Yemeni citizen Mohammad al-Asad
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, al-Asad, now 54 years old, said he was detained for about two weeks in Djibouti and then rendered to Afghanistan, where he says he was tortured at various points over the course of more than a year at several CIA black site prisons.
Before he was released in 2005 and sent back to Yemen, he said, he received a visitor from Washington.
“What I remember through the interpreter was that he said, ‘I am the head of the prison, and you will be the first one at the top of the list of the people we are going to release because we have nothing on you,’” al-Asad told Al Jazeera. “The interpreter said that he was the director of all the prisons.”
Al-Asad was never charged with terrorism or related crimes, but he pleaded guilty in Yemen to making false statements and using forged documents to obtain his Tanzanian travel papers.
Al-Asad, who still lives in Yemen, has been trying since his release to hold Djibouti officials accountable for his detention. In 2009, he sought redress from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a quasi-judicial body that has jurisdiction over Djibouti and other countries that approved the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In the coming days, that commission, which is based in Gambia, is expected to decide whether it will take up al-Asad’s case.
Olhaye called al-Asad a "liar", adding, "Everything about his case relies on hearsay and conjecture. There were no flights that came to Djibouti on that day he said he was brought to my country from Tanzania. That was checked by our lawyers."
But John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, who has spent more than a decade investigating the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation program testified before the commission last year and said "the fact that the flight records of CIA aircraft that are public do not include a flight that matches Mr. al-Asad's trajectory is not indicative of anything in and of itself."
Sifton said the CIA could "easily circumvent data collection" and "aircraft used by the CIA could easily be rendered untraceable while flying in and around Djibouti."
Al-Asad has based his legal case on flight records, collected by Human Rights Watch and the U.K.-based human rights charity Reprieve, demonstrating CIA-linked aircraft flying in and out of Djibouti (PDF).
His lawyers have also obtained documents from Tanzanian immigration officials stating that al-Asad was sent to Djibouti on a Tanzanair aircraft after his 2003 arrest.
“This is one of the most direct pieces of evidence we have showing that Djibouti is where our client was held before being handed to the rendition team on the tarmac,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, al-Asad’s attorney and a professor at New York University’s Global Justice Clinic.