Tag Archives: extraordinary rendition

Habib’s Victory Against The Shock-Jocks

Habib’s Victory Against The Shock-Jocks

New Matilda 27 February 2012

One of the most maligned figures in the Australian media, Mamdouh Habib, has won a long-running legal battle against some of his prime antagonists — securing a defamation payout from the employers of three of Sydney’s most popular radio shock-jocks. Coming down the steps of the District Court in Sydney on Friday, just moments after being awarded a total of $176,296 in damages from Radio 2UE and 2GB, Habib said he felt vindicated by the decision. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the dignity,” he said.

In his ruling the judge found that the comments made about Habib by John Laws and Steve Price from 2UE, and Ray Hadley from 2GB, were “extreme, strongly expressed, exaggerated, unjust, irrational … and also violent”. The tone and content of John Laws in particular was “clearly spiteful and laden with ill-will towards Mr Habib, as well as being intentionally aimed at ridiculing the plaintiff”.

Most problematically though for Radio 2UE and 2GB, in the context of a defamation trial where truth can be relied on as a defence, was that the comments in question were simply not based on fact.

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Mamdouh Habib: What Did Australia know ?

“Did Australia Know Habib was Being Tortured?

New Matilda 9th September 2009.

Sometime in early November 2001, a terrified and confused Australian man named Mamdouh Habib was taken from a Pakistani prison cell trussed in chains. Someone within the US administration or intelligence system had decided he needed a tougher than usual interrogation and he was forced aboard a CIA-operated jet bound for Egypt.

Egypt lived up to its reputation as home to one of the most brutal prison systems in the world.

Habib, a Bankstown-based father of four, says for the next five months he endured a myriad of horrors: suspended from the ceiling and beaten, shocked with electric prods (including on his genitals), forcibly injected with drugs, held in a flooded room with water up to his neck, deprived of sleep, and shackled in a cell so small he couldn’t stand. The “intelligence” produced from these efforts has long since been discarded as worthless and Habib has never been charged.

Nearly eight years on and still no one has been held accountable for this barbaric episode. In fact, authorities in both the United States and Australia are doing their best to make sure the details stay a secret.

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The Extraordinary Rendition of Mamdouh Habib

“The Extraordinary Rendition of Mamdouh Habib”

Dateline, SBS Television. 9th March 2005

After nearly 4 years in captivity Mamdouh Habib returned home to Australia in early 2005. This award winning story is based on an extensive interview with Habib, and raises serious questions about the involvement of Australian intelligence in his transfer to Egypt and subsequent torture.

TRANSCRIPT

“The Extraordinary Rendition of Mamdouh Habib”

Reporter/Camera: Bronwyn Adcock

Air date: 9th March 2005

After spending the last 3.5 years locked up in four different countries, Mamdouh Habib is learning to find his way around the streets of Sydney again.

MAMDOUH HABIB: I was lost – until now lost in the streets. I didn’t know the streets.

He’s been a free man for just over a month now but says it’s only partial liberty.

MAMDOUH HABIB: Actually I not feel I’m free yet.

REPORTER: You don’t feel you’re free?

MAMDOUH HABIB: No.

REPORTER: Why not?

MAMDOUH HABIB: I feel I’ve been under the pressure from the Government yet and I feel I’ve been follow. They doesn’t want to leave me alone. So I feel free when these people leave me alone.

REPORTER: Do you think you’re being followed?

MAMDOUH HABIB: Yes. Actually, I’m not thinking – I’m sure I’ve been followed.

On a recent trip to his accountant, Mamdouh Habib says he spotted a man he knows as an ASIO agent.

MAMDOUH HABIB: And I go down the stairs for a smoke I see him, he’s next to my car. As soon as he sees me he moves and tries to go away from me. I follow him. When he sees me, I follow him and he disappear.

REPORTER: Where did you recognise him from?

MAMDOUH HABIB: Before I left I know a lot of people from ASIO used to come to my house. I used to be followed by same people before.

If this is true, Australia’s spy agency, ASIO, is fulfilling a US desire, that a close eye be kept on their former prisoner. Habib, though, sees it as unwarranted harassment.

MAMDOUH HABIB: I believe I’ve been released by United States and the United States say they dropped their case, they have nothing to do with me and I believe Australia shouldn’t harass me anymore.

REPORTER: Is he under surveillance now?

PHILIP RUDDOCK, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, they’re not matters about which we comment publicly. We have a range of laws that deal with security issues and they operate in relation to all Australians. And in terms of what appropriate authorities do, it’s a matter for them and their judgments.

It’s clear that many Australians would be happy if Habib was under surveillance.

RON WILSON – CHANNEL TEN NEWS: Some very interesting first results just in for Ten’s news poll. Tonight we’re asking: Do you believe Mamdouh Habib is a threat to our security? So far a whopping 78% believe that he is.

Suspicions were fuelled when during his much anticipated first television interview with ’60 Minutes’ he refused to answer questions about what he was doing overseas before his arrest.

ALAN JONES – RADIO 2UE SYDNEY: I think any performance was worth the audience hearing because we now know how evasive this bloke is towards the answers that we seek from him.

SALLY LOANE – ABC 702 SYDNEY: The thing that I found a bit frustrating was when he wouldn’t answer the questions about why he, you know, was in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

STEPHEN HOPPER, MAMDOUH HABIB’S LAWYER: Did you have a read of it?

MAHA HABIB: The one you gave me?

STEPHEN HOPPER: Yeah. Do you want to read it?

It as Habib’s lawyer, Stephen Hopper, who brokered the lucrative deal with ’60 Minutes’ and advised Mamdouh Habib not to talk about his overseas activities. For Dateline’s interview we didn’t pay a cent, but Stephen Hopper is extending his media strategy even further. A condition of granting the interview was that we weren’t allowed to even ask Mamdouh Habib what he was doing before he was arrested. Stephen Hopper keeps his client on a tight rein.

REPORTER: How many trips had you made to Pakistan before…

STEPHEN HOPPER: No, he’s not going to answer that at this stage. We’re still reconstructing all of the evidence about those things. He’s not prepared to go into that.

REPORTER: To talk about how many trips he’d made to Pakistan?

STEPHEN HOPPER: No.

REPORTER: Mr Hopper, why won’t you let your client talk about what he was doing before he was arrested in Pakistan?

STEPHEN HOPPER: Well, it’s not a matter of me not letting him do it. He’s quite happy to talk about what happened it’s just he’s going to do it at the appropriate time – the appropriate time is in court.

REPORTER: But doesn’t common sense say if he was doing nothing wrong at all you would be talking about it – in fact you’d be shouting it from the rooftops?

STEPHEN HOPPER: Look, that’s extremely simplistic. When someone has to prove a case – whether it be a case for compensation or a case for a passport, or a case for whichever avenue we may go down – it has to be carefully constructed so the evidence is ventilated in the proper way and the trier of fact gets to see that evidence in an untainted light.

Hopper has maintained all along that he’s holding back for an unspecified court case. He’s now also claiming he’s keeping evidence that may prove Habib’s innocence out of the public domain.

STEPHEN HOPPER: We’re quite concerned that either the security agencies here could tamper with evidence or a security agency in another nation or another government could tamper with evidence. This has happened before in other cases. Indeed, it’s happened in this case.

REPORTER: What evidence has been tampered with?

STEPHEN HOPPER: We don’t want to disclose that yet, but certain steps have been taken and we’re very concerned about the way ASIO and the Government are dealing with things with this case.

Stephen Hopper will not provide any evidence for this serious accusation. However, he says twice in the last month the Habibs’ home has been broken into. While valuables were left behind an item he says could assist Habib’s case was taken. The family is also asking why none of the possessions he had on him before his arrest have been returned.

