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Rendition Circuit: 15-28 January 2004

 

Multiple renditions of Binyam Mohamed (Morocco to Afghanistan) and Khaled el-Masri (Macedonia to Afghanistan)

 

On 22 January 2004, Binyam Mohamed was rendered for a second time, after being detained and tortured in Morocco for 18 months. He was flown in an unmarked 737 Boeing Business Jet, with registration N313P, to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was held in a secret CIA prison called The Dark Prison.

Two days later, on 24 January 2004, Khaled el-Masri was rendered on the same aircraft from Skopje, Macedonia to Kabul, via Baghdad, where he was held for four months before the CIA realised that they had made a mistake and rendered him back to Europe.

In addition to these two known renditions, there is evidence to suggest that the full circuit included the rendition of three Algerian detainees from Afghanistan to Algeria, and one or more detainees from Afghanistan to secret detention in Romania.

At the time of this dual rendition circuit, N313P was owned by Premier Executive Transport Services, a CIA shell company, and was operated by Aerocontractors, a nominally independent company working exclusively for the CIA. Flight plans for this circuit were supplied by Jeppesen Dataplan, the trip planning company which provided logistical support to numerous rendition circuits. In this case, Jeppesen filed a dummy flight plan to disguise the flight into Bucharest, where the Romanian secret prison was located. For the aircraft's return flight to the US, the company also filed the flight under 'Department of State Support', thus demonstrating that it was an official government flight.

 

 

Analysis

 

N313P left its home base of Kinston Regional Airport (KISO) late in the evening of 15 January 2004, flying to Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD). It then left Washington just after midnight on 16 January, flying to Shannon, Ireland (EINN). It stayed overnight in Shannon before flying on to Larnaca, Cyprus (LCLK) on 17 January, where it waited for four days.

In the late afternoon of 21 January, N313P left Larnaca, flying direct to Rabat, Morocco (GMME), arriving there just before midnight. According to testimony supplied by Binyam Mohamed to his lawyers, he was driven from his prison on the night of 21 January, and held blindfolded at the airport. He was then handed over to the Americans, who subjected him to the standard renditions procedure, cutting off his clothes, photographing him, and redressing him in their outfit.

In the early hours of 22 January, after just over two hours on the tarmac, flight data shows that N313P left Rabat, flying direct to Kabul, Afghanistan (OAKB) in just under eight hours with Binyam on board. Having landed at 09:58 GMT, Binyam was 'put in a truck. I was only in shorts and it was very cold. It seemed like we were driving along a dirt track. I was put in a prison called "The Prison of Darkness"'.

Having stayed in Kabul for just over two hours, the aircraft then flew to Algiers (DAAG). According to an FBI memo released under FOIA litigation, three unnamed Algerians were 'repatriated' from Bagram to Algeria on 22 January 2004. Nothing further is known of these men's fate or whereabouts, although they were presumably transferred aboard N313P.

Having stopped in Algiers for around 90 minutes, the aircraft flew on to Palma de Mallorca, Spain (LEPA), landing in the evening of 22 January. Here the 13 crew members spent the night in Hotel Mallorca Marriot Son Antem. In the evening of the next day, 23 January, N313P left Mallorca and flew to Skopje, Macedonia (LWSK), landing there at around 8pm GMT.

On the same day, Khaled el-Masri has testified that he was moved from the hotel room an hour's drive from Skopje, where he had been kept as a prisoner for 23 days. Once in a room in the airport, el-Masri has testified that he was prepared for the rendition.

El-Masri's account of his rendition from Macedonia to Afghanistan

I felt two people violently grab my arms, one from the right side and the other from the left. They bent both my arms backwards. This violent motion caused me a lot of pain. I was beaten severely from all sides. I then felt someone else grab my head with both hands so I was unable to move. Others sliced my clothes off. I was left in my underwear. Even this they attempted to take off. I tried to resist at first, shouting out loudly for them to stop, but my efforts were in vain. The pain from the beatings was severe. I was terrified and utterly humiliated. My assailants continued to beat me, and finally they stripped me completely naked and threw me to the ground. My assailants pulled my arms back and I felt a boot in the small of my back. I then felt a stick or some other hard object being forced in my anus. I realised I was being sodomized. Of all the act these men perpetrated against me, this was the most degrading and shameful. I was then pulled to my feet and pushed into the corner of a room. My feet were tied together, and then, for the first time since the hotel, they took off my blindfold. As soon as it was removed, a very bright flashlight went off and I was temporarily blinded. I believe from the sounds that they had taken photographs of me throughout.

When I regained my vision, I saw seven to eight men standing around me, all dressed in black, with hoods and black gloves. I was dressed in a diaper, over which they fitted a dark blue sports suit with short sleeves and legs. I was one again blindfolded, my ears were plugged with cotton, and headphones were placed over my ears. A bag was placed over my head and a belt around my waist. My hands were chained to the belt. They put something hard over my nose. Because of the bag, breathing was getting harder and harder for me. I struggled for breath and began to panic. I pictured myself like the images I had seen in the media of the Muslims that were brought to Guantanamo.

They bent me over, forcing my head down, and then hurried with me to a waiting car and then on to a waiting aircraft. They walked so fast that the pain at my joints was getting worse, as the iron of my shackles chaffed against my ankles. When I tried to slow down they almost dislocated my shoulder. In the airplane, I was thrown down onto the floor and my arms and legs were spread-eagled and secured to the sides of the plane.

I received two injections, one in the left arm and one in the right arm, at different times. They put something over my nose. I think it was some kind of anaesthesia. It felt like the trip took about four hours, but I don’t really remember. However, it appeared to be a much longer trip than the one to Germany. I was mostly unconscious for the duration. I think the plane touched down once and took off again. When the plane landed for the final time I was fully conscious, although still a little light-headed. I was taken outside the aircraft. I could feel dry, warm air and knew immediately that the place where the plane had landed couldn’t possibly be Europe.

Flight data shows that, in the early hours of 24 January, the aircraft (with el-Masri on board) flew from Skopje to Kabul. Having stopped off in Baghdad, Iraq (ORBI) for around 90 minutes en route, the aircraft landed in Kabul mid-morning on the same day. Documents held by The Rendition Project demonstrate that, in the morning of the next day (25 January), Jeppesen filed two flight plans with Eurocontrol for N313P: the first to leave Kabul at 17:00 GMT that day, flying to Timisoara, Romania (LRTR), and the second to leave Timisoara at 23:50, flying back to Palma de Mallorca. However, it is likely that these were both 'dummy flight plans', disguising the true destination of the aircraft: Bucharest (LRBS). Although Jeppesen did not mention Bucharest in any of its communications with air traffic services, Romanian officials filed a notification in the early hours of 26 January for a flight from Bucharest to Palma de Mallorca, leaving 28 minutes later at 00:40, and taking 02:46 hours. Given that Bucharest was the site of a CIA prison, it is possible that this disguised flight rendered one or more detainees from Afghanistan to Romania.

Landing in Palma de Mallorca in the early hours of 26 January, the aircraft and its crew stayed on the island for 48 hours' 'rest and relaxation'. Hotel records from the Gran Melia Victoria, a luxury hotel overlooking the marina on Majorca, demonstrate that the identities of the crew were mostly the same as during the first stopover on the islands.

Finally, after almost two weeks since it had left the US, and after having rendered several detainees between a series of secret prisons around the world, N313P left Spain on the morning of 28 January, and returned to Kinston Regional Airport via Washington, landing in the evening.

 

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