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Mohamed Bashmilah

Photo: andyworthington.co.uk

Nationality: Yemeni
Date of birth: 1968
Place of birth: unknown
Aliases: Shumilla, Mohammad al-Shomaila, Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah

Capture: Amman, Jordan, 21 October 2003
 
SSCI prisoner number: 89

Entered CIA custody: 26 October 2003
Period of CIA custody: 550-559 days
Left CIA custody: 28 April 2005 - 7 May 2005

Detained: Jordan, Afghanistan, unknown, Yemen

Current status: released, 27 March 2006

 

Timeline of Key Events

21-26 October 2003
Capture and detention, GID Headquarters, Amman, Jordan

26 October 2003
Rendition, Jordan-Afghanistan

26 October 2003 – 24 April 2004
Detention, Dark Prison, Afghanistan

24 April 2004
Transfer, Dark Prison - CIA black site, unknown location (likely in or nearby Afghanistan)

24 April 2004 – 5 May 2005
Detention, CIA black site, unknown location (likely in or nearby Afghanistan)

5 May 2005
Rendition, Afghanistan (likely) – Yemen

5 May 2005 – 27 March 2006
Detention, Yemen (Political Security Prison, Sana’a, and Fateh Prison, Aden)

27 March 2006
Release

Mohamed Bashmilah is a Yemeni citizen who was held and tortured in secret CIA detention for over 18 months, and held in arbitrary detention in Yemen for a further 10 months. He is one of 26 prisoners identified by the SSCI report as being "wrongfully detained". In the case of Bashmilah, CIA records cited by the SSCI report document that there was no evidence to suggest that he posed a threat to US interests, and that any derogatory information was "speculative".

Bashmilah was a businessman, buying and selling clothing in Yemen and then, between 2000 and 2003, in Indonesia. In late 2003, he was arrested by the Indonesian authorities for carrying an ID card which falsely stated that he was Indonesian. Bashmilah says that he used this card to marry his wife, an Indonesian citizen. After being detained for several weeks, he was released but ordered to board a flight of his choosing. He decided to fly back to Yemen, but to stop off on the way in Jordan to help his mother obtain medical assistance.

Bashmilah and his wife flew to Jordan on 26 September 2003. On arrival, however, his passport was confiscated, ostensibly because it did not have the correct exit and entry stamps. Officials told him to report to the GID (Jordanian intelligence), which he did. Bashmilah had to return to the GID office several times in an attempt to retrieve his passport.

On 21 October, he went to the GID building again, but this time was detained, and moved to a nearby building. Once moved, Bashmilah was accused of involvement in arms trafficking and being a member of al-Qaeda, as well as hit and kicked. He was then handcuffed, chained and blindfolded, and taken by car to the apartment he was renting with his wife and mother. After the apartment was searched, he was returned to the GID facility, stripped naked, photographed and fingerprinted, and taken to a solitary confinement cell.

Over the next five days, Bashmilah was repeatedly tortured and interrogated by Jordanian intelligence. He was tied to a chair, hit, and threatened with the rape of his wife and mother (who, he was told, were also in detention). Bashmilah has provided an extensive testimony of his time in secret detention, and this details the torture he was subjected to in Jordan.

Bashmilah’s account of his torture in Jordan

Some guards came and took me from my cell to a large hall in the same building, known as the Yard, where several guards were waiting in a circle, holding canes. The guards surrounded me and commanded me to run around in circles. When I became too fatigued to run any further they beat me with their canes. When I could no longer withstand the pain of being beaten by the canes I collapsed into the middle of the circle. The guards in the Yard tried to demean me by ordering me to imitate animals. They forced me to imitate a donkey’s bray and the antics of dogs.

After torturing me in the Yard the guards then took me to another room and suspended me, upside down, from the ceiling. They took a clip which was attached to a long chain and clasped it to a leather belt that they tied around my ankles. Then they pulled the chain and lifted me into the air. They left me hanging there like a piece of meat in a butcher shop for about twenty minutes with my hands tied in front of me. As I hung there the guards pushed me and let me spin. They slapped my face. They beat me with canes in sensitive places, like the bottoms of my feet and the sides of my stomach. The guards seemed to know that beating me in these places would hurt a lot but that their beating would not leave permanent marks. I remember hearing them laugh all the while. They continued hitting me until I could not feel anything. They also brought electric wires and threatened to shock me. After this painful, terrible beating they lowered me down.

To end this abuse, which took place over the course of two days, I told them to take me to the interrogator, and said that I would make a confession, without knowing what to confess. All I was thinking was that I needed relief from this suffering.

