Testimony claims secret CIA archipelago

Amnesty International has released testimony from two Yemeni men now detained in their own country, who were recently transfered there from Guantanamo Bay but also told of being held at a secret US detention facility at an unknown location where they were tortured. The men say they were held in solitary confinement at an underground facility and interrogated by masked men for more than 18 months without being charged or allowed any contact with the outside world. Amnesty argued that the reports add to long-standing claims that the US has held “secret detainees” at an international network of clandestine prisons. “We fear that what we have heard from these two men is just one small part of the much broader picture of US secret detentions around the world,” said Sharon Critoph, an Amnesty researcher who interviewed the men in Yemen.

Amnesty said it interviewed Salah Nasser Salim Ali and Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah in a Yemen prison on June 20. Amnesty also spoke to a Yemeni official who said the men were being held as a condition of their release from US custody.

Ali told the rights group that he was originally detained in Indonesia in August 2003 and then flown to Jordan. Bashmilah said he was detained in Jordan in October 2003 while on a trip to visit his mother. Both men claimed they were tortured by Jordanian intelligence agents for four days and then flown to what they described as underground prisons at an unknown location. There, they were held in solitary confinement for over 18 months, interrogated daily by US guards and blared Western music all day and night.

The men said it took more than four hours to fly to the secret facility from Jordan. After six to eight months they were transferred to a second prison run by US officials, three hours by plane from the first, that also appeared to be underground.

Navy Lt. Commander Flex Plexico reftued the claims to AP: “We have said many times that the Department of Defense does not engage in the practice of renditions”—the transfer of terror suspects to third countries without court approval. Plexico said it was important to note that al-Qaeda training manuals “emphasize the tactic of making false abuse allegations.”

US officials deny allegations of secret detention facilities, saying they hold terror suspects only at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. In June, US officials refuted suggestions by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, that detainees could be held secretly on US ships in international waters. Others have suggested “high-value” detainees could be held at Diego Garcia, a British-controlled island in the Indian Ocean that the US rents as a military base.

Lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo have long believed that the CIA or other US government agencies maintain clandestine prisons for terror suspects. “The fact that there are underground CIA facilities somewhere where people are being tortured has been known for a while,” said Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City. (AP, Aug. 4 via TruthOut, AI, Aug. 4)

Note that Amnesty International has also made similar claims.

See our last post on the ongoing torture scandal.