Testimony of a Journey Through Hell

Yossi Melman head
Yossi Melman
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Yossi Melman head
Yossi Melman

"One time I was alone in the interrogation room with the pretty interrogator. I was completely naked. She started caressing my hands and legs. I told her I wasn't interested in her and that this method wouldn't help her. She became very angry, got up, stood me on my feet, pushed me against the wall, came close to me and tried to strangle me with her hands. She didn't really choke me. She was trying to turn me on."

That is how Palestinian Marwan Ibrahim Mohammed Jabur describes being interrogated in Pakistan in May 2004. The descriptions resemble the stories of the sadistic sexual abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. But compared to the publicity the abuse at Abu Ghraib received, this is the first testimony of sexual abuse by American interrogators in Pakistan.

Jabur was suspected of terrorism because he fit the profile of a member of an Islamic fundamentalist organization such as Al-Qaida. His story starts with 15 days' imprisonment in Pakistan and ends in Khan Yunis. During that time, he was transferred between various security services. Americans held him for about two years in a secret detention camp, and then transferred him for questioning in Jordan. After six weeks he was handed over, due to his Palestinian nationality, to the Shin Bet security service.

He was suddenly released Monday, after about 50 days in the Shin Bet ward at Kishon Prison. His release followed the publication of his detention and interrogation in Haaretz and came a day before a military court was to hear the appeal submitted by his lawyer, Nizar Mahajna.

Upon his release, he was taken to Khan Yunis, where some of his relatives live, including his sister. There too he was interrogated, this time without force, by Palestinian interrogators. They did not detain him. He ostensibly could have been tried in Israel at least for "military training," which Jabur admits he completed in Afghanistan, but the Shin Bet decided to release him after he passed a lie detector test. The circumstances of his release have prompted the Palestinians to suspect he agreed to work for one of the intelligence agencies that held him. This would not be the first time that happened to him. The Jordanian interrogators also told him half-jokingly, half-seriously, that he was an American agent, and when the Jordanians transferred him to the Shin Bet, the Israeli interrogators asked him whether he was a Jordanian agent or an American agent.

The following are portions of a statement Jabur gave to his lawyer. The statement was forwarded to Haaretz in full.

Would-be jihadi

Marwan Ibrahim Mohammed Jabur was born in Amman, Jordan on October 15, 1976 to a family of Palestinian refugees from Khan Yunis. When he was two, his family moved to Saudi Arabia. His father worked in the clothing industry and his mother was an Arabic teacher. In 1994 he went to Pakistan and learned Urdu, and in May 1996 he was accepted into a program to study mechanical engineering in Hyderabad. Then, he says, after two of his friends were killed in road accidents in Saudi Arabia and a doctor incorrectly told him his days were numbered, "I started going to the mosque, praying and becoming more religious."

At the mosque, "I met people with deep religious commitment. Faras Hamdan from Nablus and Samar Ben Halimi al-Barak, who is also originally Palestinian. And that's how I became religious," he says. Influenced by them and by Saudi clerics, he decided to become a jihad fighter, specifically to help the Chechnyans fight the Russians. In late 1998 he headed to Afghanistan, where he spent three months learning to use weapons. The camp was organized and funded by the Taliban government, he says. The name of the camp commander, a Syrian citizen, was Abu Musab.

In the end, Jabur did not go to Chechnya. Instead he returned to Pakistan and continued studying. He married a Pakistani woman, and they had three children. Ten days after September 11, 2001 he returned to Afghanistan, this time to fight the Americans, whom he refers to as "crusaders." "After some time (in Kabul, which was then being bombed - Y.M.) I returned to Jalalabad and joined a group of Taliban. We managed to hide before the bombing of Jalalabad started. After a while the Taliban withdrew, and only 300 Arab fighters remained on the front line. When the bombing intensified, the Arabs also retreated."