MAMDOUH HABIB: Well, people have to understand 100% I’m not hiding anything. I’m happy to tell them everything. But they have to understand too we have a court case running and they have to understand the ASIO trying to destroy every evidence I have to present in court. The time of waiting for the day of the court, the judge, to prove my innocence to them. They doesn’t want to make me prove myself as innocent. These people do dirty business and I no want to give them this chance.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, if he believes that the agency is operating incorrectly or inappropriately, there are avenues open to test those issues. There is an independent agency that scrutinises the activities of intelligence organisations. And if he believes that, rather than dealing with it through the press, he should make his particular complaints known to the relevant authority.

While there’s no doubt Habib’s refusal to tell the full story damages his credibility, he’s not the only one being evasive. A key part of the Mamdouh Habib story is how, after his arrest in Pakistan, he was transferred to Egypt and held for six months before being taken to Guantanamo Bay. It’s on the transfer to Egypt the Australian Government has been notoriously difficult to pin down.

LAURIE OAKES, SUNDAY-CHANNEL 9: Do we raise it with the US who took him there – in effect abducted him from Pakistan?

ALEXANDER DOWNER, Well, I don’t have – I don’t have all the details of that. I don’t have any evidence that the Americans took him there, to the best of my knowledge.

LAURIE OAKES: He didn’t walk.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, he went from Pakistan to Egypt. There are a lot of different ways you can get from Pakistan to Egypt. I mean I just do not have that information.

While the Australian Government claims no knowledge about Habib’s transfer to Egypt, they are absolutely certain about what he was up to before his arrest. Recently under the protection of parliamentary privilege the heads of Australia’s spy and police agencies outlined their very serious case against him.

MICK KEELTY, AUST. FEDERAL POLICE COMMISSIONER: The investigators formed a view that he went there to train with the LET and be paid for that training and that he was then offering his services to al-Qa’ida, for which he was going to be paid a sum of money.

DENNIS RICHARDSON, ASIO DIRECTOR GENERAL: He was actually with people in Afghanistan who had a history of murdering innocent civilians.

No evidence has been presented to support these allegations, nor have they been tested in a court. A different set of allegations made by the Americans have had some scrutiny.
Last year the US military was forced to outline its case against Habib to justify his ongoing detention in Guantanamo Bay. At the time they said that Habib knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance, helped train some of the hijackers and even planned to hijack a plane himself. Habib’s American lawyer Joe Margulies has seen the classified file upon which these accusations were based. He’s not allowed to discuss what he read, but can reveal that part of the file was based on confessions Habib gave in Egypt. Joe Margulies says this meant the US case against Habib was seriously flawed?

JOE MARGULIES, MAMDOUH HABIB’S US LAWYER: Well, if they believed it to be true they wouldn’t have sent him home. They obviously do not believe it to be true. The reason they don’t believe it to be true is that by the time Mr Habib confessed he would have confessed to absolutely anything. If you put a piece of paper in front of him – he says as much, “Whatever they put in front of me I signed.” Some of the things he signed were blank documents they later filled in which we know from people released from Egyptian custody were standard practice of the Egyptians. He would have confessed to assassinating Abe Lincoln. There’s nothing he wouldn’t have said and there’s no truth in it. Well obviously you can’t rely as a basis for prosecution or a basis for any continued detention on evidence that is so demonstrably ill-gotten.

REPORTER: Does any of the case the Australian Government has come from information obtained in Egypt?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I’m not aware of information that was obtained by inappropriate means. Just let me make that very clear. I mean, Australia is very strongly of the view that people should not be tortured, but in relation to the material that I rely upon, it is from third parties, not from admissions by Habib himself other than information that was obtained when he was interviewed by Australian officials where there was absolutely no duress.

REPORTER: So the central accusation, Mamdouh, that you trained with terrorist groups, is that correct?

MAMDOUH HABIB: I never trained with anybody. That’s full of lie. I never trained anything, with anybody.

REPORTER: Did you spend time with any terrorist group?

MAMDOUH HABIB: I haven’t been with any terrorist group. I work with normal people. I don’t know who they are. But I been never any training terrorists, I never been training with anybody, I never know anybody as a terrorists, I never worked with terrorist anywhere.

Habib’s rejection of this allegation puts him at odds with Australia’s spy agency and not for the first time. For much of the 1990s, ASIO was watching him, an interest sparked because of his contact with Islamic extremists overseas. But in an extraordinary allegation, Habib says that the agency that was after him also wanted him to spy for them.

MAMDOUH HABIB: They asked so many times. I know so many of them, they come to me and they ask me to help him. I feel I going to be a spy for somebody and this is not my way of life and I refuse so many times.

He says the last time ASIO approached him was shortly before he went overseas in 2001.

MAMDOUH HABIB: He tell me, “You work for us.” I said, “What do you want me to do?” He say “Because we got bad people, maybe you got bad people in Australia maybe they try to do bad thing.” I say “I don’t know bad people. How I know bad people”. He say “We need somebody to tell us what people do maybe in the mosque.” I say “Listen, I not going to work for you, or nobody. That’s not my way of life. I can’t be two faces.”

REPORTER: Did they know you were going to go overseas?

MAMDOUH HABIB: No idea – I have no idea.

Mamdouh Habib arrived in Pakistan in July 2001. Both he and his lawyer refuse to say whether he crossed the border into Afghanistan. His lawyer is sticking to the story he’s maintained all along, that Habib was looking for business opportunities and schools.

REPORTER: Do you have any evidence to support that – for example, names of schools, information about businesses that he may have got some interest from?

STEPHEN HOPPER: We have information relating to Mr Habib’s activities when he was overseas and that will be disclosed at the appropriate time.

At some point, ASIO became concerned about Habib’s trip overseas. Just a week after the attacks on America, on September 11 2001, his family home in Sydney was raided. The head of ASIO recently revealed for the first time they were looking for him.

DENNIS RICHARDSON: We and others were actively looking for Mr Habib before 5 October. Because of his activity in Afghanistan and our concern about that. There was considerable interest in indeed ascertaining his whereabouts.

REPORTER: At that time, did you think that Australian authorities were looking for you or following you perhaps?

MAMDOUH HABIB: Maybe. Maybe.

REPORTER: Were you aware that you were under surveillance in Pakistan?

STEPHEN HOPPER: I’d rather him not get into that sort of stuff.

REPORTER: Why is that?

STEPHEN HOPPER: Well, we’re building a case and we don’t want that sort of information disclosed.

REPORTER: Had you seen any other Australians in Pakistan?

STEPHEN HOPPER: Again we don’t want to touch that sort of stuff.

Australian authorities may have been looking for him, but it appears his arrest was either due to Habib’s bad luck or bad judgment.
Meet Ibrahim Diab. He’s one of the German men arrested with Habib in Pakistan and is speaking publicly for the first time. Today he’s in Germany, but back in 2001, he and another German-Albanian man were in Afghanistan visiting al-Qa’ida camps. In extensive interviews with German police after his arrest, Ibrahim gave names of people he met in Afghanistan, but never implicated Habib. He said then and still maintains that he met Habib for the first time here at this bus station in Quetta, Pakistan. All three men were trying to get to the Pakistani city of Karachi to fly home and agreed to travel together. Midway through their bus journey, the bus was stopped by police.

IBRAHIM DIAB(Translation): The bus driver stopped and two men in Pakistani attire got on and asked my Albanian friend and me for our names. When we asked who they were they said “Police officers”. Mamdouh Habib was watching but he did not say a word. He remained seated, when he saw us get off the bus he could not restrain himself, so he asked where they were taking us and what they wanted from us. They answered that they had orders to arrest both of us. Then they asked him if he was our friend, or if he knew us, and he answered affirmatively. This was an error on Mamdouh’s part.

MAMDOUH HABIB: I said, “Where are you taking them? What do you want from them?’

Habib agrees he did confront the police who were arresting the Germans.

