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Muslimer tortureres i Brooklyn - USA (engelsk)

Source:NY daily news
Author:Larry Cohler-esses
Date:26/02-2005

Defense attorneys call it Brooklyn's Abu Ghraib. On the ninth floor of the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, terrorism suspects swept off the streets after the Sept. 11 attacks were repeatedly stripped naked and frequently were physically abused, the Justice Department's inspector general has found. The detainees - none of whom were ultimately charged with anything related to terrorism - alleged in sworn affidavits and in interviews with Justice Department officials that correction officers:

Humiliated them by making fun of - and sometimes painfully squeezing - their genitals.

Deprived them of regular sleep for weeks or months.

Shackled their hands and feet before smashing them repeatedly face-first into concrete walls - within sight of the Statue of Liberty.

Forced them in winter to stand outdoors at dawn while dressed in light cotton prison garb and no shoes, sometimes for hours. "In December, they left me outside for more than four hours [wearing] only a jumpsuit and a light prison coat," Ahmed Khalifa, an Egyptian, told the Daily News. "I asked them to let me inside. They were laughing and pointing to me. When I finally got back inside, I felt like I had frostbite."

The Justice Department's inspector general has substantiated some of the prisoners' allegations - and some incidents were captured on videotape. But the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any federal correction officer at MDC.

"I was informed the videos amounted to nothing more than shoving, but no serious injuries," said one Justice Department official, who would speak only on condition he not be identified.

But Inspector General Glenn Fine, whose staff reviewed 380 MDC videotapes, reported in 2003 that "These tapes substantiated many of the detainees' allegations." Furthermore, the officers were not just a few bad apples but "a significant percentage of those who had regular contact with the detainees," Fine wrote last March.

The Justice Department currently is reconsidering its rejection of a News Freedom of Information request for the tapes, after the paper filed an appeal.

Meanwhile, interviews by The News with 12 ex-detainees - all but one now deported for visa violations - and a review of sworn complaints filed against the Bureau of Prisons adds shocking detail to the earlier findings of what occurred at MDC.

The picture that emerges mirrors some of the abuses the International Committee of the Red Cross denounced recently as "tantamount to torture" when inflicted by U.S. military authorities on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Wael Kishk, an Egyptian student who was unable to walk, alleges he was beaten by guards on Feb. 15, 2002 - the same day he complained to a judge in open court about earlier mistreatment at MDC. When guards were returning him to the jail that day, he says they threw him into the back of a transport bus with his hands cuffed behind his back and his ankles shackled close together. Kishk, now in Cairo, recalled landing painfully on the floor, face down, unable to break his fall.

Back at MDC, said Kishk, the guards piled him into a wheelchair and took him to a room where they stripped him and "started stomping on me."

"There were three of them - with their leader, four," Kishk said. "They took all my clothes off and turned me on my stomach. Then, the leader put his foot on the back of my neck and told me, 'All of this is so you will stop playing games,'" an apparent reference to his statements in court.

Rami Dahmany, another Egyptian inmate, alleged he was injured by two guards - Michael McCabe and Christopher Witschel - when he complained about a strip search. They grabbed an already injured finger on his right hand and bent it painfully far back, then twisted it hard.

"They saw the finger was damaged," said Dahmany, speaking by phone from Egypt. "I still have an injury from that. I can't fold my hand. The finger stands up all the time."

McCabe and Witschel are accused of similar conduct in a lawsuit filed by other former inmates.

Witschel declined comment. McCabe could not be reached.

All the detainees complained of frequent strip searches - sometimes six a day - even though they remained continuously isolated in solitary confinement or were shackled when taken to court hearings.

Ehab ElMaghraby, a restaurant worker from Egypt, alleges in a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons that MDC guard Steven Barrere inserted a flashlight into his rectum during a strip search while other guards looked on. ElMaghraby said he saw blood on the withdrawn flashlight. Two other MDC officials - Michael DeFrancisco and Raymond Cotton - inserted a pencil into his rectum during other searches, ElMaghraby alleged.

Barrere's attorney, James Ryan, denounced ElMaghraby's allegations as "factually baseless." Cotton's attorney, Nicholas Kaizer, labeled ElMaghraby's charges "preposterous," adding, "ElMaghraby is trying to get rich through these fanciful claims."

Kishk, who has not filed any lawsuit, described strip searches in which a guard would grab his genitals "so hard, it hurt badly" - a charge echoed by Egyptian detainee Ashraf Ibrahim in a suit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

"There's a lot more I can't describe," said Kishk. "It was very degrading."

Oded Ellner - one of five Israeli Jewish terrorist suspects - said he sought medical help after MDC's allegedly meager, often spoiled meals left him with severe dysentery symptoms. The doctor came with five guards and a camera, he said. She then ordered him to strip and shift his backside into a small space in the cell door so she could conduct a rectal exam from outside the cell.

"I'm a human being, not an animal!" Ellner said he shouted. "I have a right to an exam." The guards, he said, "just laughed," and all walked away.

The prisoners interviewed by The News were part of a group of 84 detainees jailed at MDC between Sept. 11, 2001, and September 2002. Some 1,200 such immigrants were jailed nationwide, including 400 in nearby Passaic County, N.J., where abuses were also reported.

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, said that her agency began an investigation of abuse allegations last April - it is still ongoing - after the Justice Department decided not to prosecute anyone.

"Any substantiated incident will be addressed with appropriate disciplinary action and, where appropriate, criminal prosecution," she said.

Robert Nardoza, spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, which participated in the criminal investigation, said government efforts to prosecute alleged abusers at MDC were frustrated when six inmates who had complained of abuse chose deportation to their home countries rather than continued imprisonment until a possible trial at some point where they might testify as witnesses.

Nardoza referred further questions to the department's Civil Rights Division. He would not say whether prosecutors pursued options such as video depositions from abroad, closed-circuit TV testimony or even temporarily returning ex-inmates here to testify.

Civil Rights Division spokesman Eric Holland has refused to talk with The News.

None of the inmates who spoke to The News said they were ever asked to testify. All said they were ready to do so.

"It's a whitewash," said Steven Leegan, an attorney for Indian Muslim inmate Mohammed Jaweed Azmat. "This was a mini-Abu Ghraib in Brooklyn."

In fact, "It was worse," he said, "because these were not guardsmen thrown together but supposedly highly trained federal corrections officers doing the same thing long before we sent troops into Iraq."

"I was very trusting of the system," said Kishk. "I was infatuated and overtaken by your ideals of tolerance.

"I got the flip side of all the ideals I believed America held."