Side Trip Through Hell

From Holden:

So you think torturing detainees held at Guantanamo Bay is bad? What about torturing them during the trip there?

A 27-year-old Ethiopian man being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay alleges that interrogators in jails through which he passed before reaching Cuba repeatedly abused him physically and psychologically, his attorney said Tuesday.

Benyam Mohammed alleged that the torture took place in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan and that he was flown between those countries by American operatives, according to Clive Stafford Smith, a British human rights lawyer who said he represents about 40 Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

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Stafford Smith said Mohammed’s case illustrates the U.S. policy of secretly sending suspected terrorists to “ghost prisons” in countries that permit torture. “The mindless hypocrisy of this is what angers the world,” he said.

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He said he was questioned in Pakistan by FBI agents, who accused him of being a top official of al Qaeda and told him they were going to send him to Jordan. “The Arabs will deal with you,” said an agent who called himself Chuck, according to the account.

Stafford Smith said Mohammed told him that in July 2002 he was turned over to Americans who put him on a military plane and flew him not to Jordan, but to Morocco. There, he said, U.S. officials told him they believed he was an accomplice of Jose Padilla, who is in U.S. custody in connection with an alleged plot to set off a radiological weapon known as a dirty bomb in the United States. Stafford Smith called those allegations “total nonsense” and said Mohammed denies knowing Padilla.

At a news conference on June 1, 2004, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey Jr. said Padilla had an accomplice who had refugee status in Britain and was in custody, but Comey did not name the suspect.

Mohammed said he spent 18 months in Morocco, where he said he was beaten repeatedly and cut on his chest and genitals with a scalpel nearly monthly. “They cut all over my private parts; one of them said, it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists,” Mohammed said, according to Stafford Smith’s notes.

The lawyer said he had seen scars on Mohammed’s body. “If the U.S. military can come up with a good explanation of how he got those scars, have at it,” he said.

In January 2004, Mohammed said, he was flown to Afghanistan. He told his attorney that he was beaten in a prison there. Later he was taken to Bagram air base, where he was allowed to see the Red Cross.