On October 25, Bashmilah was eventually given the opportunity to sign a confession, which he says he did without even reading it. A few hours later, in the early hours of 26 October, a guard told him that he was being released, and he was taken to a room in order to retrieve his possessions. However, at that point he was blindfolded and his hands were tied behind his back. He was led down a corridor, and could hear an American accent. He then had ear defenders placed on his head, and was driven to the airport. At this point, Bashmilah was subjected to the standard CIA renditions procedure.

Bashmilah’s account of his rendition from Jordan to Afghanistan

I was driven for about thirty minutes to the airport. At the airport I was pulled from the car and placed in a room. I was seated on a chair with my hands still in cuffs and my blindfold still on. Very shortly thereafter, I was taken violently to another room where my clothing was rapidly cut off until I was entirely naked. My blindfold was taken off and strong light beams were directed at my face while someone put their hand over my eyes. I was not able to see clearly because of this, but I could see some things in the room by peeking through the fingers of the hand over my face. There were at least three people there. One of them was the one holding me from behind and covering my eyes with his hand. I didn’t see the person holding me, but the other two that I did see were dressed head to toe in black, with black masks covering their faces and surgical gloves on their hands. They beat me and kicked me, roughing me up badly. Another person took pictures of me, and then one of them forcefully stuck his finger into my anus. I was in severe pain and began to faint.

After this ordeal I was put in a diaper like a baby and dressed in a blue shirt and pants that came below the knee, to about the mid-shin. Both the shirt and the pants had been cut to be about three-quarters length and were made of sweatshirt material. I was forced to go without shoes. They stuffed my ears with spongy material and taped all around that before putting headphones on. They blindfolded me by putting dressing, like you would on a wound, over my eyes and then taping over it. Later this tape was painfully removed, and with it clumps of my hair. They tied my legs together and chained them to my waist. Then they tied my hands together and also chained them to my waist. I was also hooded. I was in a lot of pain at this time, but I was mostly worried about my mother and wife because I did not know what was happening to them.

I was taken up six or seven steps to get on board a plane where I was forced to lie on my back. I was then strapped across the chest and legs to a metallic board, which was like a hospital gurney. This plane travelled for about four hours before landing. During the flight, I suffered pain in my head, sides, and knees from blows and kicks from the men who prepared me for the transfer and forced me onto the plane.

 

The Jordanian authorities have acknowledged that they held Bashmilah in October 2003, but have declared that he was then released and left the country of his own volition. In November 2003, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the Yemeni Embassy in Amman, confirming that Bashmilah had been ordered to leave the country but implying that he had done so of his own accord. This account was also relayed to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture in October 2006, and to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in March 2007. In addition, GID informed Yemeni intelligence in March 2004 that Bashmilah had been released and had travelled to Iraq.

Flight data and associated documentation confirm Bashmilah's account, however, and demonstrate that he was in fact forcibly rendered from Jordan to Afghanistan on board the CIA-owned Gulfstream V jet with registration number N379P. Flight planning services for the rendition were provided by Jeppesen Dataplan, a subsidiary of Boeing, Inc. which handled the logistical elements of numerous renditions. Click here for our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with Mohamed Bashmilah’s rendition from Jordan to Afghanistan.

Once in Afghanistan, Bashmilah has testified that he was unshackled from the metallic board, put into the back of a jeep, and forced to lie down by having someone sit on his back. He was driven for 10-15 minutes to a detention facility where he was to spend the next six months.

By piecing together the testimony of several detainees known to have been held in the same facility at the same time, it appears likely that this site was near to Kabul, and was the facility referred to by some as the 'Dark Prison'. Bashmilah has provided a floorplan of the prison, which correlates exactly with the drawing provided by Khaled al-Maqtari, and which depict twenty cells in one large space, in two rows of ten, and then a separate set of interrogation rooms. Drawing on this information, and additional testimony from those held at the site, it is possible to identify at least some of the detainees in the Dark Prison between April 2003 and May 2004.

Detainees in the Dark Prison, 2003-2004 (aliases by which they were known while at the site in brackets):

For the first three months in this secret prison, Bashmilah was held in Cell 6, which was tiny (2m x 3m) and had a bucket, a mattress, a blanket and water in Nestlé bottles. He was shackled to the wall and kept in the diaper worn during the rendition for the first two weeks. The cell had a camera and speakers, and Bashmilah was blasted with ‘excruciatingly loud western rap and Arabic music’, 24 hours a day, for the first month. He became so depressed that he attempted suicide on three separate occasions. At one point, ‘I was so distraught that I banged my head against the wall, trying to lose consciousness’.

