After an eight-month investigation, CAGE reveals compelling details of the British involvement in the torture of Ahmed Diini, 25, from Birmingham.
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• Despite being harassed for several years, Ahmed Diini refused to join MI5 as an informant
• While he was visiting Germany to get married, Theresa May excluded him from the United Kingdom, separating him from his children although he had not been accused of a crime nor been arrested for any offences
• The case of Ahmed Dinni highlights how UK government is still complicit in torture and abuse of Western nationals abroad
• He was detained in Egypt for seven months. He was repeatedly hooded, beaten, forced into stress positions for hours, kept in a “dog cage” and racially abused.
• British agent visited him in his Egyptian prison to induce him to cooperate with MI5 in exchange of his freedom.
• He was released without charge and ordered to leave Egypt. However, he was immediately rearrested en route to Europe on a request from the United States. The US had secretly indicted him. He is now waiting for the Turkish authorities to decide over his extradition.
In an effort to break away from the Bush torture era, Obama terminated the CIA rendition program and even proclaimed the end of the War on Terror. In practice, he only adjusted procedures to detain and kill individuals across the world.
In 2012, US officials revealed the Obama administration developed a secret database entitled the ‘disposition matrix’ – listing names of individuals and a range of options to eliminate them. Many argue that names have been added with little or no evidence while the methods involved violate norms of human rights and due process.
Depending on their location, individuals might be grabbed by a foreign intelligence agency, often known to practice torture; detained on a US ship in international waters; secretly transferred to the US or simply killed in a drone strike.
Whenever possible, the US would drop cases and pass them on. “We would let the Egyptians or the Jordanians or whoever take over a very sticky one” said Paul Pillar, who served in the CIA for 28 years.
In other cases, as explained by The Guardian, individuals, “who for political reasons could not be summarily dispatched or secretly imprisoned”, will go through a slightly more 'conventional' process.
“How do we deal with these guys in transit? You weren’t going to fire a drone if they were moving through Turkey or Iran.” a former counterterrorism official said.
In such instances, “there would be a secret grand jury investigation, followed in some cases by formal arrest and extradition, and in others by ‘rendition to justice’: they would be grabbed, interrogated without being read their rights, then flown to the US and put on trial with a publicly funded defence lawyer”, wrote Ian Cobain.
The United Kingdom is said to have taken full advantage of the US' expeditious route and passed on cases for which they had little evidence.
“They might think, if it's going to be a headache for someone, let the Americans have the headache,” said Pillar.
The case of Ahmed Diini, a 25 year old Dutch national from Birmingham, seems to be the latest example to date.
After refusing to spy for MI5, he was banned from the UK and forced to relocate overseas.
While living in Egypt, he was picked up by security forces. After seven months in detention, he was released since the local authorities could not find any charge to bring against him.
However, he immediately flew back to his home country, only to be rearrested enroute to Turkey. He was told the United States had secretly indicted him and had requested his arrest to be extradited.
MI5 blackmail in the UK
In 2010, Diini explained to The Independent he had been threatened with arrests, repeatedly detained at airports, visited at work and bombarded with phone calls by Mi5.
According to the report, “Mi5 agents, a man called James and a female officer, suggested that his life would be made easier if he agreed to work for MI5”.
Ahmed, whose family fled Somalia when he was three, went public after he saw other British-Somalis were being subjected to the same treatment. He was hoping this would put an end to it. Indeed, British security services stopped contacting him for about six months after the article.
Forced out of the UK
However, while he was on a trip to Germany to get married, the Home office issued an exclusion order. Sent in February 2011, the letter reads:
“(T)he Home Secretary personally directed that you should be excluded from the United Kingdom on the grounds that your presence in the country would not be conducive to the public good”.
Theresa May simply asserted that the young man had been “identified as a person involved in Islamist activity” without providing further evidence – seemingly a vindictive move following his public complaint. He was then forced to remain in Germany.
Overnight, Ahmed found himself separated from his family and unemployed in a country where he could not speak or understand the language.
In April 2011, he decided to settle in Egypt with his wife. The family was attracted by the cheap cost of living. It was also an opportunity to further his studies in the Arabic language.
Shortly after his arrival, his phone rang:
“Good morning Ahmed Diini, you are speaking with the British (security) service(s).”
The unidentified agent explained that the UK had warned its partners in the region against him.
“You are aware that you are not allowed to enter the UK. But if you consider cooperating with us, we might rethink the matter and allow you to come back. We are aware you have family here”.
Ahmed did not engage: “Thank you. Goodbye”.
He carried out his life normally focusing on his studies.
Torture in Egypt
However, the situation rapidly changed in Egypt when General el-Sisi announced the removal of President Morsi from power.
Protesters, journalists and foreigners were arrested en masse and thrown into prison.
Ahmed Diini did not take part in the political life of the country.
Nevertheless, on 19 August 2013, just ten days before the family planned to return to Germany for the birth of their child, a team of armed men broke into their apartment in Cairo.
