or duress.
"I haven't personally interviewed the officers but I am informed by
those who report to me that they have been asked whether or not in
their presence any torture occurred and they have said they did not
witness the application of any torture to Mr Habib at the times they
were there," Mr Ruddock said.
Asked if it were not possible that the officers had kept the
information from their superiors, Mr Ruddock said: "I think it's
highly unlikely when you have a number of officers in that position
they would all be complicit in behaviour of the sort you are
Mr Habib returned to Australia last month after more than three
years in detention in Guantanamo Bay, Egypt and Pakistan.
The US eventually released him without charge, but Mr Habib remains
a person of interest to Australian authorities, who are concerned
about his alleged links to al-Qaeda.
Despite concerns by spy agency ASIO that Mr Habib is a security
risk, Mr Ruddock said on current evidence he could not be charged
under Australian law.
Mr Habib has threatened to sue the Government for failing to protect
Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, Robert Cornall, told
a Senate estimates hearing that he had written to Mr Habib's lawyer
Stephen Hopper asking for details of his client's allegations, and
further details surrounding events leading up to his capture in
Mr Cornall said the Government needed those details to determine
whether it was liable for compensation or legal aid.
Mr Habib has refused to answer questions on whether he travelled to
Afghanistan and what he may have been doing there before his arrest.
Mr Habib has defended his decision not to reveal crucial details
surrounding his presence in Afghanistan around the time of the
September 11, 2001 attacks.
"I want a judge to stand up and say Mr Habib is innocent, and I'm
going to give him the proof," Mr Habib told Nine.
Mr Hopper said there were legal reasons behind Mr Habib's reluctance
to speak about his whereabouts.
"We're building up a potential legal case," he said.