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The horrors of extrajudicial renditions

zgrams at zgrams.zundelsite.org
Fri Oct 27 19:08:08 EDT 2006


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ZGram

As you read this account by Maher Arar, please be aware that Ernst's 
kidnapping - in twistspeak called "extrajudicial rendition" - 
happened in a very similar way.  The insults, lengthy interrogations, 
humiliations, refusal to let his family know where he was, refusal to 
contact an attorney, the luxury private plane to move him to another 
country Š all this has parallels.

I suspect, but do not know for sure, that Ernst was also physically 
abused by being beaten, or at least being slapped around.  He told me 
at one point:  "You don't know the half of itŠ"  He would not tell me 
what that meant.

I believe that only his high profile saved him from being sent to 
horror places  like Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib.

Read this - and shudder how deep America has sunk!

[START]

From Counterpunch

Weekend Edition

October 27 / 29, 2006

My Own Private Nightmare

The Horrors of Extraordinary Rendition

By MAHER ARAR

Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who is barred from entering the United 
States, delivered his acceptance speech for the 
<http://www.ips-dc.org/lm-awards/2006/>Letelier-Moffitt International
Human Rights Award in a pre-recorded videotape. This is a transcript 
of his speech, which was viewed at the award ceremony hosted by the 
Institute for Policy Studies on Oct. 18, 2006 in Washington, DC.

=====

Hello my name is Maher Arar. Sorry I could not join you for today's ceremony.

All Center for Constitutional Rights Staff and I are humbled to have 
been chosen this year's recipient for the Letelier-Moffitt 
International Human Rights Award. This award means a tremendous 
amount to us. It means that there are still Americans out there who 
value our struggle for justice.

It means that there are Americans out there who are truly concerned 
about the future of America. We now know that my story is not a 
unique one. Over the past two years we have heard from many other 
people who were, who have been kidnapped, unlawfully detained, 
tortured and eventually released without being charged with any crime 
in any country.

JFK Stopover

My nightmare began on September 26, 2002. I was transiting through 
New York airport, JFK Airport, when they asked me to wait in a 
waiting area. I found that to be strange. Shortly after, some FBI 
officials came to see me and they asked me whether, I was willing to 
be interviewed.

My first immediate reaction was to ask for a lawyer and I was 
surprised when they told me that I had no right to a lawyer because I 
was not an American citizen.

Then I asked for a phone call, I wanted to call my family to let them 
know what was going on. And they just ignored my request.

Then they told me, we only have couple of questions for you and we'll 
let you go. So I agreed. I had nothing to hide. And the interrogation 
started. Soon after, you know, they asked me about people I knew. It 
was deeper, until the interrogation was going deeper and deeper and 
deeper.

During this time, they played mind games with me. They would 
sometimes insult me; say to me something like you're smart. Other 
times they would accuse me of being dumb.

And, I repeatedly ask for a lawyer, to make a phone call. They always 
ignored my question.

The interrogation that day lasted about four hours with the FBI 
officials and another four hours with immigration. At the end of that 
day, instead of sending me back to Canada, they shackled and chained 
me and sent me to another, another terminal in the airport where I 
stayed overnight and in that place, in that room they kept me in, the 
lights were, were always on. There was no bed in that room and I 
could not sleep that night.

The next day another set of interrogations started. This time it was 
about, they asked me about political opinions--I answered openly, I 
didn't try to hide my political opinions. The asked me about Iraq. 
They asked me about Palestine and so many other issues. And they 
also, if I remember correctly, asked me about my emails and some 
other questions.

Going to Syria

And they told me that day we are about to decide about your fate. At 
the end of that day, surprisingly, one of the immigration officers 
came and asked me to volunteer to go to Syria. I said to them: why do 
you want me to go to Syria, I've never been there for 17 years. And 
they say, "You are special interest." Of course, back then I did not 
know what this expression meant. But it was clear that the Americans, 
the officer did not want me to go to Canada.

When he insisted, I said, let me go back to Switzerland. That was my 
point of departure before I arrived at JFK and he refused. Eventually 
they took me into the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal 
prison, where they kept me for about 12 days. During this time I was 
interviewed for six hours by INS. It was a very exhaustive interview 
from 9PM to like around 3AM in the morning. When I asked them to, 
during this interview to go, to allow me to go back to my cell to 
perform my prayer, they refused, completely refused.

Also during my stay at the Metropolitan Detention Center I could 
clearly see that I was being treated differently from other 
prisoners. For example, they didn't give me toothpaste they would 
allow me to go for recreation for about a week. They always ignored 
my demand for making a phone call. Eventually they allowed me to make 
a phone call. Up until that time, which was a week after I was 
arrested, no one in my family knew where I was. My wife thought I was 
disappeared, I was killed. No one knew exactly what happened, until I 
informed my mother-in-law that I was arrested.

Eventually on October 8th, against my will, they took me out of my 
cell. They basically read the pieces of document to me saying, that 
we will be sending you Syria. And when I complained, I said to them, 
I did explain to you if I'm sent back I will be tortured and they, I 
remember, the INS person flipped a couple of pages in this document, 
to the end of this document and read to me a paragraph that I still 
remember until today, an extremely shocking statement she made to me.

She said something like: The INS is not the body or the agency that 
signed the Geneva Convention, convention against torture. For me what 
that really meant is we will send you to torture and we don't care.

So they put me on a private jet, which I found extremely strange. I 
was the only passenger on that, on that plane. Its a luxurious plane, 
with leather seats in it. My only preoccupation during this trip is 
how I could avoid torture. By then, I realized that they were exactly 
sending me to Syria for torture. And that became very clear to me. 
Then the plane flew to Washington from Washington it flew to Maine 
then to Rome, then from Rome to Jordan.