MAMDOUH HABIB: He say “ You know these guys?” I say I know them, what’s wrong? He says you too, you can come with us. I say what’s going on? He say we talk down off the bus.

REPORTER: So why did you make a fuss? Why didn’t you keep quiet?

MAMDOUH HABIB: You can’t keep quiet when you see something wrong. I can’t see any reason to take him. I don’t understand. Because the guy, firstly, doesn’t speak English and he’s very young. So I don’t know why.

REPORTER: The German guy?

MAMDOUH HABIB: Yeah. I don’t know why they try to take him. Maybe there’s some explanation I have to explain for these guys.

REPORTER: In hindsight, do you ever wish you said nothing?

MAMDOUH HABIB: No, I’m happy with what I said.

REPORTER: Didn’t that lead to you getting arrested and this whole three years’ beginning?

MAMDOUH HABIB: I never plan myself for what I did. When you do something good, you never plan yourself for it. I’m happy.

A stunning statement given where his intervention on the bus landed him. After around a month’s detention in Pakistan, Habib ended up here, in Cairo. Egypt is a country routinely condemned by the US State Department for its use of torture. For six months Habib says he was subjected to brutal torture – including regular beatings, electric shocks and the threat of being raped by dogs.

MAMDOUH HABIB: Actually I been tortured the first day. I don’t know – every question they been torturing me from the beginning to the end. I don’t know why. It’s not torturing about questions. I think they enjoy to torture – that’s it.

JOE MARGULIES: The tortures that he was subjected to in Egypt were creative and diabolical in a way that I never could have conceived. The United States Government does not maintain that those tortures were not true. In fact when he was released their position now is that there was no evidence he was tortured in US custody. They’re very careful to exclude the fact that he was tortured in Egyptian custody.

While Habib was not in American custody in Egypt, they sent him there. In an interview with Dateline last year, the Pakistani Interior Minister said that while Habib was arrested by the Pakistanis, once they’d finished with him, they handed him over to the Americans. He was in US custody when he was transferred to Egypt.

REPORTER: The United States requested that he be sent to Egypt?

PAKISTANI INTERIOR MINISTER, 2004: The US wanted him there for their own investigations. But we are not concerned where they take him. Once that was over, once we were satisfied with our own investigations, certainly we had no problem in handing him over to an ally of ours.

REPORTER: The Americans?

PAKISTANI INTERIOR MINISTER: Yes, that’s right.

Post 9/11 the United States has increasingly used the secret policy of extraordinary rendition. It involves sending terror suspects to countries like Egypt where they can be interrogated in a way that Western democracies can’t. It’s effectively the outsourcing of torture. The US gets the information they want without getting their hands dirty.
Joe Margulies says Habib’s story fits in with what’s known about the rendition process.

JOE MARGULIES: We’re not going to get the torturers from Egypt to come forward and say, “This is what we did. This is how we filled the room with water. Here’s the lever we pushed to allow the water to come into the room and fill up to his neck while he stood in a room with his hands handcuffed behind his back.” That’s not going to happen. But what we have is pieces of it that are corroborated by other people, other people to whom things like this have happened. Other people who confirm now that the United States has for some years been involved in the practice of extraordinary rendition – that’s what it’s called – and they have sent people to places like Egypt where they know they’re going to be tortured.

The main agency involved in extraordinary rendition is the CIA. John Radsan is a former CIA lawyer.

JOHN RADSAN, CIA LAWYER: He was rendered, if his allegations are true, he was rendered from our control to Egyptian control. What we don’t know is if he was mistreated or if he was mistreated whether the administration had any reason to believe that he would be mistreated in Egypt. But let’s be clear if the administration knows that a jurisdiction is going to mistreat or torture someone and they go ahead and turn this person over, this is a violation of US law.


Up until a year ago, John Radsan was legal counsel for the CIA. One of his tasks was to build a legal framework around the administration’s tough new anti-terror policy. He raises the possibility that if Habib was tortured in Egypt, then Australia may also bear responsibility for what happened.

JOHN RADSAN: If my assumptions are true – and I think they are – that Australia is a part of the convention against torture, that they have similar prohibitions against torture in Australian law, and if the Australians were involved in Mamdouh Habib’s transfer, if they had control, if they had jurisdiction over him, or if they shared jurisdiction with American authorities, then I think they’re drawn into the responsibility. The other possibility is they’ve kept a distance and they’ve been apprised that the Americans are going to transfer that person to Egypt. That may have different implications, different legal implications, but I think from an Australians perspective you would ask, “Shouldn’t my Government be doing more to protect me? I’m an Australian citizen – and not to allow me to go to a country that people have a fair reason to believe, tortures people.” But that’s a political question less a legal question.

Potential Australian complicity in the illegal rendition and torture of Mamdouh Habib is an extremely sensitive issue for the Government. It’s always sought to distance itself from Habib’s transfer to Egypt. In late 2001, Maha Habib was informed by the department of foreign affairs that it thought her husband was in Egypt.

DOCUMENT: As I advised in my fax 10 December we believe that your husband is now detained in Egypt.

But it stressed it had no idea how he got there.

DOCUMENT: If in fact your husband is in Egypt, as we believe, we are not aware of the details of his movement to Egypt from Pakistan.

Now nearly 3.5 years on, the Government says it still doesn’t know.

REPORTER: Do you agree that Habib was subject to a process called extraordinary rendition, that he was taken by the United States to Egypt for the purpose of interrogation?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I can’t comment on those matters. I have no personal knowledge and Australia has no personal knowledge – we were never advised that he was being removed. We sought – and continued to seek – access to him and sought to find out what had happened to him and where he’d gone.

REPORTER: Do you believe that Mamdouh Habib was tortured in Egypt?

PHILIP RUDDOCK:I don’t know. I hear his claims but I don’t know. All I know is that we sought confirmation as to whether he was there and that was never forthcoming but we formed the view that he was.

If Australia had any role in American plans to send Habib to Egypt, then there would have been a level of cooperation or at least contact between the two allies here in Pakistan. Habib was held here for a month before the decision was made to send him to Egypt. Under questioning in the Senate recently the head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, revealed for the first time there was contact between the Americans and the Australians. It happened the day Habib was arrested?

MICK KEELTY: The FBI’s legal attache in Pakistan advised our AFP liaison officer in Islamabad that a person who had a similar name to Habib had been detained in Pakistan. That person was later positively identified as Mr Habib.

LYN ALLISON, VICTORIA: It was the US who informed us?

MICK KEELTY: The US legal attache in Pakistan.

The Australian Government has acknowledged that ASIO and federal police officials were on the ground here in Pakistan to see Habib. Given the years of surveillance of Habib in Sydney, it’s logical to assume these officials carried a weight of information about him. Former CIA lawyer John Radsan says it’s hard to believe that they didn’t share their information.

JOHN RADSAN: If the Australians were on the ground, then it’s a very reasonable hypothesis that there was a sharing of information for two broad reasons: One, there’s going to be the sharing of information between the intelligence services. We’re going to find out as much as we can of the host from the country where that detainee comes from, whether it’s Mamdouh Habib, David Hicks. Perhaps the Australians have information on whether they’re bad people, whether they’re terrorists. We’re going to perhaps share information that the CIA has on them to get a better sense of the person we’re dealing with. The second reason is that we have our diplomatic relations and want to make sure we don’t create a diplomatic incident between in this case the Australian and American governments. So to reinforce the liaison relationship between the intelligent services and to preserve our diplomatic relationship I think it’s a fair assumption that we kept the Australians informed.

REPORTER: Presumably when ASIO as we know turned up in Pakistan or perhaps they were already there to interview Habib, they came with a significant amount of intelligence that had been gathered on Mamdouh Habib for nearly the last decade. Was any of that information or intelligence shared with the United States on the ground or in Pakistan?

PHILIP RUDDOCK:They are not matters on which I comment. It is quite inappropriate for me to comment on what arrangements are made between intelligence operations in terms of sharing information.

