‘MR MADNI was not originally in Afghanistan, he was minding his own business in Indonesia when he was picked up and taken to Afghanistan,’ legal charity Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith told a news conference in central London yesterday.
Stafford Smith was announcing that Reprieve is taking a lawsuit against the British government on behalf of torture victim Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni.
Reprieve believes that Britain shares responsibility for the illegal rendition of Madni through British Overseas Territory Diego Garcia, and thus for his subsequent torture and ill-treatment in Egypt, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.
Stafford Smith told reporters: ‘In Cairo on 11th January 2002, he suffered two days of pretty horrific torture and was then taken to Bagram (US prison camp in Afghanistan).
‘Far from being seized on the battlefield in Afghanistan, he was thousands and thousands of miles away.
‘He was subsequently taken to Guantanamo Bay and finally released without charge.
‘The US government admitted it had made a horrendous mistake.’
He added that the UK, after denying it for years, has admitted that two people were on CIA rendition flights that landed on Diego Garcia.
‘But they would not say who the two prisoners were’ said Stafford Smith.
‘The response of the British government is that of deafening silence. They will not tell us the names of the two people.
‘If you ask the British government to do something to help the victims, the answer is no – because otherwise they would embarrass their ally America.’
Stafford Smith went on to give some background on Diego Garcia.
He said: ‘A British Commissioner is head of government in Diego Garcia, which is one of the Chagos Islands.
‘In theory, he took notes of who went in and who went out.
‘But foreign secretary David Miliband told the parliamentary committee that the notes have disappeared.
‘In the 1960s, everyone was removed from the Chagos Islands and they were denied any legal rights to go back there.
‘Chagos Islanders have none, neither do those who were rendered there.
‘Mr Madni was put in a box like a coffin for transfer, and when he reached Egypt, the Egyptians used an electric cattle prod on him.’
Describing the ‘wall of silence’ Stafford Smith alleged: ‘The British government got together with the Americans.
‘The British government will tell you that no one was held on Diego Garcia or in the territorial waters of Diego Garcia.’
He went on to explain that the normal distance claimed as territorial waters is 12 miles.
‘Only 22 jurisdictions have not exerted the 12-mile limit, one of thse is Diego Garcia which exerts a three-mile limit of territorial waters.’
Pointing to a map display, he said: ‘There is a lot of area where you could anchor a ship, within the 12-mile limit but not the three-mile limit.
‘You could anchor a prison ship in the atoll and still be outside the three-mile limit.
‘What’s more, Diego Garcia has a three-mile territorial waters but a 12-mile exclusion zone.’
Appealing for help from the media, he added: ‘We are seeking proof that prisoners are being held on Diego Garcia.
‘What we can say about Mr Madni is we know when he left Jakarta and we know it is consistent with the rendition flight.
‘From the proof we have put together, I defy the British government to deny Mr Madni was taken via Diego Garcia.’
The Reprieve director explained: ‘Mr Madni is in Pakistan now.
‘He wants to establish the truth so in the future no one else suffers what he suffered.’
Speaking via an international telephone link, Madni affirmed to reporters: ‘I have no doubt that the Americans took me to Diego Garcia.’
He said of his treatment: ‘I was visiting my step-mother and step-father in Jakarta.
‘They came to the house at 4.30am.
‘Fifteen Indonesian immigration officers came. I asked what I did, they said “we have to take you”.
‘They said “we have instructions from the Americans we have to pick you up”.
‘They handed me over to the Egyptians and Americans.
‘They came and put me against a wall.
‘They put me in a room, made me naked.
‘They told me “you are from Pakistan, why are you here”.
‘I told them I was visiting my family.
‘They beat me and shackled me around my hands and around my head.
‘I was several hours on a flight from Jakarta to Diego Garcia.
‘The plane landed in Diego Garcia then they took me to Cairo.’
Asked why the Americans were interested in him, Madni said: ‘I believe they had a false identity.’
Earlier, describing his treatment, Madni said: ‘They put me in a wooden box.
‘They tied me up with handcuffs.
‘In the flight, I could not feed myself because the shackles were too tight.
‘They kicked me. I was bleeding from my ears, throat and nose.
‘In Egypt, they they beat me. Three times they tortured me with electric shock on my knees.
‘I had a beating on my back and electric shock.
‘I could not lie down for days.
‘They kept me in a room, I was on the ground, on the floor.
‘I remember the pain, darkness and torture.
‘I would like the British people to know what happened to me.
‘It shouldn’t happen to anyone else again.
‘Rules should be set so this should never happen again.’
Stafford Smith said: ‘They told him at Bagram it was a mistake, then they took him to Guantanamo Bay.’