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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Guantanamo Bound — How Kenyan authorities ’sold’ their kin to the FBI, CIA and Britain’s MI6

Details on how 19 terror suspects arrested in Kenya, but removed from police custody by foreign security agents for interrogation can be revealed today.

Interrogation by the foreign agents — including US’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Britain’s MI6 — have been described as “most inhumane” and involved blindfolding suspects, shackling their feet and handcuffing them from the back.

According to a report by a presidential committee exclusively obtained by Siasa Duni, the case of one detainee, Amir Mohamed, stands out as an example how foreign agents could easily access and remove suspects from police custody in various stations.

Mohamed was taken out of his cell at Nairobi’s Kileleshwa Police Station by American agents in a US registered vehicle and taken to a local hotel for interrogation.

When contacted, Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua asked: “What is the report saying?”

After consulting the Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, Dr Mutua said the Government had not received the final report.

However, Mutua said they were aware of the committee’s “rough draft” whose content not all members were agreed on.

He said the committee was asked to make the report more accurate.

“The committee is still refining it (report) to try and come up with a more accurate document,” he said.

The Presidential Special Action Committee appointed last year to address specific concerns of the Muslim community received reports that the foreign agents had direct access to prisoners without restraint.

The report was to be handed over to the President on March 31, but to date it is yet to be received at State House.

The committee received reports from the Muslim Human Rights Forum, which witnessed Mohamed being brought back to Kileleshwa from an interrogation session on February 5, last year, in a US Embassy vehicle.

The detainee confirmed to the human rights’ group that he was interrogated by FBI agents about possible links with Al–Qaeda training military camps in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Another detainee, Mohammad Ezzouek, said he was interrogated by British intelligence agents at Kileleshwa Police Station between February 3 and 5 last year.

The human rights’ group also reported that during a fact-finding mission to Kiunga, Lamu District, the residents reported seeing foreign security personnel together with Kenyan security forces in the hunt for people fleeing Somalia and seeking refuge in Kenya.

One Abdulmalik Mohamed, said to be a Kenyan citizen and suspected of being involved in the bombing of Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, was arrested in Kenya and handed to foreign agents who flew him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after being held in custody in Mombasa and Nairobi.

The report quotes a statement by the US Department of Defence on March 26, 2006, indicating that Abdulmalik had admitted his involvement in terrorist attacks in Mombasa in 2002 and the US Embassy bombings in Nairobi in 1998.

One suspect who appeared before the committee, Fatma Ahmed Chande, a Tanzania national married to a Kenyan, narrated her ordeal as she and her husband, Salim Awadh Salim, were fleeing from Somalia.

“It was so chilly and drizzling. We were bundled into pick ups and driven to the runway. I saw very many people, including women, kneeling,” said Chande.

“The men were blindfolded and their hands handcuffed behind their backs and feet chained. I was led to the group of women and ordered to kneel, too,” said Chande.

She added: “An armed man came to me and pulled down my veil to uncover my face. Some of the detainees were crying loudly. The men had black hoods covering their heads. We knelt for some time, till our knees ached. We were taken to the plane, still blindfolded. I could, however, see through my veil as it was of light material. It was very scaring, cold and wet.”

According to the committee, Chande’s statement confirms the report by the human rights’ group that her husband, Salim, said to be Kenyan, was moved to Ethiopia, where he is still held.

The committee received reports that on March 31, last year, heavily armed police officers cordoned off a residential area in Kongowea, Mombasa, and harassed everyone in sight as they sought terror suspects.

After the ordeal, the officers arrested two people and later released them without charges.

On the night of April 24-25, last year, heavily armed hooded ATPU personnel raided Guraya in Mombasa.

Again, they cordoned off the area and blocked the adjacent Jomo Kenyatta highway, and proceeded to break doors at homes and paraded residents, including children and the elderly, in the rain at 3am.

It was alleged that the police ransacked their homes and took away valuables and cash, arrested 11 residents, 10 of who were later released without charges, while one was deported to the Comoros.

The committee also heard from Noor Sheikh Hassan, also said to be a Kenyan citizen who, together with five others, was arrested in Liboi, a town on the Kenya-Somali border on January 6, last year, and transferred to Langata Police Station in Nairobi, where he was held in solitary confinement for 25 days.

He was denied access to a lawyer and family members and could not make any phone call.

As of today, none of the arrests have yielded any prosecution for crimes connected with terrorism.

The report adds that some of those arrested were later released without charges whereas others were prosecuted for minor immigration offences and deported.

“The rendition of the terror suspects is illegal under the Constitution and international law because it disregards judicial and administrative processes,” says the report.

Most Kenyan victims of “rendition” were arrested and detained, while others were abducted and denied legal representation.

The committee notes that rendition violates other human rights: For instance, victims of rendition have no opportunity to challenge their detention, or the arbitrary decision to transfer them to another country.

The Kenyan security agents have continued to defend themselves over the rendition, saying those taken to foreign countries were not Kenyans

The committee, however, claims to have received evidence of the rendition of at least 19 Kenyans to Ethiopia, Somalia and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Flight manifests made available to the committee show that in January and February last year, chartered planes left Nairobi with about 80 people on board to the Somali capital Mogadishu and the town of Baidoa. They were suspected to have links with Al-Qaeda.

The flights left at night, and the manifests appear to have omitted important details.

The 19 were Aden Sheikh Abdullahi, Saidi Shifa, Salam Ngama, Bashir Hussein Chirag Mohammed Sader, Said Hamisi Mohamed, Swaleh Ali Tunza, Hassan Shaban Mwazume, Hussein Ali Said, Tsuma Solomon Adam Ayila, Abdi Muhammed Abdillahi, Salim Awadh Salim, Abdulrashid Mohamed, Kasim Musa Mwarusi, Ali Musa Mwarusi, Abdallah Halifan Tondwe, Nasru Tuko, Mohammed Said Mohamed, Saqaawi Diin (all in Ethiopia) and Wahab Mohamed Abdulmalik (Guatanamo bay, Cuba).

Muslim Human Rights Forum reported to the committee that it had filed 34 applications at the High Court in Nairobi, while six others were filed in Mombasa.

Despite High Court orders in all the cases, the State defied, and only released two suspects, while the rest were moved to foreign jurisdictions.

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