Mamdouh Habib’s version of events goes way beyond the question of information sharing. He alleges on one occasion in Pakistan he was interrogated by American officials with an Australian present.

MAMDOUH HABIB: They call me again for another interview and was this guy and two women – American women – and one man over – maybe 60, maybe over – and the Australian consul and about two Pakistani people.

REPORTER: And was this an interrogation?

MAMDOUH HABIB: It was like interrogation and they ask me questions but wasn’t really as serious. And they ask me if I know anybody in Afghanistan, if I know anybody terrorists – I say why you ask me this question – have nothing to do with me. I don’t know. I haven’t been in Afghanistan. I don’t have to answer your questions. If you want to question me, take me back in Australia. I told the consul, “Why you here? What these people to do with me ?” He say, “I have nothing to do with this. I’m here just to watch.” I say, “Why you watch? Nothing to do with me.” I was very upset, I was very angry with these people.

REPORTER: Who led the interview?

MAMDOUH HABIB: The American people, the Australian consul was sit down next to me.

This account is backed up by Habib’s cell mate at the time, Ibrahim Diab. He says Habib returned to his cell one day and said he’d just been interrogated by Americans, Pakistanis and an Australian.

IBRAHIM DIAD: He told us that they asked him bad questions and they want to take him to the jail and they want to take him to America. And they say “You done this, you must say that I done this”. He say “How? I didn’t done this, how I can say it?”

Both the Australian Government and Habib agree that he was interviewed by an Australian in Pakistan. They disagree on who that person was. Habib says it was the consul. The Government says it was ASIO. We asked the Attorney-General if any Australian witnessed Habib being interrogated by Americans.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I simply make the point that in relation to the access, we obtained access to Habib with Australian officials. That’s been outlined to the Senate Estimates committee. Other parties were present, but I don’t intend to elaborate on who may or may not have been present. There was no inappropriate questioning of him in the presence of Australian officials.

REPORTER: I’m not asking about inappropriate questioning. I’m asking about an incident where Mamdouh Habib says he was interviewed, interrogated, by US authorities in Pakistan and there was an Australian official in the room watching the interview.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: That official was alleged to have been a Foreign Affairs official. It was alleged it was at an airport. No… No such event took place. I don’t intend to be interrogated as to who was where at particular times.

Around a month after his arrest, Habib was taken here – bound and gagged and put on a plane for Cairo. He says the same Australian who witnessed his interrogation by the Americans was also at the airport. The Government denies this and denies any knowledge of his impending rendition. However, former CIA lawyer John Radsan says it’s probable that Australia would have at least known what was happening.

JOHN RADSAN: I have no way of knowing that – even if I did know it from my service in the CIA I wouldn’t be at liberty to tell you – but I think it is a reasonable hypothesis that if we’re going to move an Australian from our jurisdiction somewhere else and we’d been in touch with Australian authorities, that we would keep the Australians apprised of these developments.

According to the records, the first Australian agency to find out Habib was in Egypt was ASIO. They say they learned this out a matter of weeks after he went there?

WOMAN: So your information that he was most likely in Egypt allegedly came through DFAT?

DENNIS RICHARDSON: No, it was through our own activities.

Just who told ASIO Habib was in Egypt is not something the Government will discuss.
According to Mamdouh Habib, the Australian involvement in his rendition extended to his incarceration in Egypt. He makes the serious allegation that in one particular interrogation session here, he was asked questions specifically about a SIM card from a mobile phone that could only have come from Australia.

MAMDOUH HABIB: When they interrogate me, I believe everything they get it from Australia, because they gave me phones – they gave me about 300 phone number, or maybe more – and they put me in a room and they tell me, “You have to tell us” – some of the phone they have a names – some of the phone they have a number. And they tell me, “You have to give addresses and who are these people and how you know him.” And they put me in a room with a few guard and if my hand stopped writing I get beaten.

REPORTER: So these phone numbers – where could they have come from?

MAMDOUH HABIB: I believe they been taken from Australia because I don’t have any SIM card with me when I left.

REPORTER: Did you have any SIM cards in Pakistan from Australia?

MAMDOUH HABIB: No from Australia, I have nothing from Australia. Because when you go overseas you have to buy a SIM card.

REPORTER: So what you’re saying is you believe that the telephone numbers you were questioned about in Egypt came from a SIM card in Australia.

MAMDOUH HABIB: Yes, that’s positive, yes.

In 2001, the Habib family home in Sydney was raided by ASIO. According to the record held by the family, a number of mobile phones were taken. Habib says that in this same interrogation in Egypt he was asked to give evidence against a number of Australian Muslims living in Sydney.

MAMDOUH HABIB: And they ask me, they say, “Do you want to be a witness against somebody?” And I don’t know these people, maybe I saw them in the mosque, yes, maybe I saw them in Lakemba, yes, but I don’t know what these people do. They tell me it’s the only way for me to be released – if I be a witness against these people, maybe we make you a witness and we release you.

REPORTER: Mamdouh Habib has said that on one occasion in Egypt he was interrogated with a whole set of telephone numbers that came from a SIM card that he left behind in Australia. How did the interrogators in Egypt get hold of that information?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I’ve got no idea. Nor would you expect me to have any idea. One, I don’t talk about what intelligence agencies do and confirm or deny matters of that sort. But I’m simply saying we sought from the Egyptians confirmation that he was there. That was denied. And I have no knowledge of whatever claims he may make. I’ve got no knowledge.

REPORTER: Would it concern you, though, that if information gathered in Sydney by Australian intelligence turned up in an interrogation cell in Egypt, would that be of concern?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Look, I don’t know. I’m simply saying there are a lot of claims Mr Habib has made at different times which I know to be untrue. You tell me he’s made a further claim. It may or may not be true. I don’t know.

REPORTER: Regardless of whether you believe it to be true or not, is that something that would be acceptable for Australian intelligence to be used in a process of ongoing interrogation and torture of an Australian citizen in another country?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Let me make this clear. I expect intelligence authorities to do everything they can to avert terrorist activity here or anywhere else and I expect them to take any lawful steps that they can to deal with those issues and if that means exchanging information for intelligence purposes, I’ve got no problem with it.

The Attorney-General’s comments raise important questions about Australia’s role in the global war on terror. If Australia is willing to share intelligence, can we ever be sure it won’t be used to torture an Australian citizen or anybody else?

REPORTER: What if it does occasion harm? What if it’s used in an interrogation where someone is being tortured?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I don’t care if it’s used in interrogation. Any information is used in interrogation or questioning. I do believe it is inappropriate to torture people. I’ve made that very clear.

Mamdouh Habib goes further with his claims of Australian involvement in Egypt. On one occasion he claims he was led into an interrogation room and saw an Australian.

MAMDOUH HABIB: They blindfold me. They tied it up like this. Before they tied it up I closed my eyes very tight and when they release it, I release my eye, I can see a gap from the bottom if I lift up my head like, I can see people. And that’s what I was do. On this day, they take me in a room and I see this Australian guy.

REPORTER: How do you know for sure he was Australian?

MAMDOUH HABIB: He was Australian the way he talk, the question he ask. And the American, he can understand from the question he ask. And the way he talk too.

Habib says he heard the American and Australian talking amongst themselves but once the interrogation began they let the Egyptian do the questioning?

MAMDOUH HABIB: They never questioned me directly. After one Egyptian guy, the interrogator, came in and he talked to me. I was sit down and they sit next to him. I can see only their lips. They have paper, they write questions, and they hand to the Egyptian guy and the Egyptian guy ask me what they ask me for.

This does fit in with what we know about extraordinary rendition, where the whole purpose is for the US to get the information while remaining at arm’s length. In this particular case, though, there is no evidence other than Habib’s testimony and he has admitted to having memory blackouts in Egypt.