After the first three months, Bashmilah was moved to another cell, in a different part of the prison. This was slightly bigger (3m x 4m), although it also had just a bucket, mattress, blanket, Nestlé bottles with water and a camera. There were no speakers however, and the sounds were far quieter (although still constant). He was held here for about two months, before the Americans decided to turn the cell into a torture and interrogation room. Bashmilah was moved to a third cell, which he recognised as an interrogation room he had been taken to previously. This was nearby the second cell, and he was aware of the torture taking place there.

Bashmilah’s account of the torture of others

While I myself was not beaten in the torture and interrogation room, after a while I began to hear the screams of detainees being tortured there, particularly the prisoner called Adnan al-Libi [Majid al-Maghrebi]. On their way to the torture and interrogation room, American officials, including “Kojak,” [so named by Bashmilah because of his shaved head] would first stop by my cell with a female interpreter and tell me that when I hear people screaming that I should not be afraid because this treatment was just for people who did not cooperate. They told me that they had a way of dealing with people who did not cooperate. I concluded that it was “Kojak” who was so harshly interrogating Adnan al-Libi because when he came into my cell he would be wearing surgical gloves.

During his time in the Dark Prison, Bashmilah noted that although it was run by Americans, the guards were Afghan. He was also taken to a yard about once a week for 10 minutes for ‘sunning’, and could hear children’s voices speaking in what he thought was Pashto. He also saw what he thought were Afghan guards in a watchtower.

On or about 24 April 2004, after six months in the Dark Prison, Bashmilah was transferred to a second CIA prison along with several other detainees, where he was to be held for a further 13 months. His account, along with those provided by some of the other detainees transferred alongside him, allow a picture to emerge of this transfer, including the identities of at least some of those likely to have been moved, and the possible location of the second black site.

April 2004 transfer of detainees, from the Dark Prison to a second CIA black site

Through cross-checking multiple accounts from detainees held in the Dark Prison in early 2004, it is possible to say with some degree of certainty that the following nine detainees were transferred together from the CIA prison outside Kabul to a second CIA prison in an unknown location.

These nine detainees were held in the black site for anywhere from four months to nearly two-and-a-half years, and were later joined by others (either transferred from other facilities, or newly-captured). There is no evidence of anyone being detained at this site before April 2004, suggesting that these detainees may have been among the first to be held there.

According to detainees involved in the transfer, they began to be prepared around midday on or about 24 April: they were individually taken to one of the interrogation rooms in the Dark Prison, stripped, and subjected to a medical examination, with injuries marked on a sheet (al-Maqtari counted nine separate sheets on the doctor's desk). After examination, the detainees were taken to a separate room, where a transfer team (masked and wearing black) cut their clothes off, examined their eyes, ears and mouth, photographed them and then placed them in a diaper, loose clothes, blindfold, hood and headphones. This process took 20-30 minutes for each detainee, after which they were taken to a holding area in the courtyard of the facility. The first detainees were kept there for several hours as others were prepared, and then they were moved as a group and loaded into jeeps or trucks. Multiple accounts are clear that detainees were moved as a group, with individuals speaking of being squashed up against up to a dozen others.

From the Dark Prison, the detainees were driven for a short period (some say up to 30 minutes, although others say it was a shorter journey). Once at the airport, which is likely to have been in Kabul, they were again made to wait as detainees were loaded onto the aircraft. By this time it was around sunset, which at that time of year would have been at about 18:30 local time. The aircraft was a cargo-type plane, larger than the Gulfstream jets which some had been rendered onboard previously, with benches along each side rather than rows of seats facing forwards.

Several detainees involved in the transfer testify that they were flown for 3-4 hours, and then transferred to a fleet of helicopters which flew for between one-and-a-half and three hours. Accounts also agree that from the helicopters the detainees were moved into vehicles which drove from the helicopter landing site to the prison. The duration of this stage of the journey is disputed, and given anywhere between 5-30 mintues. However, later accounts of transfers out of the site suggest that it was only a 5-10 minute drive from a military airbase, which is likely (although not certain) to have been where the helicopters landed. Indeed, some of the detainees testify to hearing aircraft from their cells, although the airport was apparently quiet, with 2-3 movements per day at the most, and some days with none (Wednesdays was noted as a particularly busy day).