Shackled and Chained

And I remember on the plane I was most of the time I was shackled and 
chained except the last two hours when they offered me a shish-kabob 
dinner. Up until this day I do not, I cannot explain why they did 
that. If I was a dangerous person like they claimed in the beginning, 
why they would remove my chains and shackles the last two hours of 
the trip?

During also the trip, whenever I wanted to use the bathroom, one of 
the team members would go inside with me. Even though I complained 
that this was against my religious belief.

The plane landed in Jordan on three in the morning October 8th. And a 
couple of Jordanians were waiting, men, were waiting for me. They 
took me, they blindfolded me, they put me in a car and shortly after 
they started beating me on the back of my head. Whenever I complained 
about the beating they would actually start beating me more. So I 
just kept silent.

I stayed in Jordan for about 12 hours in a detention center. I still 
don't know what that place is.

I was always blindfolded whenever they took me from one cell to 
another or when they took me to see the doctor. But I felt something 
strange in that prison. I felt, what, that I used an elevator, which 
is quite strange for a Middle Eastern prison.

After 12 hours of detention, unlawful detention in Jordan I was 
eventually driven to Syria. And I just didn't want to believe that I 
was going to Syria. I always was hoping that someone, a miracle would 
happen--the Canadian government would intervene. A miracle would 
happen that would take me back to my country Canada.

I arrived in Syria that same day, at the end of the day and I was 
able to confirm that I was in fact in Syria after my blindfold was 
removed and I was able to see the pictures of the Syrian President. 
My feeling then is I just wanted to kill myself because I knew what 
was coming. I knew that the Americans, the American government send 
me there to be tortured.

Sometime later the interrogators came in. They started asking 
questions, routine questions at the beginning, but whenever I 
hesitated to answer their questions or whenever they thought I was 
lying one of them would threaten me with a chair, a metallic chair 
with no seats in it, only the frames. And back then I did not 
understand or I did not know how they would torture people with it. I 
later learned that from other prison inmates.

But the message was clear: if you don't speak quickly enough we will 
torture you. That day, the interrogation lasted about four hours. 
There was no physical beating; there was only verbal threats. Around 
midnight, they took me to the basement. In the basement, the guard 
opened a door for me, a metallic door. I could not believe my eyes. I 
looked at him and I said, what is that? He didn't answer. He just 
said to me: Enter.

The Grave

The cell was about three feet wide, six feet deep and about seven 
feet high. It was dark. There was no source of light in it. It was 
filthy. There were only two thin covers on the floor. I was naïve; I 
thought they would keep me in this place for one, two, maybe three 
days to put pressure on me. But this same place, the same cell that I 
later called the grave was my home 10 months and 10 days. The only 
light that came into the cell was from the ceiling, from the opening 
in the ceiling. There was a small spotlight and that's it.

Life in the cell was impossible. At the beginning--even though it was 
a filthy place, it was like a grave--I preferred to stay in that cell 
rather than being beaten. Whenever I heard the guards coming to open 
my door I would just think, you know, this is it for me that would be 
my last day.

The beating started the following day. Without no warning...(long 
pause as he fights tears) without no warning the interrogator came in 
with a cable. He asked me to open my right hand. I did open it. And 
he hit me strongly on my palm. It was so painful to the point that I 
forgot every moment I enjoyed in my life.

Torture

This moment is still vivid in my mind because it was the first I was 
ever beaten in my life. Then he asked me to open my left hand. He hit 
me again. And that one missed and hit my wrist. The pain from that 
hit lasted approximately six months. And then he would ask me 
questions. And I would have to answer very quickly. And then he would 
repeat the beating this time anywhere on my, on my body. Sometimes he 
would take me to a room where I could, where I was alone, I could 
hear other prisoners being tortured, severely tortured. I remember 
that I used to hear their screams. I just couldn't believe it, that 
human beings would do this to other human beings.

And then they would take me back to the interrogation room. Again 
another set of questions, and the beating starts again and again. On 
the third day the beating was the worst. They beat me a lot with the 
cable. And they wanted me to confess that I have been to Afghanistan. 
This was a big surprise to me because even the Americans who 
interviewed me, the FBI officials who interviewed me, did not ask me 
that question. I ended up falsely confessing in order to stop the 
torture. The torture decreased in intensity.

From that moment on they rarely used the cable. Mostly they slapped 
me on the face, they kicked me, they humiliated me all the time.

The first 10 days of my stay in Syria was extremely harsh and during 
that period I found my cell to be a refuge. I didn't want to see 
their faces. But later on living in that cell was horrible. And just 
to give you an idea about how painful it is to stay in that place--I 
was ready after a couple of months, I was ready to sign any piece of 
document for me, not to be released, just to go to another place 
where it is fit for human being.

During this time I wasn't aware that my wife launched a campaign with 
other human rights organizations like Amnesty International and 
others. My wife lobbied the media, she lobbied politicians and 
eventually I was released. The Syrians released me and they clearly 
stated through the ambassador in Washington that they did not find 
any links to terrorism. I was not charged in any country including 
Canada, United States, Jordan and Syria.

Since my release I have been suffering from anxiety, constant fear, 
and depression. My life will never be the same again. But I promised 
myself one thing, that I will continue my quest for justice as long 
as I have a breath. What keeps me going is my faith, Americans like 
yourselves and the hope that one day our planet Earth will be free of 
tyranny, torture and injustice.

Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was a victim of the U.S. policy known 
as "extraordinary rendition." He was detained by U.S. officials in 
2002, accused of terrorist links, and handed over to Syrian 
authorities, who tortured him. Arar is working with the Center for 
Constitutional Rights to appeal a case against the U.S. government 
that was dismissed on national security grounds.

[END]




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