REPORTER: Are you absolutely sure about that, Mamdouh. It was a very stressful time for you, you said. You were being tortured, forced to take drugs. In your own mind do you feel really confident that you did see that – see the Australian and the American there in Egypt?

MAMDOUH HABIB: I was positive about these guys. Really, like what I see you now I can see these guys. I can point my finger again and tell you these are the guys. I never lost him from my mind.

REPORTER: Did an ASIO officer or any other Australian official see Mamdouh Habib in Egypt?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I simply make the point in relation to those matters that we were seeking access to him if he was there – it was never obtained. I think that’s the end of the matter. We have no knowledge of him being there. We formed a view that he was there. And I think it’s quite clear from what I’ve said that if we formed a view that we didn’t have anybody who have seen him at any time.

According to the Government’s account, Australia’s spy agency effectively lost contact with one of their most wanted men. ASIO had been told he was arrested in Pakistan and given access to him. But then he simply disappeared – into the hands of the US, our closest ally in the war against terror and we knew nothing until he turned up in Guantanamo Bay six months later. If you believe Habib, though, ASIO didn’t lose track of him. Not only did they know about his rendition to Egypt, but were complicit in his interrogations there.

JOE MARGULIES: It just seems to unlikely that the United States would not have sought information from one of their closest allies, Australia. And if people in Australia had information about it, that they would have come and participated or at least been present. But do I know that definitively? Do I have the videotape that was taken before he was bundled on the plane? No. I think we would have got that videotape if he stayed in custody. That might be one of the reasons why they let him go.

Somewhat ironically, Habib’s release means it’s now less likely that any of the detail of his secretive rendition will ever be revealed. In the months prior to his release, Habib’s American lawyer filed an action in the US District Court. If that case had continued, Joe Margulies believes they would have uncovered crucial information through the legal process of discovery.

JOE MARGULIES: If the conduct was illegal, we’re allowed to explore the actors, the identity of the actors. I think we would have gotten the tape, I think we would have gotten the still photos. I think we would have learned their identity, who they worked for, whose authority they were acting under. It’s just the beginning of the end.

Joe Margulies believes one of the key reasons the Americans released Habib so suddenly was to stop that court process going any further.

JOE MARGULIES: Once it became apparent they were going to be called upon to justify the detention in a US courtroom, they made the decision to release him. They would rather release someone than disclose the nature of their detention practices. And that is what I mean by they will do what they can to maintain detentions beyond judicial scrutiny, even if it means releasing people. What they would have disclosed if they had come forward was they had no basis to continue to detain him, that they clearly did not believe and could not defend the allegations they were making against him. If they could defend them, he would still be there. They were indefensible.

It also seems unlikely now that any further information about Habib’s rendition will be volunteered or sought by the Australian Government.

REPORTER: Why do you think he was taken to Egypt?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I don’t know.

REPORTER: Have you asked?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: It’s not a question of have we asked. Who do you ask?

REPORTER: The United States?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, no, we ask Egypt and Egypt denied he was there.

REPORTER: Given what is known now about the practice of extraordinary rendition, do you think it is time now to ask the United States about Mamdouh Habib and if indeed that was what happened to him?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I mean, what would be the value of it? To make it public? I don’t think anyone is going to answer any questions that we might put that is going to deal with those issues in a more transparent way.

REPORTER: But you’ve said as the Attorney-General that you are opposed to the process of extraordinary rendition. Is that correct

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I’ve made it clear I don’t believe people should be tortured.

REPORTER: So why not ask the United States if this happened to an Australian citizen?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I ask questions to which I realistically expect to get an answer and I don’t think I’d get an answer.

We may never know exactly what went on between Mamdouh Habib and Australia’s intelligence community, but the man who many Australians say they feel afraid of is claiming he too is scared. He says that when he was visited by ASIO officers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, his family was threatened.

MAMDOUH HABIB: I’ve been told by ASIO “Your family is not safe”. I was told my wife will be arrested. I was told a lot of things.

REPORTER: When were you told that?

MAMDOUH HABIB: This is in Cuba. Too many times. My kids is not safe. They tell me they can make any case about my kids, put them in jail. They threaten me and my family not once but so many times. They tell me your family. They tell me they’re going to send me back to Egypt and they tell me they cancel my citizenship and they tell me your not Australian anymore.

REPORTER: So this is ASIO?

MAMDOUH HABIB: Yes, ASIO. One is (bleep). The other one’s name is (bleep). And the other one is (bleep).

REPORTER: He was in Guantanamo Bay?

MAMDOUH HABIB: Yes. I told him, he speak to me in Arabic. I told him I don’t want to speak with him. I refuse to speak with him so many times they always bring him to me. He say your wife in jail, your kids under the hand of the Government.

Mamdouh Habib says his fear of ASIO is one of the reasons he’s holding back on parts of his story. He offers to tell all, including what he was doing overseas before his arrest. If can be protected from the agency he thinks is out to get him.

MAMDOUH HABIB: You’re quite welcome to have everything you want – save me from the ASIO, I tell you what you want. Whatever question you ask. I’m not going to stay here and ask my lawyer, I’m not going to ask any lawyer – but if you promise me in paper, in writing, you save me from these people. I am here with you now. I don’t know what they do in my house. I am here with you, I don’t know what they do with my car.

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The Trials of Mamdouh Habib

“The Trials of Mamdouh Habib”

Dateline, SBS Television. July 7th 2004

Broadcast in 2004, this story was one of the first comprehensive investigations into the arrest and detention of Australian man Mamdouh Habib. It was also one of the first journalistic exposes of “extraordinary rendition”,  the Bush Administration policy of “outsourcing torture” which later became an international scandal.  This story contains on the ground reporting and investigation from Australia, England, the United States, Pakistan, Qatar and Egypt.

TRANSCRIPT

The Trials of Mamdouh Habib

July 7, 2004

Of the two Australians held in Guantanamo Bay by the Americans, the case of Mamdouh Habib has been the least publicised but possibly the more disturbing. Habib was arrested in Pakistan in October 2001. Soon after he was handed over to American custody and then taken, for reasons unknown, to Egypt. For six months he was left at the hands of his Egyptian interrogators. According to him and other witnesses in tonight’s report, Mamdouh Habib was severely tortured there before being delivered to Guantanamo Bay where he remains to this day without charge. His case raises a series of questions for the Australian Government. Who sent him to Egypt and why? Did the Australian Government know and what steps were taken to ensure that his most basic rights were protected? Later, Mark Davis will be putting these questions and others to Attorney-General Philip Ruddock but first Bronwyn Adcock reports on how one Australian has fared under American justice.

REPORTER: Bronwyn Adcock

This suburban bowling club in western Sydney might seem like an unlikely venue for a discussion of international war and politics. But for Maha Habib, the US Government’s declared war on terror is very close to home. Her husband, Mamdouh, was arrested in the early days of the war. He’s been detained by America in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for over two years. Extraordinary world events have thrust her into a very public spotlight.

MAHA HABIB: Thank you very much everybody for being here. To be honest, I came to a stage where I thought I was fighting alone the campaign, but it looks like, having everybody here, I’m not by myself. I really thank you all for being here.

Maha and Mamdouh Habib’s lawyer is Stephen Hopper. In another sign of the unusual nature of this war, he’s never been allowed to meet or speak with his detained client. The information blackout means that mystery surrounds many aspects of Mamdouh Habib’s detention, but new information is emerging.

STEPHEN HOPPER, MAMDOUH HABIB’S LAWYER: A week or so ago Maha and I travelled to London and then to Manchester to speak to two people who’ve actually been in Guantanamo Bay and were released.

The two men had seen Mamdouh Habib in Guantanamo Bay and provided the first eyewitness account of his physical and mental state.