Jabur went back to Pakistan and there, while he continued his studies, a friend asked him to help refugees. Despite his denials, the refugees were apparently Al-Qaida members or supporters and their families. At a certain point he discovered the Pakistani security services were tracking him. He fled to Lahore and there, on May 9, 2004, was arrested.

For four days, Pakistani security service investigators interrogated him harshly. They wanted the names of the people who had asked him to help the refugees and the addresses where the refugees were staying. Jabur says he refused to tell, and therefore was tortured at length. Among other things, "one of the interrogators tied my sexual organ with a rubber band so I couldn't urinate; this caused me much suffering, kidney problems and made me faint repeatedly," he says.

On May 13, the American women joined the interrogation. "In the afternoon, on the fourth day, they took me out of solitary confinement to the interrogation room. There was a Pakistani male interrogator and two American women who said they were with American intelligence. A huge American guard accompanied them. The interrogation lasted until midnight. One of the female interrogators told me: Marwan, you're at a crossroads. We know what torture you went through in the preceding days. Either you cooperate with us and you'll be one of the richest and happiest people on earth and you'll live a good life with your family in whatever place you choose, or you can prepare to die in jail, where huge American men like the one here wait for you."

"She started asking me about men wanted for huge rewards. She mentioned the name Abu Faraj Abu Libi (a senior Al Qaida operative - Y.M.). I told her I was innocent, that I had no information that would help them, and that I was eagerly waiting to join the detainees in Guantanamo. She told me there was no point in denying because Hassan al-Rul, a Pakistani Al-Qaida member, who was arrested three months ago in Iraq, as President Bush announced, was now in Guantanamo and he told them about me. I know who al-Rul is and I met him once, but I didn't know with whom he was affiliated. Still, I denied knowing him."

Six months in solitary confinement

After 15 days, the Pakistanis transferred him to the Americans. He was injected with sedatives and flown to an unknown destination. One of the American interrogators implied he was not in Guantanamo, but in a place called "Cain." He spent close to two years there. Based on his descriptions of the routine there, the place was not Guantanamo. A British prisoners' rights organization that read about the incident in Haaretz believes Jabur was detained at one of the secret U.S. facilities in Afghanistan or Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.

For six months, Jabur was kept in solitary confinement in an empty, windowless cell that was one meter by two meters. The cell contained only a blanket, a bucket for urinating, a camera and a loudspeaker. He was naked half the time he was there. He occasionally heard loud music or airplane engines, which were intended to remind him, he believes, of the Twin Towers. When he asked the interrogator to stop the noise, he was told it should be etched deep into his memory so he would remember why he was being detained.

After a year, the terms of his imprisonment improved. He was permitted to see a documentary film once a week and to read certain books on religion and history. Later on he was also given an electronic chessboard. The wardens were masked, and wore black uniforms. Once a week he was allowed to shower. On July 29, 2006, he was told he was being released. Jabur was afraid he would be executed. Instead he was sedated, put on a plane and flown to Jordan. There he was interrogated for six weeks. During this time he was permitted to see a Red Cross representative and his parents.

On September 18, Jabur was handed against his will to Shin Bet agents at the Hussein bridge border crossing. "The Israeli officer told me: Welcome, Osama Bin Laden. Where did you come from?" He was transferred to Kishon Prison, where he was interrogated for five days by a man who called himself Levi.

"Levi treated me very nicely and told me he knows what I've been through," Jabur says. He was again asked to relate his life story. "He didn't question me about matters related to the State of Israel or its security."

A month after his detention in Israel, Jabur was permitted to meet with Attorney Nizar Mahajna, who represents the Palestinian Authority's prisoners club and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. He was also represented by Attorney Maher Talhami. He gave this statement to the two lawyers. It ends with the words: "I do not object to my release in the Gaza Strip, but my fear is that they may transfer me to be interrogated in a country like Egypt or the Palestinian Authority. For more than two years I have suffered detention, interrogation, torture and solitary confinement, and there are still scars on my body." A request for comment from the Shin Bet and the U.S. embassy in Israel went unanswered.

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