The Case of Marwan Jabour

Marwan Ibrahim Ali al-Jabour is a 30-year-old Palestinian who was born in Amman, Jordan, and grew up in Saudi Arabia.  In 1994, he moved to Pakistan to continue his studies, and in 1999 he got married.  He and his wife have three young daughters.

Detention in Lahore

The beatings were difficult, but they weren’t the worst part .... [The worst] was the fear that I would never see my family.
―Marwan Jabour, describing how he felt when he was taken into detention

Jabour was arrested after having dinner in Lahore, Pakistan, at the home of a friend, a professor at a university in Lahore, on May 9, 2004.  At about 9 p.m., when he was pulling his car out of his friend’s garage, a man on the street asked him about his friend.  As Jabour responded, he was suddenly surrounded by a large group of Pakistani men in civilian clothing.  The men grabbed him and cuffed his hands.  They put him in a car and tried to put a sack over his head, but he fought back and they left the sack off.

They also arrested the friend whose house he was visiting, and another friend who was there.  All three men were taken to what Jabour believes to be a Lahore station of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s powerful military intelligence agency; the station was close to the Panorama Centre.2

Jabour said that as soon as the men got him inside the station, they started beating him badly.  “There were seven or eight officers in the room with me,” Jabour told Human Rights Watch. “If I said I didn’t know anything, they beat me: they slapped me, kicked me, and hit me with a stick.  They insulted and threatened me. They kept me awake all night long.”

Jabour said that the men also used an electric prod on him, continually questioning him about the whereabouts of suspected terrorists. 

At about 6 a.m., he said, they sent him to a cell, leaving him there with shackles on his legs. There were three small cells in a row together.  Jabour was alone in his cell, and his two friends were in the other cells. “They had been beaten too, but not as badly as I was,” Jabour said. “I was bruised from the beating.”

From the questions that Jabour was asked, he knew that his contacts with Arab militants had aroused official interest.  Jabour told Human Rights Watch that he had trained in a militant camp in Afghanistan for three months in 1998, had returned to Afghanistan for a couple of weeks after the American bombing campaign started, and in 2003 had assisted Arabs and others who had fled Afghanistan for Pakistan.  Because he had lived in Pakistan since 1994 and had studied at a university there, he spoke Urdu fluently and had local contacts.  His knowledge of the local environment meant that he was able to arrange for people to get medical care and stay in local homes. Jabour claims that he assisted “unaffiliated mujahideen” ―those who did not belong to al Qaeda or other armed groups―and that he was never a member of a terrorist group or in any way involved in terrorist activities.3

When the interrogators returned to his cell an hour or two later, they wanted the details of Jabour’s activities, including the names of militants he had met, and the addresses where those who had fled Afghanistan were staying.  They had already found his cell phone and a diary with phone numbers.  They took Jabour back to the interrogation room, where an interrogator was waiting for him.  They told him to start making phone calls for them. The police began shouting and beating him.  They threatened to arrest his wife.  Jabour said: “They told me: ‘We’ll keep her on her knees in front of you.’”  He described the scene:

We were in a specially made room with iron rings on the wall, and they chained my hands to the ceiling. They also tied a rubber string on my penis that didn’t allow me to pee.  They left it on the whole time I was with them, except sometimes they would briefly undo it. It was terribly painful. 

Jabour said that because he was kept from urinating for nearly four days, except for few brief moments of respite, he now has a problem with his kidneys. He has to urinate frequently, and sometimes there is blood in his urine. 

Early in the morning on his third day of detention in Lahore, Jabour said, three people who he believes were Americans came to interrogate him: two women and a man.  He was blindfolded the whole time they interrogated him, but he said that their American accents were unmistakable. (They interrogated him in English.) “They told me, ‘Marwan, you’re at a crossroads: you could spend the rest of your life in prison, or you could cooperate with us against the terrorists.  You could be a rich man.’”

Jabour said that nobody physically abused him while the Americans were present, although sometimes he was made to kneel on the floor while he was being questioned. When the Americans once asked him about the bruises on his face, caused from his beating by the Pakistani police, he told them sarcastically, “Oh, we spent a very nice night together, your friends and I.”

During the interrogation, the two women did most of the talking.  One was friendly, and made some suggestive comments to him; the other was very angry and swore a lot.  The angry woman told him that there was a huge American man waiting for him in prison.

The Americans stayed at the police station until about midnight.  After the Americans had left, the Pakistani police removed his clothes and showed him a red hot metal rod. 

