This is a translation of an article from Saturday's Le Monde on a case that made the front page of the Sunday New York Times a week ago.  --  It contains a few details of Mr. Habib's ordeal that do not appear in the Times account, and considerably more information about the response to his charges in Australia, where Mamdouh Habib lives and is a citizen....

[Translation from Le Monde (Paris)]


By Frédéric Therin

** Australian government accused by opposition of having abandoned one of its citizens **

Le Monde (Paris)
February 19, 2005,1-0@2-3222,36-398797,0.html

SYDNEY -- Two weeks after his liberation from Guantanamo Bay, where he had been imprisoned since May 2002, an Australian of Egyptian origin, Mamdouh Habib, has declared that he was tortured. His accusations, made a few days ago on Australian TV's Channel Nine, are serious, and they are supported by a wealth of troubling details. Pakistanis, Egyptians, and Americans beat, humiliated, and threatened him throughout his imprisonment, he says. The 50-year-old father of four children also swears that Australian officials saw him being beaten without doing anything.

A practicing Muslim, Mr. Habib was arrested in October 2001 in a bus headed for Karachi, Pakistan, where he was to take a plane back to Sydney. He had arrived in that country two months earlier to find a job and a school for his children. Such is his version of the facts, at least.

American and Australian authorities, including Dennis Richardson, director of ASIO, the Australian intelligence agency, are very skeptical. "He trained with Laskar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group in Pakistan that financed his trip to Afghanistan to join the al-Qaeda camps as a mercenary," said Mick Keelty, Australia's head of the federal police. Mr. Habib has formally denied these allegations.

Mr. Habib says he was mistreated from the beginning of his incarceration. He says his Pakistani jailers inflicted electric shocks while he ran on a concrete roller. Twice an Australian consular representative met with Mr. Habib, who even recognized photographs of the diplomat in question, Alistair Adams, today serving in Kuwait.

After three weeks of "interrogations" in Pakistan, Mr. Habib was transferred to Egypt after having been, he says, abundantly beaten on the airport tarmac by about twenty men with a strong foreign accent. "I was there for six months and there wasn't a single day of respite from torture," he said again in his televised interview, for which he is said to have been paid more than 115,000 euros. "One kick nearly killed me." After being held at the American base at Bagram, he found himself in Guantanamo.

The punishment continued. One day, he says, he guardians put him naked in front of a dog, which had -- according to him -- been specially trained to have sexual relations with humans. He says Americans banged his head against the ground, and that a woman threw menstrual blood in his face. Often drugged, Mr. Habib says he was kept in total isolation. "I never saw the sun. I never had a shower, soap, or a glass to drink from. I was not treated like a human being," he added in hesitant English.


His statements concerning conditions of intention are detailed, but Mr. Habib has shown himself more circumspect about the reasons that led him to go to Pakistan. He has also not explained how he paid for his trips. "I shall answer these questions before a judge" was all he would say on Australian TV. "We are preparing a possible lawsuit," added his lawyer, Stephen Hopper.

In fact, Mr. Habib, whose Sydney home has been broken into twice since his liberation, may sue the federal government. Canberra has long denied knowing about the conditions in which its national was held. The justice minister, Philip Ruddock, said on Feb. 14 that "evidence" obtained from torture had no value in court.

"He may have been mistreated in Egypt but we're not sure of that because the Egyptians still don't want to confirm to us that they detained him," Alexander Downer, the federal foreign minister, first declared. Since then, Australian authorities have admitted that they knew that Mr. Habib had been incarcerated in Egypt. A psychiatrist from the University of Sydney, Chris Tennant, who examined him, said that some of the marks on his body "could constitute proof of torture."

The affair is even starting to generate a wave of discontent in Australia. "The government is guilty of a very grave crime, the abandonment of one of its citizens," charged Daryl Melham, a Labor deputy. The government in power "watched him stay in prison for three years, and today it's ashamed of not knowing why he was freed."

"The government has washed its hands of the problem," adds Lyn Allison, head of the Democratic Party. "The most disappointing thing is that the United States has not given us information when we've asked for it." For its part, Amnesty International is encouraging Canberra to demand an explanation from Washington.

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
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