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Pakistan: U.S. Citizens Tortured

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    FBI Participated in Interrogations Despite Apparent Knowledge of Torture, Abduction Pakistan: U.S. Citizens Tortured, Held Illegally By: Human Rights Watch
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2005
      FBI Participated in Interrogations Despite Apparent Knowledge of
      Torture, Abduction

      Pakistan: U.S. Citizens Tortured, Held Illegally
      By: Human Rights Watch
      Published: May 24, 2005

      U.S. FBI agents operating in Pakistan repeatedly interrogated and
      threatened two U.S. citizens of Pakistani origin who were unlawfully
      detained and subjected to torture by the Pakistani security services,
      Human Rights Watch said today.

      The brothers Zain Afzal and Kashan Afzal were abducted from their home
      in Karachi at about 2 a.m. on August 13, 2004. They were released on
      April 22, 2005 without having been charged.

      During eight months of illegal detention, Zain Afzal and Kashan Afzal
      were routinely tortured by Pakistani authorities to extract
      confessions of involvement in terrorist activities. During this
      period, FBI agents questioned the brothers on at least six occasions.
      The FBI agents did not intervene to end the torture, insist that the
      Pakistani government comply with a court order to produce the men in
      court, or provide consular facilities normally offered to detained
      U.S. citizens. Instead, they threatened the men with being sent to the
      U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay if they did not confess to
      involvement in terrorism.

      Human Rights Watch's information is based on extensive and separate
      interviews with the two brothers since their release and other sources.
      "It is outrageous that Pakistan abducts people from their homes in the
      middle of the night and tortures them in secret prisons to extract
      confessions, all the while ignoring court orders to produce their
      victims in court," said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights
      Watch. "The United States should be condemning this, but instead it
      either directed this activity or turned a blind eye in the hopes of
      gaining information in the war on terror."

      Human Rights Watch pointed out that Pakistan has a long and
      well-documented history of "disappearances," illegal and arbitrary
      arrests, and torture of individuals in government custody. According
      to the 2004 State Department human rights country report on Pakistan:

      Police and security forces held prisoners incommunicado and refused to
      provide information on their whereabouts, particularly in terrorism
      and national security cases … Security force personnel continued to
      torture persons in custody throughout the country. Human rights
      organizations reported that methods used included beating; burning
      with cigarettes; whipping the soles of the feet; prolonged isolation;
      electric shock; denial of food or sleep; hanging upside down; and
      forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters. Officials from the
      Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) estimated 5,000 cases of
      police torture annually. ... Prison conditions were extremely poor,
      except those for wealthy or influential prisoners. ... Shackling of
      prisoners was routine. The shackles used were tight, heavy, and
      painful, and reportedly led to gangrene and amputation in several cases.

      "Pakistan's dreadful record on illegal detentions and torture,
      well-known to the United States, should have acted as a stop sign for
      the FBI," said Adams. "Instead, the FBI aided and abetted the illegal
      actions of the Pakistani security services by participating in the

      While the brothers were being detained, their mother and Zain Afzal's
      wife attempted to lodge an abduction case with the local police. The
      police refused to register the case, informing them that "this was a
      matter involving the intelligence agencies." The police finally
      registered the case on November 15, 2004, on the orders of the Sindh
      High Court. During habeas corpus hearings, filed by their mother,
      Pakistani authorities denied holding the two men. Zain Afzal's wife
      made frequent public pleas for the brothers' release and approached
      the U.S. embassy, but received no help.

      Nida Afzal, the Chicago-based sister of the two men, informed Human
      Rights Watch that she was telephoned by an FBI agent in late October,
      2004. She alleged that the agent "categorically stated" that "they
      [Zain Afzal and Kashan Afzal] are in our custody." Later that day, two
      FBI agents came to see Nida Afzal at her home. The agents questioned
      her about her brothers' links to Afghanistan. One of the agents
      identified herself as Betsy A. Pryer and left a card. According to
      Nida Afzal, "They identified themselves and verified our identity.
      Though I pointed out that they had stated on the phone that my
      brothers were in their custody and asked repeatedly where my brothers
      were, the agents then refused to accept that they were in the FBI's

      The 2004 State Department human rights report makes clear that
      embassies in Pakistan can meet with their nationals in custody:
      "Foreign diplomats may meet with prisoners when they appear in court
      and may meet with citizens of their countries in prison visits." Yet
      no such visits took place until Human Rights Watch intervened seven
      months after the brothers were abducted.

