Preacher seized by CIA tells of torture in Egypt

AN EGYPTIAN preacher who was seized by the CIA in daylight on a Milan street has revealed the details of 14 months of torture to which he says he was subjected after his “extraordinary rendition” to Egypt.
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, described how Egyptian interrogators stripped him, shackled his arms and legs in a crucifixion position and then beat him and gave him electric shocks. He claimed they had twice attempted to rape him.
Now living in Alexandria, Nasr, 44, walks with a limp, is deaf in one ear and bears scars.
Last Friday the trial opened of 26 American defendants accused of kidnapping him on February 17, 2003, in an operation prosecutors say was coordinated by the CIA and Italian intelligence. None of the US defendants, a number of whom were identified by aliases, attended.
Nasr fled Egypt in 1988 after he was accused of being a member of Gama’a Islamiya, an Egyptian militant group that later carried out terrorist attacks. He denied the allegation and was granted political asylum in Italy. When he disappeared he was walking to midday prayers at a radical mosque where he was a part-time preacher.
He became a “ghost prisoner”, his arrest and detention confirmed to nobody. “I was out of history. My lawyer searched prisons all over Egypt and no one could find a trace of me,” he said. (more…)

London student’s jungle war escape led to ‘rendition’ trap

Sunday Times, June 10, 2007, by Stephen Grey.

A BRITISH student who was caught up in fighting in Somalia has described how he fled for his life only to be arrested as a suspected Al-Qaeda member and then rescued by a British consul from a secret operation to transfer terrorist suspects to Ethiopia for interrogation.
Reza Afsharzadagen, 25, from north London, was among hundreds of refugees forced to flee battles last December between Islamic radicals who had seized power in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, and Ethiopian soldiers trying to install a rival United Nations-backed government.
After dodging bombs from American warplanes deployed in support of the Ethiopians and trekking through jungle for 13 days, Afsharzadagen reached safety in Kenya. But there he was detained as a suspected terrorist and questioned for nearly a month without being charged.
He and three other British Muslims who were arrested – Shahajan Janjua, Hamza Chent-ouf, and Mohammed Ezzoueck, all from London – were eventually returned home and cleared of any suspicion of terrorist activity after the intervention of the Foreign Office. (more…)

DISPATCHES – Monday JUNE 14, 2007

“Kidnapped to Order
Channel 4, UK, Monday, June 11, 2007 at 8PM UK

Dispatches exposes a new phase in America’s dirty war on al Qaeda: the rendition and detention of women and children. Last year, President Bush confirmed the existence of a CIA secret detention programme but he refused to give details and said it was over. Dispatches reveals new evidence confirming fiercely-denied reports that many of the CIA captives were held and interrogated in Europe. Those prisons may now be closed but the programme is by no means over, it’s just changed. A new front has opened up in the Horn of Africa and America has outsourced its renditions to its allies.Reporter Stephen Grey (author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Programme) investigates America’s global sweep for prisoners – obtaining exclusive interviews with former detainees who claim they have been kidnapped and flown halfway across the world to face torture by America’s allies.The film opens with an examination of the most notorious rendition story to date – the kidnap of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar. This month in Italy the trial opens of twenty-five CIA officers accused of snatching Omar from the streets of Milan in broad daylight and flying him to Cairo four years ago. Grey travels to Egypt to secure an exclusive interview with Omar who defies the warnings of his interrogators not to speak publicly about his treatment. He details the torture that was inflicted upon him in his fourteen-month detention and the number of other ‘ghost detainees’ he encountered – people who are being held in secret, without charge.The film then turns to Pakistan – one of America’s most significant allies in the ‘war on terror’. Since 9/11, the state’s intelligence services have apprehended over a five hundred people as terror suspects. Grey investigates what happens to the ‘disappeared’ amid claims that America pays Pakistan a bounty for every suspect they capture. Turning his attentions closer to home, Grey gains exclusive access to an official European investigation which has found evidence that CIA prisons housing al Qaeda suspects have also existed in Europe and reveals the interrogation techniques that have been used against such high-value prisoners. The Bush administration claim such techniques stop short of torture but Grey discovers that many in the CIA disagree and are concerned that using them may leave them open to criminal proceedings in the future and make the evidence gained inadmissible in a trial – preventing terrorists from being convicted in court.Dispatches then examines the new battleground of America’s war on terror – the Horn of Africa. Grey travels to Kenya, and Ethiopia to investigate allegations of mass renditions involving women and children – where prisoners thought to have al Qaeda connections have been illegally transferred from country to country for imprisonment and interrogation. Grey uncovers evidence of secret rendition flights on which suspects were flown from Nairobi into war-torn Somalia – a state with no effective law or government. Amongst the suspects were women and children – he hears a first-hand account from one Briton who was on one of the flights who describes being beaten, interrogated and finding himself in a prison cell opposite a woman and a five-year-old boy. Another woman who was rendered to Somalia describes being flown on to Ethiopia with other women and children – where one pregnant woman gave birth to her child whilst in detention.Dispatches questions the legality and effectiveness of America’s rendition programme and asks whether the way detainees have been interrogated will undermine the legal process to bring real terrorists to trial and conviction.

