Thanks to excellent reporting by a Swedish TV program and the Washington Post, this case is the best window we have into how "extraordinary rendition" works in practice.
On December 18, 2001, the United States transported Swedish asylum seekers Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad Al-Zery from Sweden's Bromma airport to Cairo. And for once we have a named witness. Paul Forell, a policeman stationed at the airport that night, described it to the TV show "Kalla Fakta":
Forell waited with the Swedish security police and two Americans in civilian clothing for the prisoners to arrive. 20 minutes later, the suspects arrived. They were handcuffed, footcuffed and blindfolded. They were each escorted by 3-4 American agents, who were also wearing hoods or balaclavas. Forell said one of the masked American agents was giving orders, and all were "very professional in their way of acting, and if you´d compare with anything it would be the National action force (Swedish elite police unit for special actions). They acted very deftly, swiftly and silently," and had "absolutely" done this before.
Forell escorted them into a small room, and waited outside. Another, anonymous source told Kalla Fakta that in the changing room, Agiza and al Zery's clothes were cut off. They were given rectal suppositories, which one witness believed contained sedatives, and dressed in dark overalls.
"When they left the changing-room, they had their clothes changed into overalls, and were still with handcuffs and footcuffs. They were taken out to the cars, and then away," Forell said.
According to the Washington Post, declassified Swedish government documents "noted that 'the American side" had offered to help in the deportation "by lending a plane for the transport" and that ""the transport from Sweden to Egypt was carried out with the help of American authorities."
Airport records obtained by Kalla Fakta show that a Gulfstream V jet registered with an American company identified by the registration/tail number N379P, the same plane that transported Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed from Karachi to Cairo, flew from the Swedish airport to Cairo that night.
Agiza and Al Zery were held in the Masra Tora prison, which is just south of Cairo. Agiza's mother, Hamida Shalaby, says they were tortured there. She told Kalla Fakta,
The mattress had electricity. The mattress. He would lay on it - like this - and his arms in chains on both sides and his legs in chains too. When they connected to the electricity, his body would rise up and then fall down and this up and down would go on until they unplugged electricity.
Shalaby said this happened four times from December 19 to February 20, and "every day" her son was tortured with electrodes while stapped to a chair. She told the Washington Post that
told her during separate visits that he was given electric shocks and that prison doctors tried to cover up scars on his body by applying a special cream. "He couldn't even pick up his arms to hug me," she said in an interview. "He was very slow and very tired and very weak."
Al Zery denied that he'd been tortured in an interview with Kalla Fakta, but it was conducted under the supervision of Egyptian security officers. (Zery has been released from prison, but cannot leave Egypt or indeed his village there & is under tight surveillance.) Zery's lawyer, Kjell Jonsson, said
It´s evident that he is speaking under coercion...This information, that they have been tortured is now confirmed. It is about very painful torture. They fasten electrodes to the most sensitive parts of the body. That is, genitals, breast nipples, tongue, ear lobes, underarms. There are physicians present to judge how much torture, how much electricity, the prisoners can take. Afterwards the exposed parts are anointed, so that there won´t be marks and scars, and cold water is poured to stop blood clots.
Swedish government documents corroborate these allegations. From the Post:
In a report made public shortly afterward, Sven Linder, the Swedish ambassador to Egypt, wrote that Agiza and Zery told him they had been treated "excellently" in prison and that to him "they seemed well-nourished and showed no external signs of physical abuse or such things."
Another section of the ambassador's report that remained classified until recently, however, offered a different appraisal. It noted that Agiza had complained that he was subjected to "excessive brutality" by the Swedish security police when he was seized and that he was repeatedly beaten in Egyptian prisons.
From the Swedish TV show:
Kalla Fakta has taken part of original documents which support the testimonies, and which prove that the two men have been systematically tortured, with electricity, blows and kicks. On at least four occasions, Swedish authorities have received information through different channels from the men about what they have been subjected to."
1. Craig Whitlock, "A Secret Deportation of Terror Suspects," Washington Post, July 25, 2004.
Excerpt on the charges against Al Zery and Agiza:
The better known of the two repatriated men is Ahmed Agiza, a 42-year-old physician whose wife and five children remain in Sweden.
His attorneys have acknowledged that he once worked closely in Egypt with Ayman Zawahiri, the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who later merged that group with al Qaeda, becoming Osama bin Laden's second in command. Agiza was a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which the State Department has designated a terrorist group.
Agiza said he had once met bin Laden, according to a jailhouse interview he gave to a Swedish radio reporter in 2002 shortly after he returned to Egypt. His attorneys said he cut ties with Zawahiri a decade ago and has denounced the use of violent tactics by Islamic radicals, including al Qaeda.
Agiza left his homeland in 1991, saying he had been repeatedly harassed by Egyptian security forces.
In 1999, while living in Iran, he was convicted in absentia by an Egyptian military court -- along with 106 other defendants -- of belonging to a banned Islamic organization. One year later, he and his family arrived in Sweden on false passports and applied for political asylum.
It is not clear whether Agiza knew Muhammad Zery, 35, the man with whom he would later be deported to Cairo. Zery also left Egypt in 1991, after he was harassed and physically abused there, according to his lawyer. He traveled to Saudi Arabia and Syria before arriving in Sweden in 1999 and requesting asylum.
Swedish officials have said that Zery, too, was convicted in absentia in Egypt and that he was a suspect in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, when he would have been 13 years old. But his attorneys and human rights groups that have worked on his behalf said there is no record that Zery was charged with any offenses in Egypt and they can't understand why he was expelled.
2. "The Broken Promise (part 1)," Kalla Fakta, Swedish TV 4, May 17, 2004.
Excerpt on the charges against Al Zery and Agiza:
But much of the information that the Foreign Office and Säpo have are wrong, Agiza is not convicted of the murder of president Sadat, not even a suspect. Säpo thinks that Al Zery is convicted of crimes. That is incorrect. Agiza is said to have contacts high up in Al Qaida, and it is correct that he knows Ayman Al Zawahiri, today known as Usama Bin Laden´s second in command. These two were both active in the Egyptian opposition in the beginning of the nineties, and met during Agiza´s exile in Pakistan in the middle of the nineties. But Säpo doesn´t have any reports of later contacts between them. And Agiza has several times publicly denounced Al Zawahiri and his ideology of violence. Agiza is convicted. He was convicted in his absence in 1999, together with 106 others, by a military court in Cairo for membership in Talal al-Fatah, an illegal organisation. The proceedings took 20 minutes. Neither the Egyptian security police nor Swedish Säpo have been able to produce any information pointing to Al Zery as a leading member of the same organization.
(Al Zery, as I noted above, has been released from prison without charges. Agiza was given a retrial, convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to life in prison. But it sounds like a show trial: it took place before a military judge, and Agiza was denied requests to present witnesses, documents, or get forensic evidence for his defense.)
3. "The Broken Promise (part 2)," Kalla Fakta, Swedish TV 4, May 24, 2004.