American F.B.I. agents repeatedly interrogated two United States citizens who were illegally detained for eight months and did nothing to stop them from being tortured by Pakistani authorities, a human rights group said Tuesday.
The brothers, Zain and Kashan Afzal, ages 23 and 25, respectively, both Americans of Pakistani descent, were arrested at their Karachi home last August and kept in secret Pakistani detention facilities for eight months until their release on April 22. No charges were ever filed, and for many months their family did not know where they were, according to a report by the group, Human Rights Watch.
“What crime did we commit?” a distraught Zain Afzal said in a brief telephone interview from Karachi. “If we did something wrong, would they let us go? It was an illegal detention.”
The Afzal brothers’ claims suggest a close collaboration of American and Pakistani intelligence officials in vetting terror suspects, and they raise questions about the responsibilities that the United States has for its own citizens abroad.
The two told Human Rights Watch that they had been interrogated six times over the eight months by F.B.I. agents and had been repeatedly questioned by American and Pakistani intelligence officials about their role in Al Qaeda – a role they denied having – and were threatened with detention at the American base at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday that the F.B.I. agents did not intervene to end torture, insist that the Pakistani government comply with a Pakistani court order to produce the men in court or provide consular services normally offered to detained Americans.
“Instead,” the group said, “they threatened the men with being sent to the U.S. detention facility at Guantnamo Bay if they did not confess to involvement in terrorism.”