Saturday, January 15, 2005

By 2008 It'll Be Known as "Ordinary Rendition" 

Courtesy of our esteemed colleague Soj at Flogging the Simian: Khaled el-Masri, an unemployed German car salesman whose name happens to resemble that of a 9/11 suspect, was snatched off a bus at the Macedonian border, held incommunicado for weeks, stripped, shackled, beaten, and eventually flown to a prison in Afghanistan for further interrogation. His captors, he claims, were supervised by Americans:
If true, the abduction would add to our understanding of a pattern of US behaviour frightening in its implications both for America and for the rest of the world. The former director of the CIA, George Tenet, told the US 9/11 Commission last year that even before September 11 the US had abducted more than 70 foreigners it considered terrorists - a process Washington has declared legal under the label "extraordinary rendition".

An investigation by the Washington Post last year suggested that the US held 9,000 people overseas in an archipelago of known prisons (such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq) and unknown ones run by the Pentagon, the CIA or other organisations. But this figure does not include others "rendered" to third-party governments who then act as subcontractors for Washington, enabling the US to effectively torture detainees while technically denying that it carries out torture . . . .

[In Macedonia] El-Masri was kept prisoner in the room for 23 days; Macedonian civilian police were constantly present, and he was subject to repeated interrogations about his links to Islamic organisations - he says he has none - and about the mosque in Ulm where he worships.

After about 10 days, a Macedonian Mr Nice appeared. "He said it was taking a long time, too much time - let's make an end to it, and let's make a deal. 'We have to say you are a member of al-Qaida ... then we'll put you on a plane and take you back to Germany.' I refused, naturally. It would have been suicide to sign."

But el-Masri was accused of having been to a terror training camp in Jalalabad, of having a fake passport, and being in reality a citizen of Egypt. On the evening of January 23, he was handcuffed, blindfolded, put in a car and told he was going to Germany. He was driven to a place where he heard the sound of a plane, then heard the voice of one of the Macedonians saying he would have a medical examination.

"I heard the door being closed," says el-Masri. "And then they beat me from all sides, from everywhere, with hands and feet. With knives or scissors they took away my clothes. In silence. The beating, I think, was just to humiliate me, to hurt me, to make me afraid, to make me silent. They stripped me naked. I was terrified. They tried to take off my pants. I tried to stop them so they beat me again. And when I was naked I heard a camera." El-Masri breaks down as he recalls the moment when the men carried out an intrusive anal search.

He was dressed in a nappy, a short-sleeved, short-legged suit and a belt. His feet were shackled and his hands were chained to the belt. His ears were plugged and ear defenders placed over them and a clip put on his nose. A hood was put over his blindfold. With his arms raised painfully high behind his back, he was driven to an aircraft where he was thrown down on to a bare metal floor, chained and bound, and given an injection. He was dimly aware of a landing and takeoff and a second injection before the plane landed again and he was put into the boot of a car.
In the Kabul prison el-Masri went on a 37-day hunger strike before his captors decided they had the wrong man and flew him, blindfolded and handcuffed, back to Albania. ("One of the obstacles to his speedy release was the Americans' determination not to leave any evidence that he had ever been there.") German authorities are now investigating his allegations.

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