The location of this prison has been the subject of much speculation. The first accounts to emerge from those detained there - from Bashmilah, Qaru and al-Asad - led their lawyers to believe that the prison was in Europe. This was apparently confirmed by the flight duration, and various other circumstantial evidence, such as the cold winter nights and 'European' food served to detainees. However, later accounts have contested this conclusion. Al-Shoroeiya and al-Sharif were both sure that the site was still in Afghanistan, and that the long transfer time was designed deliberately to deceive the detainees (with the aircraft in fact flying in circles): We lived in Afghanistan for a long time. We know the atmosphere and the climate there. When you look at the buildings, you can tell from the structure and the materials they are made out of that it is Afghanistan. A location in Afghanistan or nearby also fits with two separate accounts (from Mustafa al-Mehdi and Marwan Jabour) of being transferred to the facility in June 2004 from Islamabad - a flight which took between 30 minutes and two hours, suggesting a destination in Afghanistan or nearby. Others have spoken of Afghan guards, and regional food, while cold winter nights also fit into this profile.

Perhaps the clearest indication that the black site was in Afghanistan comes from flight data and documentation held by The Rendition Project relating to the rendition of several detaines out of the prison in 2004 and 2005. Specifically, the August 2004 rendition of al-Shoroeiya, al-Maghrebi and Di'iki to Libya points to Afghanistan as the prison location, somewhere close to a military airbase. Although flight data gives this transfer as coming from Kabul, the use by the CIA of 'dummy' flight plans to disguise the location of their sensitive sites means that this data cannot be trusted 100%, and a nearby location is also possible.

Regardless of the prison's location, combining detainee testimony has made it possible to identify at least some of those held there from April 2004 onwards.

In addition, it is possible that some of the High-Value Detainees (HVDs) were held in the prison at some point after their detentions in Eastern Europe. Click here for further analysis of the whereabouts of these detainees in 2005 and 2006, including a possible detention at this location.

On arrival at the facility, Bashmilah says he was taken up several stairs, shackled, and made to wait. He and the others were then led, one-by-one, down a steep metal ‘ramp’ with a non-slip surface, and into the facility proper. Once inside, he was stripped and photographed in a room full of masked people, then medically examined and taken to his first cell. The cell was new, with a stainless steel toilet and washbasin. There were two cameras (one of which followed him as he moved about the cell) and a speaker which pumped out white noise 24 hours a day. Bashmilah was chained to a ring on the floor, and had his hands cuffed for the first 3-4 weeks. He was taken to a shower room once a week, where a speaker continued to blast loud music. During breaks in the noise, he identified the detainees next to him as Mohammed al-Shoroeiya and Khalid al-Sharif, with whom he had been held in the Dark Prison.

Bashmilah continued to be interrogated in an interrogation room, and went on hunger strike for 10 days until he was force-fed. According to Bashmilah:

The guards untied my hands and sat me in a chair and strapped my arms to the arms of the chair. They then used a chain to connect the shackles on my feet to a metal ring in the floor. I saw blue cans on the table that contained what looked like pink coloured liquid. There were also tubes like those used for IVs and a metal IV pole. After I was strapped to the chair and chained to the floor they shoved a tube up into my nose and I began screaming because of the pain. I resisted because I was beginning to choke and the guards held my head back. In this way they forced the tube all the way into my stomach... The doctor told me that this was the way that it would be, once in the morning and once at night, until I started eating again.

Several months after Bashmilah arrived at the prison, around September 2004, he was taken to a new cell, which had a similar layout. However, in this cell he was not shackled, and there was no constant noise through the speaker. He was allowed to read books and watch movies in the interrogation room, and use an exercise hall once a week. He remained in isolation, however, and never saw or spoke to another detainee (although there were signs of other prisoners when he was taken to the shower).

After more than 18 months (550-559 days) in secret detention, Bashmilah was transferred to Yemen with two other Yemenis who were being held at the black site: Mohammed al-Asad and Salah Qaru. There is no independent verification of the date of this flight, which the men say was on 5 May 20005, although analysis by The Rendition Project and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has established that it would have been at some point between 28 April 2005 and 7 May 2005. The flight took around seven hours, landing late in the evening, and from the airport the three detainees were taken to a Political Security detention facility in Sana'a. The next day, Bashmilah and Qaru were flown on a passenger plane to Aden, and taken to Fateh Prison, where he was detained for a further 10 months at the request of the US. Bashmilah was finally released on 27 March 2006, two-and-a-half years since his first detention in Jordan, after being convicted of forging an identity document and sentenced to time served.

Rendition Research Team - © University of Kent
University of Westminster University of Kent E.S.R.C