Senate report set to reveal Djibouti as CIA ‘black site’ - (Part 1/ 3)
Posted Date: Saturday, May 24, 2014
Horn of Africa nation has denied hosting secret prison facilities for US, but classified document may undermine claim
May 2, 2014 5:00AM ET
by Jason Leopold
The legal case of a former CIA detainee suing the government of Djibouti for hosting the facility where he says he was detained could be helped by the contents of a still-classified Senate report. Djibouti, a key U.S. ally, has denied for years that its territory has been used to keep suspected Al-Qaeda operatives in secret captivity. But the Senate investigation into the agency’s “detention and interrogation program” concluded that several people had been secretly detained in the tiny Horn of Africa state, two U.S. officials who read an early draft of the report told Al Jazeera.
Official confirmation of Djibouti’s role in hosting “black sites” used in the CIA’s rendition program would be welcomed by Mohammad al-Asad, a Yemeni arrested at his home in Tanzania on Dec. 27, 2003, blindfolded and flown to a location he insists was Djibouti. Two U.S. officials who read an early draft of the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation — and who requested anonymity because the report remains classified — were unaware of whether al-Asad’s case was specifically cited in the document. But they confirmed that the report found that several detainees had been held in Djibouti, and that at least two of them had been wrongfully detained.
Djibouti's Ambassador to the U.S., Roble Olhaye, told Al Jazeera his country was not a "knowing participant" in the CIA's rendition program and he rejected claims by al-Asad that he was temporarily imprisoned there.
However, Olhaye said, "If something was done in the context of the American base there how would we know?" But, he said, Djibouti's agreement with the U.S. precluded the base from being used to house prisoners.
Al-Asad said that after his arrival in the country he alleges was Djibouti, he was held in a prison cell and tortured. He said he was interrogated by an American woman about his connections to the now-defunct Saudi charity Al-Haramain. The group, later accused by the U.S. Treasury of supporting terrorism, had in 1994 rented apartment space from al-Asad in a building he owned in Tanzania.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, al-Asad, now 54 years old, said he was detained for about two weeks in Djibouti and then rendered to Afghanistan, where he says he was tortured at various points over the course of more than a year at several CIA black site prisons.
Before he was released in 2005 and sent back to Yemen, he said, he received a visitor from Washington.
“What I remember through the interpreter was that he said, ‘I am the head of the prison, and you will be the first one at the top of the list of the people we are going to release because we have nothing on you,’” al-Asad told Al Jazeera. “The interpreter said that he was the director of all the prisons.”
Al-Asad was never charged with terrorism or related crimes, but he pleaded guilty in Yemen to making false statements and using forged documents to obtain his Tanzanian travel papers.
Al-Asad, who still lives in Yemen, has been trying since his release to hold Djibouti officials accountable for his detention. In 2009, he sought redress from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a quasi-judicial body that has jurisdiction over Djibouti and other countries that approved the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In the coming days, that commission, which is based in Gambia, is expected to decide whether it will take up al-Asad’s case.
Olhaye called al-Asad a "liar", adding, "Everything about his case relies on hearsay and conjecture. There were no flights that came to Djibouti on that day he said he was brought to my country from Tanzania. That was checked by our lawyers."