Thu, Mar 01, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Rights group wants answers from Bush

DISCLOSURE Human Rights Watch said it has compiled a report about 16 terror suspects locked up in secret jails and wants to know the fate of all detained since 2001


A human rights group is asking US President George W. Bush to disclose the fates of all terror suspects held since 2001, including at least 16 it believes have been locked up in secret CIA facilities.

Human Rights Watch said it compiled a report about the 16, whose whereabouts are unknown, along with 22 others possibly held by the CIA, based on interviews with former detainees, press reports and other sources.

The report -- Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention -- includes an accounting from Marwan Jabour, a Palestinian who says he was held incommunicado for more than two years by the US and Pakistan.

Human Rights Watch interviewed Jabour in December and is telling his story as part of a push for more information from the Bush administration. Jabour says he was beaten, burned with an iron, held naked and chained to the wall of his cell so tightly that he could not stand up.

His imprisonment ended last summer when the US flew him to Jordan from a secret detention facility that he believed to be in Afghanistan. By September, the Jordanians turned him over to the Israelis. Six weeks later, he was let go in the Gaza Strip, where the 30-year-old had family.

US counterterrorism officials would not confirm Jabour's account, but they said they view him as one of al-Qaeda's most dangerous members.

One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity, said Jabour was in direct contact with al-Qaeda's operational leaders, had ties to al-Qaeda's chemical and biological programs and had plotted to attack US troops in Afghanistan.

In a letter to Bush on Monday, Joanne Mariner, director of Human Rights Watch's terrorism and counterterrorism program, said her organization recognizes some terror suspects may have committed crimes that merit incarceration. Yet "the decision to imprison such persons must be taken in accordance with legal processes," she said. Rather than vanishing, they should be charged with crimes, she said.

In a statement, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said the agency's interrogation program has been conducted lawfully -- "with great care and close review, producing vital information that has helped disrupt plots and save lives."

Gimigliano said that is also true of renditions, when terror suspects are taken from one country to another for questioning. He called it "another key, lawful tool in the fight against terror."

"The United States does not conduct or condone torture, nor does it transfer anyone to other countries for the purpose of torture," Gimigliano said.

There was no immediate comment on Jabour's claims from any of the other countries said to have been involved in his incarceration. A senior counterterrorism official at Pakistan's Ministry of Interior said he would not comment for publication until he had seen the Human Rights Watch report.

In his interviews with Human Rights Watch, Jabour acknowledged only some ties to Arab militants. He said he trained in a militant camp in Afghanistan in 1998, went to Afghanistan in 2001 for a couple of weeks after the US-led invasion and helped Arab militants who fled Afghanistan in 2003.

Jabour said he was arrested in Lahore, Pakistan, in May 2004. He said he suffered the worst physical abuses during more than a month in Pakistani custody: beatings, being burnt and having string tied tightly to his penis to prevent him from urinating.

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