Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Parse It, Baby, Parse It!

There's an interesting juxtaposition of a couple of items on the BBC's site today. From the first:
The AI report calls for other countries to abandon "no torture" deals with Egypt.

Under such deals governments, including the UK's, deport suspects to Cairo having been assured by Egyptian authorities that the suspect will not suffer torture.


In 2005, Egypt's prime minister acknowledged that since 2001 the USA had transferred some 60-70 detainees to Egypt as part of the "war on terror".

The report details the case of Abu Omar, an Egyptian resident in Italy who was allegedly kidnapped by CIA agents in Italy in 2003 and handed over to the Egyptian authorities.

Abu Omar was held without charge in Egyptian jails for nearly four years and in testimony given to an Italian prosecutor he has alleged that he was whipped, subjected to electric shocks and raped.

He was never successfully charged and was released in February 2007.

AI also highlights the case of Mamdouh Habib, an Australian national of Egyptian descent.

He alleges that he was detained and tortured in Pakistan in 2001, handed over to US officials and then flown on to Egypt.

There he was tortured, including in a "water cell" in which he had to stand on tiptoe for hours in order not to drown.

Under torture, Mr Habib says, he confessed to training the 11 September 2001 hijackers in martial arts.

He was later taken to Guantanamo Bay, from which he was finally released in January 2005. He was never charged.
And from the second item:
The head of the International Red Cross in Tehran says he saw wounds on an Iranian diplomat who has alleged that US forces in Iraq tortured him.

Peter Stoeker said there were marks on Jalal Sharafi's feet, legs, back and nose but he was unable to say if they were the result of torture.

Iranian media quoted Mr Sharafi saying the CIA tortured him "day and night".

Mr Sharafi was abducted in Iraq in February and released last week. The US denies any involvement in the case.

Mr Sharafi, second secretary at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, says he was kidnapped by Iraqi agents operating under the supervision of the CIA.


"The United States had nothing to do with Mr Sharafi's detention and we welcome his return to Iran," said Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, last week.

He dismissed the claims as "just the latest theatrics of a government trying to deflect attention away from its own unacceptable actions".

An unnamed US intelligence official also denied any claims of abuse, saying: "The CIA does not conduct or condone torture."
You know, I would really like to be able to say that any "White House spokesman," or any "unnamed US intelligence official," is intrinsically more credible than Abu Omar, Mamdouh Habib, or Jalal Sharafi. I would like to have some excuse for thinking so. Regrettably, the available evidence points in rather the opposite direction.

Now, about White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. Hmmm ... just one letter and a space from "John Doe!" (They thought we'd miss that ... as if.) The news story doesn't tell us whether Mr. "Johndroe" was actually wagging his finger, in good Bill Clinton fashion, when he said the US was uninvolved in Mr. Sharafi's alleged abduction and torture. That's a pity, really.

Welcome to citizenship in a "rogue nation."

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