Australian official saw Egyptians torture Habib
The Sunday Age
Sunday February 13, 2011
EVIDENCE from an Egyptian intelligence officer that names an Australian official who witnessed the torture of Mamdouh Habib in Guantanamo Bay has been revealed as the trigger for a massive government payout to the Sydney man, and a high-level investigation.The 840-word statement, released exclusively to The Sunday Age, was shown to government solicitors three days before they paid Mr Habib an undisclosed amount to drop his lawsuit claiming Australia was complicit in his CIA-engineered kidnap in 2001, rendition to Egypt and subsequent torture.In the statement, which is yet to be tested in any court, the intelligence officer said Egyptian guards routinely filmed terror suspects in their jails. He says there is footage and photos of Mr Habib and an Arabic speaking Australian called George (surname withheld) who witnessed his degradation."He has rounded face aged 35-40 and bald his height is about 170 fat without moustache with beard, hazel eyes big nose, fat neck. George was present during the medical check on Habib who was handcuffed and tied feet. His eyes were closed and he was unable to see."He [Habib] was naked of any cloths [sic] even his underwear. He was hysterical, almost crazy, drugged. The hand down of him and his belongings and the medical check was before the Australian official (George). Habib constantly was fighting with the guards and wanted to escape outside."During Habib's presence some of the Australian officials attended many times . . ."The same official who attended the first time, George, used to come with them and Habib was tortured a lot and all the time as the foreign intelligence wanted quick and fast information."The statement from the intelligence officer was taken by Mr Habib's Egyptian lawyer, Hisham Mahmoud Ramadan, who yesterday told Mr Habib the overthrow of the Muburak regime would make it easier to get more information about his torture. With the overthrow, more light is likely to be cast on the role Egypt has played in the torturing of terror suspects for Western nations.Omar Suleiman, who was anointed Egypt's Vice-President earlier this week, has been identified by Mr Habib as being present at his torture and interrogation sessions.Mr Habib was arrested in Pakistan in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, secretly taken to Egypt where he was tortured for seven months and then transferred to Guantanamo Bay where he was held until January 2005. He was released without being charged with an offence. He immediately began legal action against the government claiming it was complicit in his rendition and torture.Senior government ministers, including then foreign minister Alexander Downer and then attorney-general Philip Ruddock repeatedly denied any knowledge of the rendition, as did ASIO boss Dennis Richardson and Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty.Mr Habib sued and after a six-year battle, the government has agreed to pay out in exchange for Mr Habib dropping his case. The amount of the compensation payout is subject to a confidentiality agreement.A similar case in Canada ended with Canadian-Syrian engineer Maher Arar being given an apology and $10 million from the Canadian government after he was subjected to extraordinary rendition.A Sydney lawyer, Ecevit Demir, who attended the meeting at which the compensation was agreed to, said the Egyptian intelligence officer's statement was discussed.The compensation case was settled on December 17. When Prime Minister Julia Gillard was told of the dramatic new evidence at the end of October last year, she ordered an inquiry.Mr Habib decided to reveal the details of the statement because the government is still refusing to give back his passport.Mr Habib has previously given details of interrogations by a man named George in his book My Story, which was published in 2008. Mr Habib said that George, who he had thought was Egyptian because he spoke Arabic, questioned him in Egypt and later in Bagram in Afghanistan on his way to Guantanamo Bay.He has also revealed that the Department of Foreign Affairs had confirmed in writing that there was an official named George working at the Australian embassy in Cairo at the time. However, the department has maintained that George did make inquiries about Mr Habib but never had it "confirmed" he was in Egypt.When shown a photograph of George by The Sunday Age, Mr Habib recognised him and said he had seen him several times in the Egyptian jail.