      When queried about the status of the brothers and the role of the FBI,
      the U.S. Consul in Karachi in March replied: "We are aware of the
      reports indicating two American citizens are missing, or 'disappeared'
      in Pakistan, and we are looking into them. Due to Privacy Act
      considerations, we are unable to provide additional information on
      these two individuals. The safety and security of Americans overseas
      is of paramount importance to us, and we continue to work both here
      and abroad to provide all possible assistance to our citizens. I refer
      you to the FBI for any information on their involvement."

      "While U.S. officials say the safety and security of Americans
      overseas is paramount, the U.S. government didn't lift a finger to
      help the Afzal brothers until their cases were reported in the
      international press," said Adams. "The U.S. knew exactly where the
      brothers were all along, while their family was scared stiff, not
      knowing whether they were dead or alive. This is profoundly wrong and
      should send a chill up the spine of every U.S. citizen living overseas."

      The August 13 arrest was the second time Zain Afzal was abducted by
      Pakistani intelligence agents. On May 5, 2004, he was taken away from
      the same house in Karachi and released the following day. On that
      occasion Zain Afzal was tortured, returning home with a burst eardrum
      and severe lacerations on his back. He was unable to walk after being
      tortured in custody, and needed an operation on his ear. Medical
      reports corroborate these claims. Zain Afzal said he was questioned
      about a trip to Afghanistan, about his feelings toward the U.S.-led
      "war against terrorism," and about suspected links to Islamist

      Kashan Afzal and Zain Afzal were abducted between midnight and 2 a.m.
      on August 13, 2004, in a raid that involved at least 30 armed
      Pakistani intelligence agents. The agents broke through the concrete
      exterior wall and then broke into the house. No attempt was made to
      enter with consent and there were no arrest or search warrants.
      Neighbors came out of their homes to see what was happening, but were
      ordered to go back inside. Witnesses identified the abductors as
      government agents, based on the vehicles they drove and the manner of
      the operation.

      The intelligence agents, in plainclothes, held the Afzal family at
      gunpoint for an hour, threatening to kill them while they searched the
      house. They specifically demanded to see the U.S. passports and all
      other U.S. government-issued identity papers held by the brothers.
      Once the papers were located, they handcuffed and hooded the brothers,
      and then left with the brothers in their custody in a convoy of jeeps
      and vans typically used by Pakistan's intelligence agencies and
      police. Before they left, they locked the ailing mother of the two men
      in a bedroom. According to Zain Afzal:

      They said they had come from the "agencies" and that this was a
      "raid." They tied my hands, entered the house and handcuffed my
      brother. They also broke things in the house. They asked for all our
      U.S identity papers--passports, social security number, driver's
      licenses and so on. For this purpose, they untied our hands so we
      could fetch them. They also took a licensed gun from our home. We kept
      asking what was going on but we got no answer. When my mother asked
      they said we would be back in a day or so."

      Then they blindfolded us and put us in what looked like a police
      vehicle. All this time they had been in radio contact with others
      outside or elsewhere. We drove for about an hour and a half and they
      took us to some location. When we were inside the building and our
      blindfolds were removed. We were in a large office room and there were
      about five Pakistani military-type men there. They said nothing about
      whom they were other than that they belonged to "sensitive" agencies
      and started beatings us with whips and rods. During this time they
      kept asking us what our connections with Jihadis were. I told them
      that this was a repeat of what had happened in May and I had told
      their people everything and they had let me go. They kept saying "You
      have links with Al-Qaeda ... tell us about that" … and I kept
      repeating my life history. Though we answered everything, they still
      kept beating us.

      We were taken to small "cell-type" rooms. They kept telling us we
      would be released soon. In the rooms, they kept us shackled but
      removed the handcuffs. My brother and I were in separate cells. I did
      not see my brother for three months after this. During these three
      months, they only gave us daal [lentils] and roti [bread] to eat. I
      would ask them where my brother was and they would say he was fine and
      in the same place but I never saw him. They would escort us to the
      bathroom. I saw a guard at the main gate in an army uniform. Otherwise
      we never saw anyone in uniform. We never went outdoors. We could not
      tell the difference between night and day. The cells had no windows
      and no fans. It was like a grave-totally closed.

