Socialist Worker

British Muslim: ‘Did Britain set me up to be tortured?’

We’ll call him Adil. He’s a 22-year old British Muslim born in east London. Adil has been hounded by the British state and tortured in an Egyptian prison. He has discovered that he is on a government list of people under surveillance, suspected of bein

Issue No. 2208

Adil has faced state racism in Britain from an early age. “The police harassment started when I was a kid.”, he said. “In 1996 me and my brother went to martial arts classes at an Islamic Centre.

“The guy that taught us was convicted of terrorism. When the police raided his house they found our martial arts membership documents. So they raided our house as well.

“They interviewed me and my brother in Scotland Yard with our dad there. I was eight. There were other dawn raids on our house after that. They used to raid people on our street regularly.”

Adil’s nightmare truly began when he went to visit his sister in Cairo, Egypt, in summer 2007. He had previously studied in the country for a year between 2003-4.

“I took clothes and my laptop,” said Adil. “But when I arrived at the airport in Egypt the luggage wasn’t there. They said it’d been diverted. I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t notice anything had changed when I got my luggage back.

“I stayed with a friend who ran an internet cafe, which I went to every day. I had been in Egypt for around a month when there was a raid on the cafe.

“There were about 20 people inside – I was the only British national.

“A van pulled up and about ten armed soldiers jumped out with a general. They came into the cafe, closing the shutter so that no one could see what was happening. They took everyone’s ID and phones.

“They came to me and I pulled out my British passport, as if to say, ‘Here it is, you can’t touch me’. They all diverted their attention towards me, as if I was the one they were looking for.

“And then my passport was out of my hand, being passed between the soldiers until it got to the general. They put a blindfold on me and shoved me under the seats of the van. They picked up everyone else in the cafe.

“The Egyptians were terrified because the van had the seal of the state security police on its side. The street cleared when it appeared.

“They took me to Wayli police station. I told them I wanted to speak to the British embassy but they refused. I was terrified. I didn’t know why I was there.

“I was handcuffed and still blindfolded. They asked me lots of questions. When they asked me, ‘Where is your laptop?’ I started shaking. How did they know I had a laptop?

“They said, ‘Do you know about jihad? Do you watch videos of suicide bombers?’ I just said, ‘No, of course not.’

“I felt that someone had informed them about me. I wasn’t a random person who got caught up – they were looking for me.”

Egypt is a key Western ally in the Middle East. The US and Britain have a long history of collusion with the Egyptian security services.

Both countries have sent suspects to Egypt to be tortured on their behalf during the “war on terror”. Other British citizens have said that Egyptian security forces have arrested and tortured them at Britain’s request.

Adil said, “The general was talking to someone obviously much higher up. He was terrified of screwing it up. He was taking all his directions from this person.

Secret

“I was eventually put in another van and taken somewhere for interrogation.

“I was told, ‘You are with the Egyptian police. You have no rights. Forget about London, forget about the embassy, forget about everything. Do what you’re told when you’re down there.’

“I just thought, we’re going down? They took my blindfold off so I could write my name. The seal on the wall was for the High State Security Investigation agency

“I was taken down a staircase and we were under the ground. I was stripped naked and put in a jumpsuit with ‘interrogation’ written on the left knee and right shoulder. They gave me a number, 36.

“That’s when you feel that you’ve been removed, you have no more humanity – you don’t even have a name.

“I was taken to a corridor that was lined on both sides with cells. I could look down under my blindfold and see feet on the floor. We stopped at a space that I was told was mine.

“The cells were full so they just dumped people in the walkway. We were in the interrogation wing. You can stay there for months before you are transferred to a cell.

“They gave me my clothes to put under my head. They changed my handcuffs to ones with weights on them. You’re not allowed to lie down unless you’re told to, so I just had to sit.

“People were crying and the guards were running up and down. You’re living in audio because you have no vision.

“That was my first day.

“When you go in, you don’t think about tomorrow as you don’t know what’s going to happen to you.

“They were bringing more people in and giving them numbers. I worked out that there were around 20 interrogation officers in separate offices. They were calling out people’s numbers in order.”

Egypt’s dictatorial regime employs systemic torture of internal dissidents to stamp out revolt. It metes out torture to foreign nationals to aid its Western friends.

“I think it was at number 31 when I heard someone screaming his head off,” said Adil. “I have never heard a man scream like that before. I was shaking and started to cry.