CIA ran secret prisons for detainees in Europe, says inquiry

by Stephen Grey
Friday June 8, 2007 The Guardian
The CIA operated secret prisons in Europe where terrorism suspects could be interrogated and were allegedly tortured, an official inquiry will conclude today.
Despite denials by their governments, senior Polish and Romanian security officials have confirmed to the Council of Europe that their countries were used to hold some of America’s most important prisoners captured after 9/11 in secret.
None of the prisoners had access to the Red Cross and many were subject to what George Bush has called the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation, which critics have condemned as torture. Although suspicions about the secret CIA prisons have existed for more than a year, the council’s report, seen by the Guardian, appears to offer the first concrete evidence. It also details the prisons’ operations and the identities of some of the prisoners. (more…)

Operation Snakebite

OUT IN PAPERBACK updated edition, OPERATION SNAKEBITE (UK) and INTO THE VIPER's NEST (USA edition) is the story of British and American involvement in the conflict in Helmand, Afghanistan Frontline combat, strategic chaos, political intrigues, the truth about the enemy, and a tale of true heroes .... in the most dangerous place on earth.

The Latest Reviews

"Devastating … It explains why the world's most sophisticated armed forces are being defeated by the world's least sophisticated"- Simon Jenkins, Books of the Year 2009, The Times Literary Supplement

"One of the most courageous and important pieces of reporting of the Afghanistan campaign"- General Sir Richard Dannatt

"Grey tells the story with immediacy, drama and sometimes anger. A gripping and moving narrative"- Soldier Magazine

"magnificent ... a meticulously reconstructed account of the battle for Musa Qala ... frequently more vivid than any film .... confers immense authority ... "- Misha Glenny in the Mail on Sunday

"exemplary...an uncommonly vivid portrait of battle, matched by sharp investigation of purposes, intrigues and cock-ups... " - Max Hastings in the Sunday Times

"superb .... captures the grit and the gore, the exhaustion and emotion, the killing and the dying, the horrors and the heroism... a fine piece of war reporting ..."- Raymond Bonnner in the The Guardian.

"Excellent" - (Daily Telegraph)

"Exceptional"- (New Statesman)

"Fascinating"- (Financial Times)

"enthralling and unvarnished .... a persuasive and thoughtful account of an unwon war" -Glasgow Herald

Illustrated with 8 maps and 65 colour photos. Join the facebook page

Synopsis

In December, 2007, Stephen Grey, reporting for the Sunday Times, was under fire in Afghanistan, ambushed by the Taliban. He was amidst the biggest UK-led operation fought on Afghan soil since 9/11: the liberation of a Taliban stronghold called Musa Qala. Taking shelter behind an American armoured Humvee, Grey turned his head to witness scenes of carnage. Two cars were riddled with gunfire. Their occupants, including several children, had died. Taliban positions were pounded by bullets and bombs dropped on their compounds. A day later, as the operation continued, a mine exploded just yards from Grey, killing a British soldier.

Who, he wondered in the days that followed, was responsible for the bloodshed? And what purpose did it serve A compelling story of one military venture that lasted several days, Operation Snakebite draws on Grey's exclusive interviews with everyone from private soldiers to NATO commanders. The result is a thrilling and at times horrifying story of a war which has gone largely unnoticed back home.