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Rendition Circuit: 26-30 March 2004


Rendition of High-Value Detainees (HVDs) from Guantánamo Bay to Morocco


On 27 March 2004, several 'High Value Detainees' were transferred from a secret CIA detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, known as Strawberry Fields, and moved to Morocco. These detainees had been kept in this secret prison for six months, and were moved out again once it became apparent that US courts were about to exercise greater authority over detention operations on the naval base. According to one US official speaking off the record, 'anything that could expose these detainees to individuals outside the government was a nonstarter', necessitating their removal from Guantanamo. Possible detainees onboard this flight include Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, although some of these may have been on the later flight out of Guantanamo in April 2004.

The detainees were transferred in a Gulfstream IV jet with registration number N85VM. This aircraft was operated by Richmor Aviation, a private charter company which was hired by broker SportsFlight Airways, on behalf of another broker, Capital Aviation. In turn, Capital Aviation was under contract with DynCorp to provide aircraft for the CIA’s rendition programme.




N85VM left its home base of Schenectady County Airport, New York (KSCH) in the early afternoon on 26 March 2004. After stopping off in Queensbury, New York (KGFL) and Palm Beach, Florida (KPBI), the aircraft landed in Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD) just before midnight. It stayed on the tarmac throughout the day on 27 March, before leaving in the evening and flying direct to Guantanamo Bay (MUGM), landing at 22:40 GMT.

It was at Guantanamo that, according to CIA officials speaking to the AP's Adam Goldman, Abu Zubaydah, al-Nashiri, al-Hawsawi and Binalshibh were loaded onto the aircraft. N85VM left after less than an hour at Guantanamo, and flew direct to Rabat, Morocco (GMME). Flight data collected by Ana Gomes confirms that the aircraft travelled through Portuguese airspace for 90 minutes in the early hours of the 28 March, while FAA data shows it landing in Rabat at 07:18 on 28 March.

Having off-loaded the detainees, N85VM stayed in Rabat for about 36 hours, before flying back to Washington in the evening of 29 March, and then onto Schenectady, landing in the early hours of 30 March 2004.

Overall, Richmor billed SportsFlight Air for $110,803.77 for undertaking this rendition circuit, in an invoice dated 30 March 2004. This fee included 18.7 hours of flying time for this circuit, at the agreed rate of $4900 per hour ($91,630 in total), as well as catering, handling and landing fees, and overnight expenses in Rabat and Washington.


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