“When a prisoner’s number is called the guard comes and grabs him between the handcuffs and runs him down the corridor. He could fall or trip over someone.

“The numbers kept coming closer to mine. I just thought that’s it, it’s the end of the world. My number was called and I was dragged to the office to be interrogated.

“That room was like a different world to the one I’d just been in. There was air conditioning. The interrogator was a couple of steps above. He walked down them to slap me.

“Him and a translator would speak to each other in Arabic then to me in English. I pretended that I couldn’t speak Arabic, which helped me.

“He started asking me questions about jihad, the Qur’an, Osama bin Laden and non-Muslims.

“At that point I changed what I had said in the police station and started saying that I’m not a Muslim. I felt terrorised, that being Muslim was a problem.

“I couldn’t even stand up I was so scared. I heard someone being tortured in the office next to us.

“My interrogator said ‘you’re going to end up like him if you don’t answer my questions or I don’t like your answer.

“I started crying again. That was the first interrogation. I was put back in the corridor. They told the guard I wasn’t allowed to sleep or sit down for 24 hours.

“One day they said, ‘Bring the electricity.’

“You have to put your forearm onto this machine. I don’t know how many volts that shit was but I was freaking my face off. If they had held it on me any longer I would have lost my life.

“This happened two or three times. That’s as well as the random beatings.

“The guards were so nasty. At one point I looked under the blindfold and saw them carrying a guy whose arm had been slit open.

“They called the doctor to seal it up and then they took him back to the interrogation room.

“During the night I would lie in the corridor trying to sleep. But it was impossible. With people screaming throughout the night, it was like living in a horror film.

Blindfolded

“They would take us to the bathroom twice a day. The toilet was a hole in the floor, but it’s no good when you’re blindfolded. The first day I tripped and fell in the middle of that hole.

“I was in this building for a month. Two weeks in they brought my laptop. They took the blindfold off. I felt butterflies in my stomach as I didn’t know what they’d done.

“They told me to click on a folder that was written in Arabic. It had not been on my computer before. There were videos there – it was a clip of an American guy explaining how to make ricin.

“On another there was a guy showing how to make a suicide bomb, another showed IED bombs in Iraq and another of a US hostage in Iraq having his throat slit.

“I was shaking and crying, saying, ‘It’s not me. I didn’t put these videos on there.’ I didn’t know what to say or do to make them believe me.

“I lost track of what was going on.

“Towards the end the questioning changed. They asked for my address in Britain and I realised they were in touch with British officials.

“The last five days were the worst. They said OK we’re going to let you go, take your jumpsuit off and put your own clothes back on. I felt like I was human again, and stood in front of a door waiting to go back upstairs.

“They said the van will be here in ten minutes. I waited for an hour and a half. Then they said, ‘The van is cancelled’. They made me put the jumpsuit back on and took me back to the corridor. They did that every day for five days.

“I think they do this to everyone. I felt like taking my life.

“Eventually they released me. They told me I had to leave the country in three days. I bought a ticket to Greece – I didn’t want to come back to Britain as I didn’t know what would be waiting for me.

“But I wasn’t even allowed out of the airport in Greece and had to get a flight to Britain.”

Adil is scarred by the trauma of his experiences. “My life had changed. Clumps of my hair had fallen out and I was so thin that my stomach was nearly touching my back. I’ve got post-traumatic stress and have been seeing a psychiatrist who specialises in counselling torture victims.

“I have paranoia and can’t sleep properly. When I do sleep I have nightmares.”

Adil’s torment worsened last year when he was wrongly arrested for violent disorder on the demonstrations against Israel’s assault on Gaza. He has been on bail for 18 months, waiting to hear whether he will be sent to prison.

The British state is taking a close interest in him. “I feel I’m being constantly watched,” he said.

“A few months ago my friend drove me to Victoria station. The police followed him all the way back to north London in six unmarked cars.

Megaphone

“They pulled him over and told him through a megaphone to get out of the car and put his hands on the roof of the car.

“They asked him who the guy was who got out of the car and where was he going.

“His solicitor found out that I am on a government list of terror suspects that they’re waiting to convict!

“While this is shocking, as I’ve never had anything to do with terrorism, it put my mind at rest. I thought I was becoming paranoid, but now I know that I am being watched.”

The Home Office and Metropolitan Police refused to comment on these allegations.

Adil is bitter and angry about the state’s actions. “I don’t feel British,” he said. “Where has having a British passport got me? You’re treated differently in this country if you’re a Muslim.”


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