      During this time, they took our clothes and gave us what looked like
      prison uniforms. I would be beaten regularly during this time and when
      I was ill with fever, they refused to give me any medicine. There were
      other prisoners there but I could not talk to them, but I heard people
      call for water. Occasionally, they would say "you will go to Cuba" or
      "we will hand you over to the FBI." Often I would be beaten for asking
      for water or food or

      The brothers told Human Rights Watch that approximately three months
      into their detention their captors returned their clothes and told
      them that they would be going home soon. According to Zain Afzal:

      They blindfolded me (and other people) and bundled us in a car. I
      realized my brother was also in the car as I recognized his voice. In
      the car, they made normal conversation with us,"You must be happy to
      be going home," and so on. About 30 minutes later, we arrived at some
      airport. We knew that as we could hear planes. They made us climb the
      metal steps into a small plane. I knew the plane was small because we
      had to bend when we entered--a Fokker perhaps. My brother and I both
      began to get worried. They said "You thought we were joking! You are
      going to Cuba" We were shackled, handcuffed and blindfolded for the
      duration of the flight. One hour and a half, maybe two hours. When the
      plane landed, we realized we were not in Cuba. But either in Pakistan
      or Afghanistan maybe. The drive from the airport was about 30 minutes.
      Once we left the car, I was separated from my brother again. We were
      taken somewhere where we went downstairs to similar underground cells.
      I asked where we were but the guards said they did not know. I
      realized after a while that we were in Pakistan and that my brother
      must be close by. The guards all spoke Urdu.

      Another week to 10 days passed. During this time, the shackles were
      removed. We knew it was Ramadan and we were fasting. Maybe two weeks
      later, I was blindfolded and taken into another room. When my
      blindfold was removed I saw a Pakistani army man in plain clothes and
      two white men who flashed FBI badges and said that they had come from
      the U.S to investigate me. They asked me my life history all over
      again. I told them everything. Then they showed me photographs and
      told me that the pictures were of al-Qaeda members. "Do you know
      them?" they asked. I saw the photos and told them I recognized no one,
      knew nothing. … The FBI officer said "We have been told you and your
      brother have al-Qaeda links." The FBI officers seemed to be in their
      30's. This interrogation went on for 3-4 hours. During this time I
      told them everything about myself all over again. After that I was
      blindfolded and taken back into my cell. I knew nothing about my
      brother's whereabouts at this time. I told the FBI that I was
      illegally detained and had been tortured. They said they would try to
      help but that all decisions were to be taken by Pakistani authorities
      and Pakistan was beyond their jurisdiction.

      About 7-10 days later, the same FBI officers and Pakistan Army officer
      showed me new pictures and asked if I knew these people. They again
      asked me about links to Al-Qaeda. ... I asked them that they had
      already held me and my brother for five months and how much longer did
      they intend to hold us? I told them I had never been involved in a
      criminal act. If you have any proof, then show it to me. Or at least
      tell me how long this will take. I asked to be presented in court and
      to be given a lawyer. The FBI agents did not respond to the request
      for a lawyer or my demand to be presented in court and charged. They
      did tell me that "we annot say what your crime is and how long you
      will be held. But you are a terrorist and you could be taken to Cuba."

      The next day my brother joined me in my cell. My brother and I told
      each other what had been happening to us. He told me that the same
      things had been happening to him. We saw other prisoners including
      women and children. Once when we were being walked across to an
      interrogation, my blindfold was not tied properly and I saw many cars
      in a car park with Lahore number plates. I began to suspect we were in
      Lahore. We felt helpless and defenseless. We were treated worse than
      animals. But during this period, we were not beaten. We had regular
      interrogations, sometimes just with Pakistani military officers.

