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. Continue reading London student’s jungle war escape led to ‘rendition’ trap
“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.