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Jordan's Spy Agency: Holding Cell for the CIA

Mari said he was imprisoned for four months in Jordan, out of sight of visiting Red Cross officials. In early 2002, he was taken to Guantanamo and remains imprisoned there.

Defense lawyers and human rights advocates in Amman said it wasn't a surprise that the CIA turned to Jordan's security agency for assistance.

"In America, people will ask about any breach of the law," said Younis Arab, a lawyer who has represented a CIA prisoner brought to Jordan. "Here in Jordan, nobody asks. So the Americans get the Jordanians to do the dirty work."

Other Jordanian lawyers cited unconfirmed reports that the CIA had transferred high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders to Jordan for interrogation. Although hard evidence is elusive, some former inmates have reported being detained in the same wing as Ramzi Binalshibh, a key planner in the Hamburg cell that carried out the Sept. 11 hijackings, said Abdulkareem al-Shureidah, an Amman lawyer.

"He was detained in Jordanian jails, definitely," Shureidah said of Binalshibh, who was kept in CIA custody in undisclosed locations from the time of his capture in Karachi in September 2002 until September 2006, when he was transferred to Guantanamo. "The U.S. brought all kinds of persons here from around the world."

Samieh Khreis, an Amman lawyer who has represented former Guantanamo inmates from Jordan, said testimony by former prisoners and others in Jordan reinforced a long-held suspicion that the CIA ran a satellite operation inside headquarters of the General Intelligence Department.

"Of course they had a jail here, a secret jail -- of course, no question," he said. "If they were to put me in that GID building over there, in my mind, it might as well be an American jail."

Khreis said the Jordanian spy service has a well-deserved reputation for using dubious tactics to force confessions. But he said the CIA sent prisoners to Amman primarily to take advantage of the GID's knowledge of Islamic radical groups.

"Torture is not the main reason," he said.

A Flat Denial

On June 26, 2006, just after 6 p.m., Nowak, the U.N. investigator, paid a surprise visit to GID headquarters in Amman.

The Jordanian government had previously agreed to give Nowak carte blanche to inspect any prison in the country, with no preconditions and unfettered access to inmates. As a new member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Jordan was eager to win Nowak's seal of approval. GID officials permitted Nowak to tour its prison wing. But they refused to allow him to speak with prisoners in private. When Nowak asked about allegations that the CIA had used the building as a proxy jail, department officials said the reports were untrue.

"The response was just very flat, a simple denial, 'We don't know anything about that,' " Nowak recalled in an interview.

In interviews with former GID prisoners, Nowak said, he heard repeated, credible reports of inmates being subjected to electric shocks, sleep deprivation and various forms of beatings, including farruj and falaqa.

He said several inmates reported that their chief tormentor was Col. Ali Birjak, head of the GID's counterterrorism unit and one of the officials who had denied cooperating with the CIA. Based on those interviews, Nowak recommended in his report that Birjak be investigated by Jordanian authorities on torture charges.

In a written response to Nowak's findings on Oct. 10, 2006, the Jordanian government called the torture allegations "untrue" and noted that they were lodged by people with criminal records.

"It is common for prisoners to make false allegations about torture in a pathetic attempt to evade punishment and to influence the court," the government wrote.

In interviews with The Washington Post, however, former prisoners of the GID gave similar accounts of physical abuse.

Masaad Omer Behari, a Sudanese citizen, spent 86 days in the department's custody in early 2003 after he was arrested during a stopover at Amman's international airport.

Behari said his interrogators wanted to know about his activities in Vienna, where he had lived for more than a decade. He had been asked many of the same questions previously by the FBI and Austrian security officials about an alleged plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Vienna in 1998, he said, though he had denied any role and was never charged.

While he was in custody in Amman, Behari said, guards meted out a combination of falaqa and farruj. They struck the soles of his feet with batons while he was handcuffed and hanging upside down, then doused him with cold water and forced him to walk over a salt-strewn floor.

"I thought they were going to kill me," he said. "I said my prayers, thinking I was going to die."

Researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.


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