Amnesty International condemns Egypt’s record on torture and illegal detention in a new report, and calls on other countries to abandon diplomatic “no torture” deals with Cairo. Egypt’s record on torture recently made headlines after police officers raped a 21-year-old taxi driver with a stick and filmed the torture on a mobile phone. Amnesty’s report, “Systematic abuses in the name of security,” focuses on the question of “rendition” of terror suspects to Egypt. In 2005, Cairo acknowledged that since 2001 the US had transferred some 60-70 detainees to Egypt.
One high-profile case concerns Abu Omar, an Egyptian resident in Italy who was abducted in Milan in 2003 and “renditioned” to Egypt by US operatives. Abu Omar was held without charge in Egyptian jails for nearly four years, and in testimony given to an Italian prosecutor alleged that he was repeatedly tortured. Amnesty International also interviewed Abu Omar, and he described how he suffered “crucifixion,” in which he was bound spread-eagle to a metal door and “kicked and beaten with electric cables, water hoses and whipped,” as well as subjected to electric shocks.
In another case, Mamdouh Habib, an Australian national of Egyptian descent, told Amnesty International how he was detained and tortured in Pakistan in 2001, handed over to US officials, flown to Egypt and there drugged and tortured, including in a “water cell,” where he had to stand on tip-toe for hours in order not to drown. After other water torture, electric shocks and systematic use of drugs, Mamdouh Habib “confessed” to training the 9-11 hijackers in martial arts. He was later taken to Guantanamo Bay where he was held without trial for almost three years before his eventual release.
Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: “On top of routine torture and decades-long detention without trial in Egyptian ‘security’ cases, we are now uncovering evidence of Egypt being a destination of choice for ‘third-party’ or ‘contracted out’ torture in the ‘war on terror.'” She urged the UK not to approve a “no-torture” deal with Egypt, which would allow terror suspects to be deported there, saying it “would not be worth the paper it was written on.” (Amnesty International via Muslim News, April 10)
Meanwhile, US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has met with Mohammed Saad el-Katatni, parliamentary leader of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood, despite past refusals by US officials to meet with Brotherhood figures. Hassan said the two met at the parliament building and again later at the home of Francis Ricciardone, the US ambassador to Egypt. But John Berry, a US spokesman, only confirmed that the two met last week at the US ambassador’s home as part of a reception that included other parliament members. Berry said the talks between el-Katatni and Hoyer were not a change in US policy towards the group. “It’s our diplomatic practice around the world to meet with parliamentarians, be they members of political parties or independents,” Berry said. “We haven’t changed our policy with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood as an organisation.”
The US has put pressure on President Hosni Mubarak regarding other opposition figures, such as Ayman Nour, a secular politician who was jailed after challenging Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections. But Washington has not spoken out over similar campaigns against the Brotherhood. “The Americans have been under criticism that they speak out only when secularists are cracked down on but don’t say a word when Islamists are under harsh crackdowns,” said Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a secular pro-democracy Egyptian-American activist in Cairo. (AlJazeera, April 8)