Brit Held As Suspect Says
CIA Threatened Torture
First Account Of US Methods From UK Detainee

By Vikram Dodd
The Guardian - UK

A British businessman arrested as a suspected terrorist has told the Guardian that US agents threatened him with beatings and rape in an attempt to break him.
Wahab al-Rawi, 38, was denied a lawyer, held incommunicado for four weeks in Gambia, and repeatedly questioned by CIA agents before being released without charge. His account is the first from any Briton about their treatment by the US while held as a suspect in the two year "war on terror".
The account also challenges US denials of the use of torture or the threat of torture on terrorist suspects, thousands of whom have been detained and interrogated across the world.
The Guardian revealed in July that Mr Rawi's business partners, including his brother, Bisher, and Jamil al-Banna, who were arrested with him, have been incarcerated in the US camp at Guantanamo Bay without charge.
Speaking publicly for the first time, Mr Rawi, 38, said:
* CIA agents twice threatened him with torture if he did not cooperate;
* He was subjected to sleep deprivation, with lights permanently kept on in his cell;
* During his interrogation, material from British intelligence interviews with an alleged extremist detained in London were put to him.
Mr Rawi, born in Iraq but now a British citizen, had set up a business in Gambia and travelled there in October 2002. He was joined by his brother and the others on November 8. At the airport all four men were arrested by the Gambian national intelligence agency.
Mr Rawi says he demanded to see the British high commissioner. A CIA agent he knew as Lee responded: "Why do you keep asking for the high commissioner? The British asked us to arrest you."
Once in detention and left alone with two CIA agents, Mr Rawi says Mr Lee made a threat: "He said, 'you're under US protection or you'd be beaten up by the Gambians. You know how Africans are, you know what happens in these countries. We can let the Gambians at you'."
During interrogation, another US agent insinuated that he and his brother were gay because they were not married.
In the third week of detention, Mr Rawi says, the agents increased the pressure. They were transferred to a stricter regime in a house in Banjul, the capital, after being handcuffed and having hoods placed over their heads. The men's belts and shoes were taken, and each was kept in solitary confinement.
The first time the door to Mr Rawi's room opened, he saw a tall US agent wearing a balaclava.
"Believe me, it's intimidating, no matter how hard you are," said Mr Rawi.
In the new house, the toilet was a bucket kept in the room, there was no exercise, and a shower was allowed just once a week.
"For the shower, we were given long handcuffs and had to strip in front of a Gambian guard and the American with the balaclava," Mr Rawi said.
As well as the constant light in Mr Rawi's room, a noisy fan continuously whirred outside the door to stop the detainees talking to each other.
"One week after, I could still hear the whirring of the fan. They were trying sleep deprivation. I did not sleep for the first three days," he said.
Mr Rawi alleges that once the US agents again threatened him with a beating and also rape, after first playing a psychological game with him: "They knocked hard on my door, and shouted, 'We are coming in. Stand facing the wall with your hands above your head. Don't look back.'
"They came in and started laughing. Lee said: 'Did we scare you?' in a sarcastic voice, and then they started interrogating me.
"I said to them, they can't intimidate me, I lived through my father's experience when he was held and tortured by Saddam Hussein. I told them, in Iraq they don't threaten, they do things, they rape people, they torture.
"The little American said: 'We can be just as ruthless as Saddam Hussein' - he was trying very hard to scare me.
"They were threatening me with rape and assault."
Mr Rawi says that to him, the nature of the threat from the Americans was clear: "They were trying to threaten me into whatever state of mind they wanted me to be."
During interrogation, the agents tried to get Mr Rawi to admit his business trip was a cover for terrorism.
"They asked: 'What are you really here to do, attack US interests or put together a terrorism camp?'"
He was not impressed with the quality of the agents interviewing him. "I have seen with my own eyes snails that have more brains," said Mr Rawi.
One of the CIA agents even admitted a fondness for Bisher, according to Mr Rawi: "Lee said, 'I can't help liking him.'"
Since his release, Mr Rawi says he has had to battle his demons.
"My mother and sister have been hit very hard," he adds. "They are crying all the time and praying."
Mr Rawi's family fled to London from the Saddam regime in Iraq. "I have been loyal to Britain," he says; but of the CIA agents, he adds: "To me, they're no different to Saddam Hussein."
Mr Rawim, whose home is in London, is now in hiding in the north of England.
It is almost certain that the reason that he and the other men came under suspicion was the links that three of them have with the British-based Muslim cleric Abu Qatada.
He was arrested under anti-terrorism laws in London in October 2002, weeks before Mr Rawi and the others were held in Gambia.
Mr Rawi had previously been stopped at London City airport when leaving for Gambia on October 26 2002, and questioned about his relationship with Mr Qatada.
"They said: 'Would you like to work for us?' I said no. They said: 'There is good money in in for you'."
During his interrogation in Gambia, Mr Rawi says material from the now detained Mr Qatada's interviews in Britain was put to him - further evidence, he says, of collusion between Britain and the US.
"I saw no danger in knowing Abu Qatada. I know this person is incapable of organising anything.
"I thought, if I know that, the security services will know that."
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