STEPHEN HOPPER: Mamdouh couldn’t walk properly and he couldn’t walk with his eyes open. When we came back, Tarek asked him about that, and he said, “Why can’t you open your eyes? What’s wrong? Why are you so unsteady?” He said, “Well, when I was in Egypt I was blindfolded for the entire time. I was electrocuted by them, I was beaten regularly and tortured.”

The two British men were released from Guantanamo Bay without any charge. They’re not facing any charges at home either. Despite this, Tarek Dherghoul wanted his identity disguised for this interview, because he’s scared of being vilified in the street.

TAREK DHERGHOUL: To me he was a nice guy. He spoke good words. And I could relate to him. He spoke about his family constantly.

Tarek claims that in Guantanamo Bay he saw Mamdouh Habib being dragged around in chains and bashed. He also says American interrogators told Mamdouh his family is dead and that Mamdouh firmly believes this.

MAHA: “Darling, take care of yourself and children. Say hello to everybody.”

For Maha, this explains why Mamdouh has not written to her since March last year.

MAHA: I said “It’s just not him, you know, there must be something wrong.” I mentioned that and I said that so many times. But when we went to London after speaking to Tarek and Jamal, it made sense to me as to why he hasn’t been writing, because they said he believes that his family’s been blown up and they don’t exist.

Perhaps the most disturbing allegation, though, concerns what happened to Mamdouh in Egypt, where he was detained for around six months before Guantanamo Bay. Tarek met Mamdouh in the hospital shortly after he’d come from Egypt.

TAREK DHERGHOUL: Very confused, dizzy. Dazed. Weak. Slow – he spoke very slow – he spoke in riddles. I couldn’t really make out, I mean, like he was telling me stuff about Egypt, he’d been taken to Egypt.

Mamdouh explained he’d been brutally tortured.

TAREK DHERGHOUL: He told me he’d been electrocuted, put in water, electrocuted, he’d been stripped, been punched, kicked and punched, used as a punching bag. He said something about a dog being put on him as he was naked. Cigars put out on his body. Blindfolded.

MAHA: “Allah is with you.” God is with you, that means.

Some hint of what he’d experienced had already been received in his letters home.

MAMDOUH: “I’ve been blindfolded for eight months. I never see the sun, but I see you and the kids every minute. I never forget you or forget my children. They took me to Egypt and they say they want to bring you in Egypt and the kids and I was suffering to not let these people bring you in Egypt and I hope you are still in Australia.”

It was only after the British men’s allegations were made public that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs revealed Mamdouh had, in fact, made similar allegations to them two years ago.

IAN KEMISH, DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE: To give you a complete picture, I think it’s important to say that on the first Australian visit to Mr Habib in Guantanamo Bay, which was only 10 days after his transfer there from Egypt, Mr Habib made some serious complaints about maltreatment during his time in Egypt.

To find further evidence about the authenticity of these claims, Dateline travelled to the Gulf state of Qatar. I’m here to see a man who says he has inside knowledge of Mamdouh Habib’s time in Egypt. Dr Najeeb al-Naumi is a lawyer and the former minister for justice in the government of Qatar. He has impeccable contacts in the Arab world. Dr Najeeb says that towards the end of Mamdouh Habib’s time in Egypt, he received information about the Australian.

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI, FORMER MINISTER OF JUSTICE, QATAR: They said he will die.

REPORTER: Tell me more specifically what you were told from your sources about what happened to Mamdouh Habib in Egypt.

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: Well, he was in fact tortured. He was interrogated in a way which a human cannot stand up.

REPORTER: And you know this absolutely?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: Yes. We were told that he – they rang the bell that he will die and somebody had to help him.

REPORTER: And again, did your sources tell you what kinds of things he was saying in Egypt to his torturers, to his interrogators?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: My sources did not say exactly what dialogue but they say that he accepted to sign anything.

REPORTER: So he was talking lots?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: Yes – “Whatever you want, I will sign. I’m not involved. I’m not Egyptian. I’m Egyptian by background but I’m Australian.” But he was really beaten, he was really tortured.

REPORTER: Do you think…

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: They tried to use different ways of treating him in the beginning but in the end of that they thought he was lying and that’s why they were very tough.

There seems little doubt now that Mamdouh Habib was tortured in Egypt, but why was he ever sent there? He was arrested in Pakistan and despite being born in Egypt Mamdouh Habib has been an Australian citizen for two decades. He travelled on an Australian passport, even getting tourist visas when he went to visit his parents in Egypt in the past.

STEPHEN HOPPER: What we believe happened is that he was handed over to the US authorities by the Pakistan Government at the request of the US authorities and the US authorities took him to Egypt and they took him to Egypt because, firstly, it was convenient, because they could have a cover story, because he was born in Egypt, so they could just try and smooth over why he was there.
The second reason why they took him to Egypt is because they knew he’d be tortured there and they wanted to get whatever information Mamdouh might know that would be useful to them out of him. I want to know under whose authority he was transferred to Egypt.

To answer this, we need to go to Pakistan, to the beginning of Mamdouh Habib’s journey. According to his wife, Mamdouh Habib came to Pakistan in July 2001 looking for a sea change for the entire family. The Habibs’ life in Sydney had turned sour. They’d been traumatised by the murder of one of their son’s young friends, a business deal had gone wrong and Mamdouh was facing animosity from some members of the Muslim community in Sydney, who accused him of being a CIA spy.

REPORTER: So was he feeling a bit disenchanted with life in Australia?

MAHA: Yes. What really also encouraged us – you know, we sat down and we talked and we thought if we go out of Australia, maybe a couple of years or something, away from all the headache that we had, maybe – we applied for different countries to go. We haven’t heard anything from anybody, but one of those countries was Pakistan. And we got the visa. But we thought it would be more wiser if he goes himself and check, because it was going to cost us a lot of money.

According to Maha, he was here on a 3-month visa, checking out potential business opportunities and looking for a school where his children could get an Islamic education. Mamdouh was also suffering from depression.

MAHA: He was on medication. He was seeing, you know – treated for that. And when he left he was still on medication.

REPORTER: When he left for Pakistan?

MAHA: Yes.

REPORTER: Were you worried about him?

MAHA: Of course I was worried about him, yes. He’s my life. Him and my kids, they’re my life, you know.

Halfway through his journey, the attacks of September 11 occurred in America. Almost overnight, the situation on the ground in Pakistan profoundly changed. The Pakistani President, General Musharraf, threw his support behind America and a period of unprecedented American and Pakistani cooperation began. Dr Najeeb al-Naumi was one of the first lawyers to represent people arrested in what he says were joint Pakistani and FBI operations.

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: They would start arresting people where they are known as students coming to Pakistan or religious schools where they are teaching learning as well or charity workers. These groups start picking up on these people.

REPORTER: So how big was the FBI involvement in this?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: They were totally involved in all the arrests. All the arrests, they were aware of it. They were making databases. They were collecting all information.

Much of this activity centred on the province of Baluchistan closest to Afghanistan. In early October, Mamdouh Habib was in the capital, Quetta. It was from here he called his wife.

MAHA: Then he made another phone call saying that he’s on his way back home. He left it on the answering machine. And I never heard from him since.

On October 4, 2001, Mamdouh Habib came here to Quetta bus station. He was on his way home. It was here he met two German nationals – Ibrahim Diab and Bekim Ademi. Dateline has seen copies of the interviews these two men gave German police when they returned home. They said they met Mamdouh here and upon discovering they were all trying to get to the city of Karachi to fly out, agreed to travel together.

BEKIM ADEMI: He talked to us because we were Europeans. We found out we had the same way as far as Dubai. We bought a ticket to Karachi. The Australian lent us the money.

The two German men were fleeing from Afghanistan. While in their police interviews they both gave frank admissions about their time spent in al-Qa’ida training camps, neither of them said they saw Mamdouh Habib in Afghanistan. Under intensive questioning, they did not incriminate him in any terrorist-related activity.

GERMAN POLICE INTERROGATOR: What could you tell us about the Australian?

