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Detainee Says He Was Tortured by Moroccans

ANDREW SELSKY, Associated Press | April 7 2006

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - Binyam Muhammad, who has been accused of plotting al-Qaida attacks in the United States, was tortured with a scalpel after American authorities handed him over to Moroccan interrogators, according to an account provided by his lawyer.

Muhammad made his first appearance in the U.S. military courtroom in Guantanamo Bay on Thursday, charged with conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders to attack civilians and other crimes.

Wearing a long, orange collarless shirt and a black skullcap, the 27-year-old detainee told the judge that he has been tortured. He criticized U.S. authorities for getting his name wrong, claimed he was not the person they sought and bitterly suggested the court refer to him as Count Dracula.

"After four years of torture and rendition, you have the wrong person in the stand," Muhammad said. Military documents spell his name variously as Muhammad and Mohammad. The judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, told Muhammad it was the prosecutor's job to establish his identity during trial.

A written account of his capture provided to The Associated Press by Muhammad's civilian lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, details the detainee's allegations of torture while "directly or indirectly" in the custody of the United States. He alleges, among other things, that he was sliced with a scalpel and given mind-altering drugs.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said last month the United States does not transport terrorism suspects to nations where it is likely they could be tortured, a practice known as extraordinary rendition.

Human rights groups say the United States carries out extraordinary renditions to outsource torture. The American Civil Liberties Union last week asked the United Nations to investigate.

Born in Ethiopia, Muhammad moved to Britain when he was 15. He claimed he went to Afghanistan because he had become a practicing Muslim, wanted to kick a drug habit, and thought he could do so if he got away from London. He also wanted to see the Taliban Islamic regime in Afghanistan with his own eyes, he said.

Muhammad was captured in April 2002 in Karachi, Pakistan, while trying to return to London. Three months later, he was transferred by the United States to Morocco, according to the document written by Smith, who interviewed Muhammad and read his written account.

Muhammad said he landed at an airfield he believed was near Rabat, the Moroccan capital, and was driven for about a half-hour before being taken into a house behind a metal fence. An English-speaking woman who used the name of Sarah was sometimes present. She claimed to be Canadian, but Muhammad suspected she was American.

His torturers beat him and sliced Muhammad's penis with a scalpel, according to the detainee's account.

"They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists," Smith quoted Muhammad as saying.

Muhammad said that while he was handcuffed, his jailers put headphones on him.

"They played hip-hop and rock music, very loud," Muhammad said. "I remember they played Meatloaf and Aerosmith over and over. I hated that. ... When I became a Muslim, I had tried to get away from this. I'd canceled all the music out of my head and now they were forcing it back again."

Muhammad said women came to the house, naked or partially clothed, and were shown to him — an affront to devout Muslims.

"This mental torture was a lot worse then the physical torture," he said. "For they were now working on my brain. I think I came to several emotional breakdowns in this time."

An interrogator whom Muhammad nicknamed "Scarface" purportedly informed the Ethiopian he was being brainwashed.

"Scarface, the interrogator, told me what was going on. 'We're going to change your brain,'" according to the account.

In January 2004, Muhammad was flown to what he believed was a CIA-run facility in Afghanistan. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004.

The United States alleges Muhammad conspired with Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaida commander, and Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, to cause explosions at apartment buildings and gas stations in the United States. Muhammad has denied knowing Padilla and says he is innocent.

Padilla is on trial in federal court in Miami on charges he provided material support to terrorists and conspired to murder Americans. He is charged with conspiring with members of al-Qaida to attack civilians and civilian targets, commit murder, destroy property and commit terrorism.

Nearly 500 detainees are held at this U.S. military base on Cuba. The United States has filed charges against 10 of them.

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