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A US Citizen Tortured Abroad by the FBI? -- 5 Cases of Extreme US Govt. Inhumanity in the Obama Era

The U.S. has partnered with unsavory allies abroad to torture people accused of terrorism.

Guantanamo Prison Flight
Photo Credit: Publik15/Flickr


President Obama’s 2009 promise to ban abusive interrogations has fallen far short, with torture by proxy forces a frequent tool wielded in the never-ending “war on terror.” The Obama administration has also continued efforts to make sure nobody is held accountable for torture.

The latest reminder of the administration’s policies on interrogation abuse came last week, when a federal court accepted the Obama Justice Department’s arguments that a case against the Federal Bureau of Investigation should be dismissed. The  U.S. District Court first heard the case of Amir Meshal, a 28-year-old U.S. citizen who says he was abused by FBI agents working in African countries, in 2009.  

Meshal had fled from Somalia in late 2006 to flee growing unrest in that country, and crossed the border into Kenya by boat.  He was eventually apprehended by a U.S.-Kenyan-Ethiopian law enforcement task force. He was secretly rendered from Kenya back to Somalia and to Ethiopia.  In total, he was detained for over three months.

Meshal’s lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union say he was tortured because FBI agents threatened him “with forced disappearance and the infliction of severe physical and mental pain and suffering ... in order to coerce him into confessing to things that he had not done.”  The FBI wanted Meshal to confess to being affiliated with Al Qaeda.

While Meshal’s alleged abuse took place while the Bush administration was in power, it was the Obama administration that defended the FBI during the court case.  And Meshal’s case highlights how the Obama administration has partnered with unsavory allies abroad to detain and torture people accused--often with little evidence--of having links to terrorism.  

Here are 4 more cases of torture in the Obama era--including the cases of American citizens.

1. Yonas Fikre.  In 2011, Yonas Fikre was detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), interrogated and allegedly tortured, as Mother Jones’ investigative reporter Nick Baumann first revealed.  Fikre is a Muslim-American from Oregon.  

Fikre’s ordeal began in 2010, while he was in Sudan. He was contacted by FBI agents who wanted him to become an informant for them.  Fikre refused.  A few months later, he was detained while in the UAE. Baumann reports that Fikre says he was “beaten on the soles of his feet, kicked and punched, and held in stress positions.”  UAE security forces and the FBI agents who spoken to him in Sudan asked him similar questions, and Fikre says he thinks he saw a Westerner in the interrogation room with him.  The UAE is a strong U.S. ally.

2. Raymond Azar: The case of a Lebanese contractor working in Afghanistan, first exposed by lawyer and writer Scott Horton, represented the first rendition of the Obama era.  In September 2009, Horton wrote in the Huffington Post that Azar, working for a Lebanese contractor that did work for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, was seized by at least eight armed FBI agents.  

The case is unique in that Azar was accused of fraud--not terrorism.  Nonetheless, Azar alleges he was hooded, stripped naked and was forced to undergo a cavity search. Agents took him to Bagram prison in Afghanistan, where Azar was shackled to a chair for hours and not allowed to sleep for over a day. Eventually, Azar was taken on a plane, where he confessed to contract fraud charges, and was charged in the U.S.

3. Gulet Mohamed: In early 2011, the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reported that an American citizen had been detained in Kuwait and reportedly abused. Mohamed had traveled to Yemen to study Arabic, and then moved on to Somalia and eventually to the Gulf nation of Kuwait, a key U.S. ally.  

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