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US Terror Suspect 'Beaten In Custody'
Published on Saturday, August 24, 2002 by the BBC
US Terror Suspect 'Beaten In Custody'
by Emma Simpson

A man who was arrested as a major terrorism suspect after the 11 September attacks and has been held in custody ever since has told the BBC that he was beaten and held for months without legal representation.

Nabil al-Marabh was one of hundreds of men swept up in the nationwide terrorism investigation.

They beat me, they hid everything and then they refused to take any notes, they crack my finger and they beat my head

Nabil al-Marabh
Few have spoken about their detention and none as high profile as Mr al-Marabh.

After 11 months of exhaustive investigations, no evidence of any involvement in terrorism has been presented to the courts.

The 35-year-old, born in Kuwait, was the subject of an FBI manhunt.

He is due to be sentenced any day on a relatively minor border violation.

He pleaded guilty in July to trying to cross the US border illegally.

As he awaits likely deportation and separation from his family, Mr al-Marabh has decided to speak about his time in detention.

'Worse than hell'

Nabil al-Marabh
Nabil al-Marabh
No evidence against al-Marabh has been presented in court
For the first eight months Mr al-Marabh was held in a special unit at New York's Metropolitan Detention Center, along with, he said, 40 other detainees.

Speaking from custody elsewhere in the state, he told me he was held in isolation and went on hunger strike in protest against his confinement in a tiny cell.

"It was like nothing worse than hell and I did five times hunger strikes, asking for a lawyer, for a judge," said Mr al-Marabh.

He says that he was punished for his hunger strikes, forced to sleep on a urine soaked mattress for 10 days, without enough water to wash himself.

He also alleged that he was beaten twice.

The first incident, he said, was last November.

"On 7 November they beat me, they hid everything and then they refused to take any notes, they crack my finger and they beat my head.

"It's been too hard, I've been taking medication. My brain is not functioning any more, I forget a lot and I get shocks at night because they used to bang the door and they never let us sleep."

'Terror links'

Nabil al-Marabh was just one of about 1,200 people arrested in the aftermath of 11 September.

But unlike most of the others, Mr al-Marabh was suspected of having major terrorist connections.

Prosecutors believed they had identified a mass of evidence.

For instance, they say Mr al-Marabh had been in Afghanistan, that he had lived at many addresses in America and that he had amassed an array of forged documents.

But perhaps most crucially, they say he had links to a man, Raed Hijazi, now convicted of plotting to bomb a tourist hotel in Jordan.

Prosecutors claimed Hijazi was linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Mr al-Marabh told me he knew Hijazi but had no idea about his background.

As for Afghanistan, he said: "I was in Afghanistan working with the Muslim World League. I was working in the humanity agency to go and help homelessness and refugees.

"I never killed anyone, I'm just regular normal person, I'm innocent. I got nothing to do with any terrorist activities."

The Justice Department said they could not give us any details about Mr al-Marabh's case.

The FBI would not comment either.

Human rights

None of the detainees, it's believed, has so far been charged with any terrorism offences.

It is clear that for the authorities, harboring suspicions is very different from being able to prove them.

Nabil Mr al-Marabh's case has come to symbolize the tensions between America's need to protect itself and respect for human rights.

The human rights group Amnesty International has been investigating allegations from a number of detainees.

It found that many individuals had been held in prolonged solitary confinement with little legal representation.

The Justice Department's Inspector General is also investigating the treatment of the so-called 11 September detainees.

As for Nabil Mr al-Marabh, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Detention Center said that all the inmates were treated in a fair, impartial and consistent manner, and that any allegations were taken seriously.

Mr al-Marabh will have spent more time in custody than most of the other suspects, but there are still believed to be 146 other detainees waiting to hear their fate.

Copyright 2002 BBC


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