      Maybe in January or February, we were interrogated by the FBI again,
      after about a gap of a month and a half. This time there were
      different officers--two men and a woman who again showed us their
      badges. They asked the same questions all over again and I gave the
      same answers all over again. This also lasted about 90 minutes or so.
      By this time, it seemed we would remain imprisoned for the rest of our
      lives. They never even asked us different questions … the same
      questions every time. My brother had become very ill with
      tuberculosis. They called a doctor to see him who came in a Pakistan
      army uniform. He prescribed medication. Periodically we would be told
      that we were being sent to Cuba. Both the FBI and the Pakistan Army
      kept forcing us to admit our "guilt," to admit we were al-Qaeda
      members and that we were planning attacks in Pakistan and in the U.S.
      They just wanted an admission.

      Zain Afzal recounted that in another session with the FBI:

      I asked them that they had already held me and my brother for five
      months and how much longer did they intend to hold us? I told them I
      had never been involved in a criminal act. If you have any proof, then
      show it to me. Or at least tell me how long this will take. I asked to
      be presented in court and to be given a lawyer. The FBI agents did not
      respond to the request for a lawyer or my demand to be presented in
      court and charged. They did tell me that, 'We cannot say what your
      crime is and how long you will be held. But you are a terrorist and
      you could be taken to Cuba.'"

      A few weeks before his release, Zain Afzal says he told his captors:

      If you think we are guilty of a crime please charge us in court or
      release us. I pointed out that my brother was very ill. They said "we
      are the court."

      The brothers claim they were released with one final threat:

      Our last interrogation took place about 10 days before our release and
      for the first time my brother and I were called together. They said
      "Your case is almost over" and "You will be released soon. ... But we
      will only release you on condition that you will never speak to the
      press or media or speak against us. Your well-being lies in silence
      otherwise you and your family will be in big trouble." Then they made
      us write a statement that said that we had not been held by any
      government or semi-government agency and were writing this statement
      of our own free will. A week later, we were given clothes, blindfolded
      and taken to Lahore Airport where the blindfolds were removed. We were
      handed two PIA [Pakistan International Airlines] tickets to Karachi
      that were not in our names. We asked for our American passports and
      other ID and were told that our stuff would be delivered to us in
      Karachi. This happened on April 22. So we returned home. The second or
      third day after our return, the "agencies" called us and reminded us
      of our "commitment." I asked for our passports again and was told they
      would reach us soon. We have not received our passports and though we
      have also requested the U.S. Consulate in Karachi to reissue the
      passports, we have had no response.

      Human Rights Watch called on the Pakistani authorities to return the
      U.S. passports and other personal material confiscated from the
      brothers when they were illegally detained. The United States embassy
      should issue new passports immediately upon request if the passports
      are not promptly returned.

      Human Rights Watch urged the Pakistani government to take immediate
      steps to end its practice of illegal arrest and detention of persons
      as part of the "war on terror" and to end the use of torture and other
      mistreatment. Many terrorism suspects in Pakistan have routinely been
      held without any rights to a hearing before a judge, the right to
      counsel or family visits, and without receiving a trial meeting
      international fair trial standards. Human Rights Watch called on the
      Pakistani government and security services to end the use of secret
      detention facilities and to identify all such facilities immediately.

      "If President Musharraf want to convince the world that he is indeed
      an enlightened moderate, he needs to immediately order an end to such
      rampant and abusive practices," said Adams. "The hidden prison system
      run by the security services is an open secret in Pakistan. No
      self-respecting government should tolerate such a system."

      Human Rights Watch also called on the Bush administration to provide
      full information on its role in the Afzal case. Specifically, the U.S.
      must clarify whether the Afzal brothers were held in Pakistani custody
      at the request of the United States, and state the policy of the U.S.
      government when it knows or has reason to know that persons being
      questioned abroad are being seriously mistreated by their captors. The
      Convention against Torture, to which the United States is a party,
      prohibits "an act by any person which constitutes complicity or
      participation in torture."

      "The war on terror cannot be won by resorting to illegal detentions
      and torture," said Adams. "It is time for the U.S. to decide whether
      it will continue to be complicit in criminal activity in its fight
      against terrorism, or whether the rule of law will prevail."

      Human Rights Watch expressed no opinion on whether the Afzal
      brothers--or others who are "disappeared," illegally detained, or
      tortured by the Pakistani security services as part of the "war on
      terror"--have committed criminal acts. However, international law
      prohibits "disappearances," illegal detentions, or torture at all
      times, including during investigations of alleged terrorism



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