BEKIM ADEMI: First I know he’s called Habib. Later I know Mamdouh. He comes from Sydney and has four kids. He said he had great problems in Australia and he wanted to immigrate to Pakistan. The trip was about seeing whether it was suitable for the family to come. He said he liked Pakistan.

600km into the journey, the bus was stopped at the town of Khuzdar. Pakistani police arrested all three men. Dateline asked the Pakistani Interior Minister why Mamdouh Habib was arrested.

REPORTER: Was he arrested because he was under surveillance, or was he merely caught by chance?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT, PAKISTANI INTERIOR MINISTER: We’ve gone through a long process of investigation as far as this was concerned. And without any doubt, let me confess and share with you that there is certainly a very strong linkage of this gentleman and, as I already mentioned to you, some other people also who were actively involved with this gentleman, in assisting the extremist element, the terrorist element, at that point in time.

But despite the assertion of terrorist links, later in the interview the Minister suggests that Habib was arrested merely for being in the restricted province of Baluchistan without the correct visa documents.

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: If you are not allowed to go to Baluchistan, if you haven’t got visa to visit Baluchistan, obviously you become a suspect. That is a non-denying fact.

REPORTER: So foreigners in Baluchistan in 2001 were automatically considered suspects?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: Yes, certainly, yes.

REPORTER: Could it be possible that someone was there who wasn’t involved in al-Qa’ida or terrorism?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: If a person is not involved in any of these activities, why should he or she be in such a sensitive area, in such a sensitive place? There has to be strong suspicion regarding anyone’s involvement in that respective region.

REPORTER: Suspicion, but not necessarily evidence?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: It always starts with suspicion. Suspicion eventually leads you to a certain amount of evidence and we have evidence to that effect.

However, there are some who cast doubt on the veracity of Pakistani intelligence.

YASSER AL-SIRRI, (Translation): I think Pakistani authorities sell illusions to the Americans.

Yasser al-Sirri is an Egyptian Islamist wanted by the Egyptian Government. He’s exiled in London where he heads the Islamic Observation Centre. He says that Pakistan often exaggerates the importance of people they arrest in order to win favour with America. He’s investigated the case of Mamdouh Habib and believes this is what’s happened to him.

YASSER AL-SIRRI, (Translation): In fact, all I know about him is that he used to be a businessman or used to be involved in trade. His name was definitely not known as a member or a leader in al-Qa’ida. This is an exaggeration of his case and he could be just an ordinary Muslim whose bad luck put him in the way of the Pakistanis.

In Qatar, Dr Najeeb al-Naumi argues that the sweep that picked up Mamdouh Habib was not based on good intelligence.

REPORTER: But how could an intelligence service like the Pakistanis and the FBI make such big mistakes?

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: No, they know what their idea is. Their idea is, “Let us pick them all up and find out which one is belong to al-Qa’ida and which one is actually a supporter or a member or associate.” But in the end, all of them are actually in Guantanamo.

After his arrest, Mamdouh Habib was taken briefly to a prison in Quetta. Then he was moved here to Islamabad. Pakistani authorities did not tell the Australian High Commission that they’d detained an Australian citizen. But someone did tell the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, ASIO, because they turned up in Islamabad and visited Mamdouh Habib in prison three times. Mamdouh Habib’s lawyer wants to know how Australian intelligence got involved and what they knew about Habib’s detention in Islamabad.

STEPHEN HOPPER: Now they’ve seen him in a prison in Pakistan, what are they up to? They would have heard Mamdouh’s story and they would have been in contact with other intelligence agencies on the ground there, such as the CIA. And then they would have reported back to their political masters in Canberra. So there seems to be a chain that leads all the way back to Canberra. We’d like to know what the Prime Minister knew, what the Attorney-General knew and what the Foreign Minister knew about this.

The Australian Government has told Dateline that their officials found no evidence that Habib had been mistreated. The two German men arrested with Mamdouh Habib were released into German custody after several weeks and flown home. Dateline understands they were interrogated by the FBI before they left. Mamdouh Habib, however, remained.

STEPHEN HOPPER: What the German Government did was quite simple. They just put a bit of pressure on the Pakistanis and said, “We’re not going to tolerate you holding our citizens and we’re not going to let the US interfere with our citizens. We want them back”. It’s as simple as that. Now the Australian Government just didn’t try hard enough.

REPORTER: Did the Australian Government ask to have Mamdouh Habib deported to Australia?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: No, they did not.

The High Commissioner in Islamabad, Howard Brown, told Dateline that he vigorously attempted to get consular access to Mamdouh Habib but was denied. He said he wasn’t told Habib was being sent to Egypt and only found out after he’d gone. The High Commissioner was told by Australian law enforcement authorities.
So who organised and authorised the removal of Mamdouh Habib to Egypt? A source who’s spoken to Pakistani intelligence told Dateline that after Pakistan finished interrogating Mamdouh Habib he was handed over to the FBI. They interrogated him here at Chakalala airport in Islamabad. Then, the source says, the US sent him to Egypt.
We pursued this allegation with the Pakistani Interior Minister.

REPORTER: And who sent Mamdouh Habib to Egypt?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: You see, now you are transgressing into some very sensitive areas, you know. This is an area, unfortunately, we cannot simply share the outcome of the investigations with anyone.

REPORTER: Was it a Pakistani decision?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: Obviously it’s a Pakistani decision initially, because if anyone is caught on Pakistan soil, it’s Pakistan’s decision, it’s Pakistan’s prerogative, certainly.

REPORTER: So, just to clarify, it was a Pakistani decision to send him to Egypt?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: It’s not exactly a Pakistani decision. You know, a person who is caught in Pakistan – let me also clarify this. If he or she is of Pakistan origin, certainly they do not go out of Pakistan. If that person is of foreign origin, then if he or she is wanted by a foreign government – any government – they put in a request to Pakistan and the arrangements which we have on a reciprocal basis, on a bilateral basis, even with some countries on a multilateral basis, if we feel that their request is valid and genuine, then we do accede to that request.

REPORTER: Which country are you talking about?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: I’m talking about all the countries. The US, the European Union, Egypt, you know, all these countries.

REPORTER: So are you implying that Egypt request…

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: No, Egypt did not request us.

REPORTER: Egypt definitely did not request Mamdouh Habib?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: No.

REPORTER: So did the United States request him?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: Yes, they did request it, yes.

REPORTER: The United States requested that he be sent to Egypt?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: The US wanted him for their own investigations. We are not concerned where they take him.

REPORTER: You don’t see it as Pakistan’s issue?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: No. As far as we are concerned, we were satisfied with our own investigations at that point in time. Once that was over, once we were satisfied with our own investigations, certainly we had no problem handing him over to another ally of ours.

REPORTER: The Americans?

MAKHDOOM SYED FAISAL SALEH HAYAT: Yes, that’s right.

It’s clear, therefore, that at the time Mamdouh Habib was sent to Egypt, he was in American custody. It’s also clear that Egypt did not request his extradition. So why did the Americans send him?

STEVE WATT, CENTRE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS IN NEW YORK: Egypt has a long history of use of torture on persons in detention and we believe that Mamdouh was sent there for the express purpose of interrogating him under torture.

Steve Watt is with the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York. He represents many Guantanamo Bay inmates in America, including Mamdouh Habib.

STEVE WATT: What this is, is state-sponsored abduction and that’s a violation of international law.

This is a serious allegation, but not an isolated one. Although there’s been little discussion in the West, the Arab world is on fire with talk of an American policy called rendition, essentially farming out detention and interrogation. There are dozens of documented examples of this happening, not just in Egypt.

