U.S. Citizen Severely Tortured While Detained in the United Arab Emirates at the Behest of the United States

December 3, 2008 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. – An American man detained in the United Arab Emirates at the behest of the U.S. government has been released from state security custody and transferred to a prison in Abu Dhabi, but only after suffering severe torture. Naji Hamdan’s transfer came only one week after lawyers for the ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit seeking his release.

On December 2, Naji Hamdan, who lived in the Los Angeles area for two decades, was allowed a phone call to his brother, Hossam Hemdan, a resident of Los Angeles. Hamdan reported to his brother that he had been transferred to a regular prison on November 26. Hamdan told his brother that his captors routinely beat him and kept him in a freezing underground room during his months-long detention by state security forces. The torturers sometimes beat him in the location of his liver, knowing that he has a liver condition, and denied him his prescription liver medication throughout his detention. His torturers also beat him on the soles of his feet, deprived him of sleep by shining a bright spotlight on his face for hours at a time, and engaged in other abuses.

The torture was so severe that he often passed out from the pain, Hamdan told his brother. The agents also threatened to punish Hamdan’s wife and family if he did not confess to their allegations.

“Naji would never be involved with terrorism, but he has now suffered horrible torture for no reason. I am very worried for my brother’s health. The U.S. government must help him,” said Hossam Hemdan.

The news of Hamdan’s transfer comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a habeas corpus petition in federal district court in Washington, D.C., alleging that the U.A.E. detained Hamdan at the behest of the U.S. government. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Robertson ordered the government to respond to the petition.

Human-rights organizations such as Amnesty International have documented the U.A.E.’s practice of torturing prisoners, and in particular state security detainees. “U. S. officials knew that Naji Hamdan would likely be tortured in U.A.E. custody. The news today confirms what we most feared,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, Director of Immigrants’ Rights and National Security for the ACLU/SC. “Now that we know that Naji Hamdan was tortured, it is even more imperative that the U.S. government advocate strongly for his release. So long as the government fails to act, it remains complicit in the torture of this U.S. citizen.”

Hamdan, who was born in Lebanon, lived for two decades in the Los Angeles area, where he ran an auto-parts business and helped manage the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, a mosque and community center. In 2006, he decided to relocate his family and business to the U.A.E.

Hamdan’s detention in the U.A.E. was the culmination of years of surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This summer FBI agents traveled from Los Angeles to the U.A.E. to question Hamdan further. Approximately three weeks later he was detained by agents of the U.A.E. state security forces.

Hamdan’s brother and others who know him from his activities at the Islamic Center of Hawthorne have all said that he is a peaceful family man who would never support violence.

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