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
Few have spoken about their detention and none as high profile as Mr al-Marabh.
They beat me, they hid everything and then they refused to take any notes, they crack my finger and they beat my head
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'
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.
No evidence against al-Marabh has been presented in court
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."
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
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
"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
The FBI would not comment either.
None of the detainees, it's believed, has so far been charged with any terrorism
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