Navigation menu

Bookmark and Share  

Majid al-Maghrebi

Photo: Human Rights Watch

Nationality: Libyan
Date of birth: 1970
Place of birth: unknown
Aliases: Adnan al-Libi, Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi

Capture: Peshawar, Pakistan, 14 November 2003
 
SSCI prisoner number: 91

Entered CIA custody: 17 December 2003 – 26 December 2003
Period of CIA custody: 240-249 days
Left CIA custody: 22 August 2004

Detained: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya

Current status: released, as of 16 February 2011

Timeline of Key Events

14 November - Late-December 2003
Capture and detention, Peshawar, Pakistan

Late-December 2003
Transfer, Peshawar-Islamabad

Late-December 2003
Rendition, Pakistan-Afghanistan

25 December 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 - 22 August 2004

Detention, CIA black site, unknown location (likely in or nearby Afghanistan)

22 August 2004
Rendition, Afghanistan-Libya

22 August 2004 - 16 February 2011
Detention, various prisons, Libya

16 February 2011
Release

 

 

 

Majid al-Maghrebi's account of his time in CIA custody is drawn largely from the Human Rights Watch investigation, Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya. We are grateful to Human Rights Watch for granting permission for us to use this information here.

Majid al-Maghrebi was one of a number of rendition victims who had left Libya in the 1980s and 1990s for fear of imprisonment and torture by the Gaddafi regime on religious grounds. As with a number of the others, al-Maghrebi travelled around the Middle East, and then joined the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LFIG) with a view to overthrowing Gaddafi’s regime. It was in Afghanistan that he joined the LFIG, and he then spent a couple of years in Sudan in 1995-1997, from where he and other LFIG members attempted, and failed, to unseat Gaddafi’s regime. He went to Pakistan to marry in 1998, and settled in Afghanistan, but returned to Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks.

Al-Maghrebi was arrested at his home by Pakistani forces in the early hours of 14 November 2003, and taken to a detention facility where he was held for several weeks. Throughout this period, al-Maghrebi was interrogated and tortured repeatedly, including many times via electric shocks until he lost consciousness, as well as beatings (including with a leather whip) and the use of stress positions and positional torture (including tying him to a frame and 'stretching' him). He could also hear the screams of others being tortured at the facility, as well as their pleas for mercy: 'I can still hear the voice of one of the guys in my head asking them to stop, saying blood was coming out of his mouth'. During the initial period of detention, al-Maghrebi was twice interrogated by men with American accents, who asked him about Osama bin Laden and Abu Faraj al-Libbi.

Al-Maghrebi was transferred to Islamabad towards the end of December 2003, and shortly thereafter rendered to Afghanistan. Analysis by The Rendition Project and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has established that he was transferred into CIA custody at some point between 17 December 2003 and 26 December 2003. According to calculations published by the SSCI, he was held by the CIA for around 8 months (240-249 days). He was prepared for rendition in a manner consistent with standard CIA rendition practices: he had his clothes cut off him, had a suppository inserted into his anus, and was dressed in a diaper, with earplugs, headphones, and cotton wool taped to his eyes. He was then wrapped head-to-toe in adhesive tape, chained, and placed onboard an aircraft for the flight to Afghanistan.

By piecing together the testimony of several detainees known to have been held in the same facility alongside al-Maghrebi, it appears likely that he was held in the facility referred to by some as the 'Dark Prison', close to Kabul. Floorplans of the prison have been provided by two detainees, Khaled al-Maqtari and Mohamed Bashmilah, 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):

  • Mohammed al-Shoroeiya (Hassan Riba’i), held April 2003-April 2004
  • Khalid al-Sharif (Hazim al-Libi), held April 2003-April 2004
  • Mohamed Bashmilah (Shumilla), held October 2003-April 2004
  • Salah Qaru (Marwan al-Adenni), held October 2003-April 2004
  • Majid al-Maghrebi (Adnan al-Libi), held December 2003-April 2004
  • Khaled al-Maqtari, held January-April 2004
  • Saleh Di’iki (Sheikh Saleh al-Libi), held January-April 2004
  • Mohammed al-Asad, held January-April 2004
  • Hassan bin Attash (Umayr bin Attash), held January-May 2004
  • Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi (Riyadh al-Sharqawi), held January-May 2004
  • Binyam Mohamed, held January-May 2004
  • Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi (Mohamed al-Fakheri)
  • Sanaad al-Kazimi (Abu Malik al-Qasemi)
  • Majid Khan
  • Yasser al-Jaz’iri
  • Nassem al-Tunisi
  • Mu’ath al-Suri (Abu Abdullah)
  • Ahmed the Malaysian
  • Abu Abdullah al-Saudi
  • Unknown Somali man