Ahmed was forced to the ground. A masked man pointed his gun at him: “If you make any wrong move, I will shoot you in the head!”
He was then taken away in front of his wife and son. Upon his arrival, he witnessed the guards discussing his fate:
“This guy is too weak to handle torture, especially electrocution”
“Maybe we should try it”. The man walked up to him and hit him on the face and stomach.
“What should we do with this skinny black Sudanese?”
“This guy will definitely talk if we electrocute him!”
Shortly after, he was taken by a man into a dark room and tied to a piece of metal.
The man slapped him and threatened: “I’m going to make you my wife”.
During his detention, he was subjected to routine forms of abuse in Egypt.
He was repeatedly hooded, beaten, forced into stress positions for hours, kept in a “dog cage” and racially abused.
His treatment gave rise to complaints before the United Nations.
Egyptian jail, British spooks
Eighty days into his detention, Ahmed Diini explained to CAGE from his Egyptian cell:
“After a couple of days, I came to the realisation that this matter had full connection to the British MI5. The reason being that the Egyptian secret services which were interrogating me at the police station mentioned things which only the British security services could know of”.
The Egyptian treatment seems to have been a ‘softening phase’ usually aiming at breaking the spirit of the detainee to get him to comply.
In a letter, he wrote: ‘They are clearly trying to drive me mentally crazy, day in and day out from the torture that I see and hear in this place”.
It was only on 17 February 2013 that a British officer physically visited him in his Egyptian prison, “I am now 100% sure the British security services are part of this trouble because I met one of their (…) agents (who) in short tried to induce me to work with them in exchange for my freedom”, Ahmed wrote in a letter made available to CAGE.
The man was a “white Brit with a London accent who wanted to be classed, as a friend who wanted to get me out of troubles.”
Before leaving, he advised: “I will be back, so take your decision wisely. It’s your freedom.”
Just two days later, his Egyptian captors walked Ahmed passed a torture chamber. “I saw a young guy in his 30s who was (hung on a wooden crucifix). Two men were holding the wood while one was whipping him on his back with a thick flexible tube. The young guy screamed out loud. I looked away because I felt like vomiting but my stomach was empty, so I just ended up spitting.”
An Egyptian officer he identified as Muhammad Saleem smiled, “This is how we deal with people who don’t listen”.
His mistreatment in Egypt did not break his resolve not to be bullied into becoming a spy, “I will never work with you people. It’s better you put a bullet through my head”, was his response to the British blackmail.
On 23 March 2014, after seven months of detention without charge, Ahmed Diini was suddenly released without explanation and ordered to leave the country on the very same day.
Let the Americans deal with him
His family immediately booked him the first flight to the Netherlands, which happened to stop over in Turkey.
To his surprise, the Turkish authorities arrested him on 24 March 2014, while he was in transit.
He was informed that Interpol had issued a notice for his arrest. He was wanted by the United States on terrorism-related allegations.
Since then, he has been sitting in his Turkish cell, waiting to know if he will be sent to the US.
The news left his family in shock, “It's surreal. My brother has always been convinced he was excluded from the UK because he refused to be a spy. It escalated to his detention in Egypt and now the Americans want him. The whole thing looks like a set up to me”, his younger brother said from Birmingham.
“It is quite clear that the United States were aware of his detention in Egypt. They must have known the terrible conditions Ahmed was being held under there. Yet, as far as we can tell, they did nothing to prevent his ill treatment, even though they could have made use of their influence. Moreover, the US has an extradition treaty with Egypt”, said his Dutch lawyer Andre Seebregts.
“There is no way Diini can get a fair trial in the US. The federal system is known to crush defendants, particularly Muslims. He will most likely be bullied into a guilty plea to avoid some hundreds-year long sentence”, said Asim Qureshi, Research Director for CAGE.
“We need full light to be shed over this case. At least three countries seem to have conspired against him while no evidence has ever been produced.”
“Britain and the US delegating torture to Egypt is nothing new. We have seen it all over the world for the last thirteen years. It is time governments are held accountable.”
“It is also important for young Muslims who might be harassed by MI5 to not be scared to come forward. Had Ahmed Diini been silent about his treatment in 2010, the events which led to his detention would have remained unkown” he says.
Talking on previous cases, Moazzam Begg, former Outreach Director of CAGE explained,
“They might be watching us Muslims, but we are watching them back. We are going to make sure that every abuse of theirs is documented and dealt with.”
TAKE ACTION NOW: Write to the Turkish embassy to prevent the extradition of Ahmed Diini.
CONTACT US: If you have been approached by MI5 or PREVENT officers, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: What to do when MI5 comes knocking for you
READ The Horn of Africa Inquisition report on the targeting and profiling of individuals travelling to and from that region.
LEARN about the case of Mahdi Hashi, a young care worker from London who was harassed by MI5, had his British citizenship removed before being kidnapped in Djibouti and secretly sent to the US.
WATCH ITV report “Search for missing care worker”
Read The Independent's coverage on the case here.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)