The Swedish Foreign Ministry confirmed that two of the men — Ali Yasin Ahmed, 23, and Mohamed Yusuf, 29 — are Swedish citizens and were detained in Djibouti in August.
Anders Jorle, a spokesman for the ministry in Stockholm, said Swedish diplomats were allowed to visit the men in Djibouti and New York to provide consular assistance.
“This does not mean that the Swedish government has taken any position on the issue of their guilt or innocence,” Jorle said in a telephone interview. “That is a question for the U.S. judicial system.”
Lawyers assigned to represent the defendants in federal court in Brooklyn said the men were interrogated for months in Djibouti even though no charges were pending against them — something that would be prohibited in the United States.
“The Djiboutians were only interested in them because the United States of America was interested in them,” said Ephraim Savitt, an attorney for Yusuf. “I don’t have to be Einstein to figure that out.”
Harry C. Batchelder Jr., an attorney for the third suspect, Mahdi Hashi, 23, concurred. “Let’s just put it this way: They were sojourning in Djibouti, and all of a sudden, after they met their friendly FBI agents and CIA agents — who didn’t identify themselves — my client found himself stateless and in a U.S. court,” said Batchelder, whose client is a native of Somalia who grew up in Britain.
The sequence described by the lawyers matches a pattern from other rendition cases in which U.S. intelligence agents have secretly interrogated suspects for months without legal oversight before handing over the prisoners to the FBI for prosecution.
A rendition in Nigeria
In December 2011, a federal court hearing for another al-
Shabab suspect, an Eritrean citizen named Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, revealed that he had been questioned in a Nigerian jail by what a U.S. interrogator described as a “dirty” team of American agents who ignored the suspect’s right to remain silent or have a lawyer, according to court proceedings.
Later, the Eritrean was interviewed by a “clean” team of U.S. agents who were careful to notify him of his Miranda rights and obtain confessions for trial. Once that task was completed, he was transported to U.S. federal court in Manhattan to face terrorism charges. His American attorneys sought to toss out his statements on the grounds that they were illegally coerced, but the defendant pleaded guilty before a judge could rule on that question.