STEVE WATT: We represent Maher Arar, a Canadian of Syrian descent, who was rendered by US authorities to Syria, a country with which he had had no connection for 17 years. He’s a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen, but had left there when he was very young with the rest of his family. He was sent back to Syria and he was interrogated under torture and the ambassador to Washington, the Syrian ambassador to Washington in an interview said they took Maher as a favour to the United States Government and that they shared all the information they gleaned from Maher, including information under torture, with the United States, and that they were communicating with the United States throughout his detention, a detention which lasted one year.

Montaser al-Zayat is a leading Islamist lawyer here in Egypt, where the practice of rendition was pioneered. While he says he knows of one case in the last few years where Americans were actually present during the interrogation, the normal practice is for the locals to do the job for them.

MONTASER AL-ZAYAT, ISLAMIST LAWYER: (Translation): The United States or its security organisations would prepare memos for the Egyptian authorities that include the names of the persons and the type of information required about such persons. The Egyptian authorities would then interrogate these people and supply the Americans with information about them.

It’s alleged there are also thousands of cases where suspects are picked up and interrogated purely to provide intelligence for the Americans.

DR HAJEEB AL-NAUMI: Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Qatar, Philippines, Thailand – they’re detained because they were requested by the Americans. They were interrogated on behalf of the Americans, with some people sitting on the back side and getting the information, the questionnaires, because they can have a database from Guantanamo.

The policy of rendition started well before September 11, but since then it’s become much more widespread as America’s need for intelligence has increased.

YASSER AL-SIRRI, (Translation): After the events of September 11, these regimes were forced to cooperate fully. Not some cooperation, but full cooperation. Whether they liked it or not, they had to cooperate. As I said, there’s Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen, Jordan cooperates strongly and there’s repression in its jails on behalf of the Americans. In Morocco about 23 persons were handed over but they were placed in a secret prison in Morocco and nobody knows anything about them. This information was leaked by former detainees in that prison.

Here in Egypt, torture in prisons is endemic, as seen in these pictures painted by torture victims themselves. It’s no accident that the countries used for rendition by the US have such a reputation. According to Tarek Dherghoul, a former inmate of Guantanamo Bay, US interrogators use rendition as a direct threat – “Talk to us or be tortured overseas”.

TAREK DHERGHOUL: I was first of all in Bagram. I was beat up by an interrogator and told that they would kill me and told that I would be sent to Morocco or Egypt. That was my first – first time I had been threatened with being sent to Morocco or Egypt. The next time was in Cuba and then again by an interrogator – threatened to be sent to Morocco or Egypt.

Dateline approached the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Council, Centcom, the State Department and the Department of Defence to talk about rendition and Mamdouh Habib. They all refused to comment. However, in the hearings of the 9/11 commission a few months ago, a former State Department intelligence official said renditions were a key counter-terrorism strategy.

CHRIS KOJM, US STATE DEPARTMENT 1998-2003: We will first discuss the CIA’s support with renditions. In other words, if a terror suspect is outside of the United States, the CIA helps to catch and send him to the United States or a third country.

Ex-CIA director George Tenet was even happy to acknowledge that 70 people were rendered prior to September 11.

GEORGE TENET: There were – you know, I’ve testified there were over 70 renditions.

STEVE WATT: It’s a policy – I mean, former director of the CIA again, George Tenet, testified to that fact. He said it’s a policy of the United States. They use it and they’ve used it effectively and they’re proud of what it achieves.

Proud of the intelligence, but not necessarily the methods used to extract it. The official position of the United States is that it does not condone or use torture.

GEORGE BUSH, US PRESIDENT: We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.

But in the Arab world and among lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay inmates, this is not accepted. In fact, they regard rendition as the deliberate outsourcing of torture to give the US some deniability.

STEVE WATT: Particularly so when the United States has signed up to the Convention against Torture and said that it would never do this kind of action. Also in light of the fact that there is an act of Congress which makes it United States policy that it will not send persons to countries where there’s substantial likelihood they’ll be subject to torture. So that makes it all the worse that they are actually doing this entirely outside the law and in flagrant violation of their international and domestic obligations.

After around six months in Egypt, Mamdouh Habib turned up here at Bagram, the US base in Afghanistan. This was the first time that the United States publicly admitted he was in their custody.

STEVE WATT: Bagram Air Force base is under the complete jurisdiction and control of the United States military, so it’s them that would have had to authorise the plane that touched down. And from the information that we have, Mamdouh was taken to Egypt by the Americans and he was flown out of there by the Americans.

By May 2002, he was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and it seems a safe assumption that any intelligence gathered from his interrogation in Egypt would have come with him. Stephen Hopper says this kind of evidence is massively flawed.

STEPHEN HOPPER: It’s been proven over hundreds and hundreds of years of the development of the common law and our legal systems it just cannot be relied on. People will say anything to stop pain or psychological torture. Just because they say it doesn’t mean it’s true in those circumstances.

Three years after he was arrested, Mamdouh Habib has still not been charged with anything, though the American administration has indicated recently he’s likely to be listed for a military tribunal soon. The Australian Government is convinced that Mamdouh Habib, like the other Australian detained at Guantanamo Bay, David Hicks, does have a case to answer.

PHILLIP RUDDOCK, ATTORNEY-GENERAL: And, in fact, we know, because we’ve received advice on these matters from the United States, that the charges that will ultimately be brought evolve around their training with al-Qa’ida and Lashkar-e-Taiba and their involvement with those organisations has been of a very significant order.

STEPHEN HOPPER: I would say that’s bullshit. Mamdouh Habib wasn’t training with Lashkar-e-Taiba. It’s very funny that this allegation wasn’t raised until Lashkar-e-Taiba was proscribed in November last year. Now come on. The Australian Government has to put up or they’ve got to shut up. What is the evidence? What is the evidence that a 47-year-old overweight man trained? I don’t believe there is any evidence. I believe that Mr Habib was picked up in a general sweep in Pakistan in the lead-up to the war in Afghanistan. I believe that perhaps his documents weren’t in proper order and he was taken in for further questioning. At this stage either Australian intelligence officials or the CIA got involved and life went downhill dramatically for Mr Habib at that stage.

Just how far downhill is probably best judged by his deteriorating mental health. Psychiatrists who deal with torture victims say treatment is essential. According to recent reports to the Australian Parliament, Mamdouh Habib is still spending periods in solitary confinement. He’s also at times refusing to take his medication for depression.

IAN KEMISH: Mr Habib has not been communicative. And he only provides feedback on his welfare in response to direct questions. He does not always answer them. He can be belligerent in discussion with our Consul General, but for the most part is simply reluctant to communicate.

In May this year, US authorities conducted an evaluation of his physical and mental condition and said follow-up care was not needed. However, based on conversations with other recently released inmates, his American lawyer is concerned.

STEVE WATT: Extremely concerned. They were actually housed in cages beside Mamdouh Habib for a number of months and just two weeks prior to their departure from Guantanamo in March, they said that Mamdouh couldn’t even recognise them. They also said that he looked physically unwell. They said he’d fallen down in his cage at one point. He’d been mistreated by the guards. And he told a whole litany of horrors that he had been subjected to during interrogation. So he’s in a very bad way physically and mentally.

MAHA: Will he listen to a 3.5-year-old?

Maha Habib is continuing her own campaign to have her husband released. Today she’s waiting outside a TV station in Sydney. The Prime Minister is inside and she wants to hand him a letter on the way out.

MAN: He won’t be stopping the car. The car will just be going past, OK? You can understand he’s the PM of Australia. He’ll travel out of the studio and keep going, OK? I’ll definitely hand him the letter…

MAHA: What’s so special about Prime Minister? I’m here for my husband’s right, for my family.

MAN: OK, I can appreciate that.

This day, Maha Habib is unsuccessful. However, she’s vowed to keep trying to bring her husband home.

MAHA: My husband never committed no crime – the crime has been committed against him and against us, OK? If he has committed any crime, alright, bring him here, let him see justice. But if he hasn’t done, just let him go home, let him see his family – almost three years. 29 July, he will be away from us for three years now.

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