CIA sent me to be tortured in Afghan prison, says Algerian

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The Independent Online

Testimony by an Algerian national caught up in the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme, held for 16 months in secret prisons and later released without charge, has revealed how he was chained by the wrists and ankles and left hanging from the roof of a torture chamber for hours on end.

Laid Saidi said he was rendered by US officials from Tanzania to Afghanistan in May 2003 and kept in a prison outside Kabul for more than a year before being returned to Algeria via Tunisia.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr Saidi, 43, told how he was kept in a cell "not even suitable for animals" and regularly tortured by guards, some of whom spoke English, which he understands slightly. "They beat me and threw cold water on me, spat at me and sometimes gave me dirty water to drink," he said.

The revelations will add to pressure on the United States to explain its use of rendition, which has been condemned by human rights groups as "torture by proxy" and strained relations between America and its allies.

The US government has refused to comment on Mr Saidi's case, but the Algerian seems to have raised suspicions through his work in Tanzania for al-Haramain, a Saudi-based international Islamic charity, suspected by the US of funding terrorism. He was also working on a fraudulent Tunisian passport at the time of his arrest. He denied having any terrorist links, and said he lost his original passport and was afraid to go to the Algerian embassy in the midst of a civil war against Islamists in his home country.

Mr Saidi's accounts of being hung from the ceiling and his rendition bear a striking resemblance to previous testimonies by detainees believed to have been abducted and held within similar secret prisons in or near Kabul.

His presence in an Afghan prison has been corroborated by Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was wrongfully rendered to Afghanistan and held for five months. "At the beginning of our time together, I was in the last cell and he was two cells away from me," Mr Masri told The New York Times. "Whenever I wanted to go to the toilet or was taken for questioning I had to pass his door."

Mr Saidi said he was arrested by Tanzanian police officers on 10 May 2003, and handed over to English-speaking men wearing jeans and T-shirts at the Malawi border. He says he was blindfolded, had his clothes cut from his body and suppositories placed in his anus, and was made to wear a large nappy before being placed on an aeroplane.

He was then allegedly flown to Afghanistan and held in a "dark prison" filled with deafening Western music before being sent to a second prison, where he met Mr Masri.

Two Egyptian nationals, Muhammad al-Zery and Ahmed Agiza, who were rendered from Sweden to Egypt in December 2001, described an almost identical procedure in preparing them for rendition. Similarly, numerous ex-detainees of Afghan "black sites" have described a dark prison near Kabul where Western rap music was played at deafening volume.

Mr Saidi has never been charged or told why he was arrested. "Sometimes I cry and shake when I think about this," he said. "I didn't think I would ever see my family again."

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