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Iraqi tells of CIA 'torture flight'

Guardian Unlimited
Sunday July 29, 2007 9:13 AM


An Iraqi living in Britain who claimed to be an MI5 informant has spoken out about his interrogation in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay at the hands of the CIA.

Bisher al-Rawi was arrested in The Gambia in 2002, along with fellow British resident Jamil el-Banna, taken to the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and subsequently transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on controversial "torture flights" under the programme known as extraordinary rendition.

He told the Mail on Sunday and the Observer that he was betrayed by British security service MI5 and arrested, spending four years in detention without charge before being released in March last year.

He told the newspapers he was stripped, shackled and blindfolded before being thrown in the CIA's "Dark Prison" near Kabul in Afghanistan, where he was left in a windowless cell in temperatures so cold that ice formed in his food and drink.

MI5 sent a telegram to the CIA when he flew to The Gambia, warning them he was carrying a timing device for a bomb, in reality a harmless battery-charger bought from Argos.

Of the flight from The Gambia to Afghanistan he told the newspapers: "They put a harness (over his clothes), shackled and cuffed me again, fixing the chains through the harness. "They forced me on to a stretcher and tied me to it so tightly I could hardly move at all. I felt trussed like an animal."

In the Afghan prison he said he sat in his pitch-black cell for three days shivering, his only visitor a guard with a dim torch who left as soon as he detected movement. After a fortnight he was taken to Bagram, where the interrogation began.

On the journey there, he said, they "really beat me up", hitting him so hard he saw stars. He and el-Banna were under pressure to incriminate Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, who is currently fighting extradition from the UK. Mr al-Rawi and el-Banna was taken to Guantanamo in March 2003, where al-Rawi said he sank into depression.

He said: "One tried hard to be normal, to maintain balance. The thing was, the people around me were suffering so much and in the end you can't help feeling pretty bad yourself."

Mr al-Rawi has since been cleared by the Americans of any involvement in terrorism and deemed to pose no threat to America or its allies. He said he has spoken out in an effort to help his friend el-Banna, who remains in Guantanamo.

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