While in the Dark Prison, al-Maghrebi was held in various cells. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, he reported that for the first five days he was denied any food, and on requesting a doctor, the ‘doctor’ stripped him naked, shackled him to the wall, took his blankets away and left him for the night. At this point, he heard Mohammed al-Shoroeiya and Khalid al-Sharif talking and was able to talk to them a little. Saleh Di’ki has also said that he and al-Maghrebi talked while in this prison. He described being transferred to a different cell where his hands were cuffed above his head and his legs were shackled to the floor; he was held in this position for 15 days and interrogated repeatedly, including in the presence of a woman while he was completely naked, and extremely loud Western music blared constantly: I was there for 15 days, hanging from my arms, another chain from the ground. They put a diaper on me but it overflowed so there was every type of stool everywhere, the temperature was freezing.

He was then transferred to a cell where he was held in complete darkness. Just as other detainees held at this facility have described, he was handcuffed to a ring low to the ground, sometimes by one arm, sometimes by both arms and with legs shackled together and sometimes with arms and legs all shackled to the ring. Towards the end of his one and half to two months in this cell he was permitted to move around freely. The water he was given to drink was putrid, and he stated that insects were put in his food.

CIA records cited by the SSCI report confirm that al-Maghrebi was tortured. Specifically, they document the request by interrogators in early 2004 to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on al-Maghrebi, following a template for the request submitted for the torture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh. CIA Headquarters did not approve the use of EITs on al-Maghrebi, confirming only that he could be subjected to “standard interrogation techniques”, which by that time included up to 48 hours of sleep deprivation. Despite these official constraints, CIA cables show that interrogators subjected al-Maghrebi to an extended sleep deprivation session of over 118 hours, with just three hours of sleep in the middle. An email dated early March 2004 also discusses the fact that al-Maghrebi had been threatened with rectal rehydration.

In April 2004, likely to have been either 24 or 25 April, al-Maghrebi was transferred alongside several other detainees to a second CIA black site, where he would continue to be held in secret detention for four months. Again, through piecing together the testimonies of several detainees moved from the Dark Prison at the same time, it is possible to build a picture 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.

  • Mohammed al-Shoroeiya, held April-August 2004
  • Majid al-Maghrebi, held April-August 2004
  • Saleh Di’iki, held April-August 2004
  • Khalid al-Sharif, held April 2004-April 2005
  • Mohamed Bashmilah, held April 2004-May 2005
  • Salah Qaru, held April 2004-May 2005
  • Mohammed al-Asad, held April 2004-May 2005
  • Yasser al-Jaz’iri, held April 2004-July 2006 (at least)
  • Khaled al-Maqtari, held April 2004-September 2006
  • Mustafa al-Mehdi, held June 2004-April 2005
  • Marwan Jabour, held June 2004-July/Aug 2006
  • Majid Khan
  • Hudaifa
  • Abdul Basit
  • Ahmed Abdel Rashid / Abu Ahmed

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.

 

Al Maghrebi was detained at this second black site for four months, where he was held in a cell which he describes as being 2 x 2 metres. Shackling was routine, although sometimes his hands were freed and he was often hooded, although the hood was removed during interrogations. There was only a small rug despite the cold. At this facility, he made contact with Di'iki again. He describes nearly going insane in this cell, to the point that he would bang his own head against the wall and would refuse food.

Al-Maghrebi was rendered again on 22 August 2004, alongside Saleh Di’ki and Mohammed al-Shoroeiya. He was prepared for the flight according to standard CIA rendition operation procedures, and placed in a shipping container. Flight data and associated documentation demonstrates that the three detainees were transferred to Libya onboard the CIA-contract Gulfstream IV jet with tail number N63MU, which was operated by International Group LLC and had logistical services provided by Universal Weather and Aviation. Click here for our analysis of the flight data and documentation associated with al-Maghrebi’s rendition from Afghanistan to Libya.  

On arrival in Libya, al-Maghrebi was held in various different prisons, including Tajoura, for the first nine months. He was beaten and threatened with rape. Subsequently he was held at an internal intelligence facility, Amen Dakhali, and was then taken on to the Sikka Road and Abu Salim prisons, before being transferred to the Nasser bureau, Ajn Zara, and finally, Abu Salim again. He was beaten and tortured repeatedly, including through long periods of solitary confinement. He faced charges in December 2007 of attempting to overthrow the government, and in a sham trial, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. During his incarceration, one of his two sons, age 6, had died, and his mother had died of cancer, facts he did not learn of until his wife was permitted to visit in April 2005. He was finally released on 16 February 2011. 

 

Further Reading

 

Human Rights Watch, September 2012, Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya

 

 

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