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Released Guantanamo Prisoner Experienced Terror On Flight To Morocco

A Moroccan released from Guantanamo Bay prison was blindfolded and shackled during his flight to Morocco, where he remains in detention, according to his attorney.

Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri, who was detained for 13 years, was repatriated to Morocco last week. Moroccan authorities did not immediately release him.

His lawyer from the legal action charity, Reprieve, met with Chekkouri and learned he was terrified by the way he was treated by United States authorities.

Chekkouri was “blindfolded, forced to wear ear-defenders, and had his arms shackled to his legs during the ten hour flight to Morocco.” He told his local lawyer in Casablanca the treatment “replicated the total sight and sound deprivation he experienced when he was first rendered to Guantanamo.”

“Younis was tortured and brutally mistreated for years during his Guantanamo ordeal,” Cori Crider, attorney for Younis and strategic director at Reprieve, declared. “As if this weren’t enough for a man the U.S. government would later declare should never have been imprisoned in the first place, he then spent the flight back to Morocco blindfolded and with his arms shackled to his legs.”

“We are very concerned for Younous’ health during his ongoing detention in Morocco and urge the authorities to release him as soon as possible,” Crider added.

Chekkouri was cleared for release in 2009 by President Barack Obama’s own review task force composed of representatives from U.S. security agencies. He has never faced any charges or trial and yet he has now essentially been arrested by Moroccan authorities, who are keeping him in detention.

According to a profile from Reprieve, Chekkouri was born in Morocco and moved to Pakistan with siblings when he was 22 years-old. He suffered “a series of family tragedies,” which led to an effort to find work and “cheaper studies” in Yemen and Syria. He then moved to Afghanistan in June 2001 and worked for a charity helping local Moroccan youths.

After the September 11th attacks, he fled as the country became more devastated by U.S. war and occupation. He was unable to escape and was captured and sold to U.S. forces, who subsequently declared him an “enemy combatant” and sent him to Guantanamo.

Morocco has served as a client state for U.S. security agencies in the “War on Terrorism,” permitting the CIA to render suspects to prisons in the country where they were subject to torture.

The Open Society Justice Initiative put out a report in 2012 [PDF], which highlighted how Abou Elkassim Britel, Noor al-Deen, and Binyam Mohamed were rendered to Morocco.

The CIA transferred “Britel to Morocco on May 23, 2002, where he was tortured for eight and half months in the custody of Moroccan agents at Témara prison,” according to the report. Mohamed was transferred to Morocco on July 22, 2002, where his bones were broken when he was beaten. Interrogators also sliced his genitals, poured hot liquid on his penis as they cut it, and threatened to rape, electrocute, and kill him.

Saleh Hadiyah Abu Abdullah Di’iki was sent to Morocco in November 2003 after being held in Mauritania at the behest of the U.S. In Morocco, he was picked up by a “team of U.S. officials in military uniforms and masks,” who then flew him in a diaper and hood to Afghanistan, where authorities, including the CIA, detained him at two separate facilities.

“Mustafa Salim Ali el-Madaghi was flown, after being diapered and hooded by Americans in accordance with ‘standard CIA rendition transportation procedures,’ to Morocco, and held in a facility that appeared to be ‘run by Americans’ for around two months before being extraordinarily rendered to Libya,” according to the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The Témara Detention Center in south of Rabat, which is operated by the Internal Security Service, was apparently where Mohamed, Britel and al-Deen were detained and tortured. The U.S. also reportedly help build another facility in Ain Aouda, which is near Rabat.

Morocco allowed Jeppesen Dataplan and Richmor Aviation to land rendition flights in Rabat, and the country has faced no accountability for its role in CIA detention and rendition operations.

There have been Guantanamo Bay prisoners who have been released to their home countries only to face show trials and suffer further abuse.

In 2011, journalist Andy Worthington outlined how two Tunisians repatriated from Guantanamo in 2007. One of the men, Abdullah bin Omar, told his lawyer he would rather be back at Guantanamo.

Bin Omar was apparently subject to sleep deprivation, slapped, and informed his wife and daughters would be raped. He could not take the threats and signed a paper, which led him to be taken before a military court and then tossed in solitary confinement in a cell he called his “tomb.” He was not allowed any contact with any prisoners.

Tunisia gave the other Tunisian, Lotfi Lagha, similar treatment and sentenced him for “associating with a criminal group with the aim of harming or causing damage in Tunisia.” But the Tunisian authorities refused to name the group.

Seven Russians claimed in 2007 they had been forced to return to Russia against their will. They suffered abuse and torture, and claimed the U.S. government knew this would happen.

Two Algerians detained at Guantanamo actively resisted U.S. authorities when they tried to send them back home to Algeria. According to journalist Jess Bravin, they feared they would be attacked or killed by Islamists if it was found out they did not want to commit violence.

When Aziz Abdul Naji, an Algerian detainee was repatriated against his will in 2010, he was imprisoned.

The exterior of the Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., photographed on February 2, 2012. (Flickr / Securities and Exchange Commission)
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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."