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Judge Finds Courts Cannot Protect US Citizens Tortured by US Government Officials Abroad

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan

A federal district court dismissed a case that was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a United States citizen and against US government officials who allegedly tortured, abused and subjected him to rendition and incommunicado detention in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. The dismissal was another stark example of how it is nearly impossible for torture victims to push for justice in an American court of law.

Amir Meshal was in the Horn of Africa when, on January 24, 2007, Kenyan soldiers captured and interrogated him. He was “hooded, handcuffed and flown to Nairobi, where he was taken to the Ruai Police Station and questioned by an officer of Kenya’s Criminal Investigation Department” and was told that the police had to “find out what the United States wanted to do with him before he could send him back to the United States.” He remained in detention without access to a telephone or his attorney for a week, according to the US District Court of the District of Columbia’s decision [PDF].

On February 3, “three Americans,” who turned out to be FBI agents, interrogated Meshal and told him he would be handed over to the Kenyans and remain stuck in a “lawless country” if he did not cooperate. The agents also accused him of “having received weapons and interrogation resistance training in an al Qaeda camp.” Supervising Special Agent Chris Higgenbotham, one of the officials sued, threatened Meshal with being transferred to Israel where the Israelis would “make him disappear.” Meshal was informed that another US citizen he had met in Kenya, Daniel Maldonado, who was also seized by Kenyan soldiers, “had a lot to say about” him and his story “would have to match.”

Meshal was flown by Kenyan officials to Somalia with twelve others on February 9. He was “detained in handcuffs in an underground room with no windows or toilets,” which was referred to as “the cave.” This was allegedly to prevent pressure from Kenyan courts to  halt his detention and interrogation by FBI agents.

About a week later, Meshal was transported in handcuffs and a blindfold to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was held there in incommunicado detention for a week before Ethiopian officials started \regularly transporting him to a villa with other prisoners where he could be interrogated by FBI agents. He remained in detention for three months and was moved into solitary confinement twice.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."