One of them asked me: “Where do you want to be hit with it?” I begged him not to. He burnt my left arm, just above the elbow, and my left leg.  I got no medical care for the burns, which bubbled up.  They took a month or so to heal.  But this seemed minor compared to all the other things in my life at the time.4

Jabour said that on the morning of the fourth day, the Pakistanis transferred him by car to another facility. He had been kept awake nearly the whole time he was detained in Lahore.  He estimated that he was allowed a total of about three to four hours’ sleep during the nearly four days he was held.5

Islamabad: Proxy Detention

I think it had once been a private home. It was a place of secret detention . . . . It seemed to me that this place was controlled by Americans.  They were in charge.
―Marwan Jabour, recalling his detention in Islamabad.

Jabour described the detention facility he was transferred to as a “villa”: a large private compound that had been renovated to hold prisoners.6  He was blindfolded when he arrived so he did not see it from the outside, but he heard the Pakistanis who were in the car with him say that they were going to Islamabad.7 The drive from Lahore took three-and-a-half to four hours.8

The forced sleeplessness that Jabour endured in Lahore continued in Islamabad.  Jabour told Human Rights Watch that during his first seven days in Islamabad his captors did not allow him to sleep, except for the occasional hour-long doze. “It was a continuous investigation,” he said.

“The Americans were almost always around,” he told Human Rights Watch. “I wasn’t wearing a blindfold after I arrived there, so I could see them.  I saw three American women and a man, plus about five or six Pakistanis.”  Speaking of the Americans, he said: “I think it was the same man who questioned me in Lahore, and at least one different woman.”  Jabour said that the Americans were dressed in regular Western clothes, and one of the women said that her name was Mary.  They did not say what government agency they were from.

Jabour said that the Americans appeared to be in charge of the facility.  They would question him during the day, sometimes showing him photos of suspected militants, and after midnight the Pakistanis would take over.  At first Jabour was held alone in a cell that was like a room, and was attached to the wall by a chain about two meters long.

“The Pakistanis beat me almost every night,” he said. “Once they threatened to pull out my fingernails. Other times they would be friendly, and promise to release me if I talked.”  He was forced to stand for long periods.

The Americans did not beat Jabour, but they made him stay awake. “They would say: ‘If you cooperate, we’ll let you sleep.’ And: ‘If you work with us, we’ll make you really rich.’  They never threatened to take me to Guantanamo, but they did say that I’d be taken away somewhere and would never see my children again. I was thinking that my life was finished.”

“I was thinking about my oldest daughter the whole time,” he said.  “I thought that I’d never see her again.  I was afraid that I’d be sent to Guantánamo.”

Jabour told Human Rights Watch that all of the Americans he saw at the facility were relatively young: in their late twenties or early thirties.  He said that the man who questioned him was about age 28-30, with thinning hair, and the woman who called herself Mary was tall, with medium length, light colored hair.  Another woman was always angry and swore a lot.  (Jabour believes this is the same woman who swore at him in Lahore.)  Once, in Arabic, she told Jabour “Fuck Allah in the ass.”

Jabour collapsed twice during this first week in Islamabad; he believes that he had two heart attacks. The first time was on his fourth day of detention; the second time was at the end of seven days.  “I fell unconscious both times, with my heart pounding out of my chest,” he said.  The doctor, a Pakistani, checked his heart and gave him something called “glivet.” 

After Jabour’s first collapse, they moved him to a cell with another prisoner, an Algerian named Adnan, who took care of him. (Jabour knew him as Adnan “al-Jazeeri,” or Adnan the Algerian.)  Jabour was in such bad shape that he could not walk or feed himself.  He was allowed to sleep for about four hours.

After his second collapse, three days later, he was allowed an entire day’s rest. “After the second collapse, I was hysterical,” he said.

A number of other prisoners were held in the cell block with him, which he described as a new addition to the main house.  The cell block was stiflingly hot and the air was stale.  There were two facing rows of three cells, each of which had a barred door facing the corridor.  In front of the barred doors were wooden doors, but they were almost always left open. When the prisoners were walked down the corridor to use the toilet, they could see each other.

Jabour said that one cell held a 16-year-old boy named Khalid. Khalid, who was Egyptian, said that he had been arrested six months previously during military operations in Waziristan, in northwest Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. He was apparently badly injured during his arrest, and Jabour could hear him crying and moaning in pain at night. “He was suffering badly,” Jabour recalled.  Another 16-year-old who was held in the facility was an Iraqi named Tha’er, who said that he had been arrested in mid-2003.  Tha’er told Jabour that he had an Australian travel document, and that the Australians had visited him the previous year, interrogating him and making a video of the interrogation. Tha’er also said that Abu Zubaydah and members of his group had been held in this same facility.9

The facility also held a Yemeni detainee who had been arrested in late 2003; a Libyan named Ayoub who had been arrested in early 2004; an Afghan known as Mohammed al Afghani, who was born in Saudi Arabia, and a Palestinian who had been arrested in early 2004.  The latter two prisoners had been transferred from Peshawar prison to Islamabad the same day that Jabour had arrived.  There were also three Pakistanis who were accused of involvement in the attempted kidnapping of an ISI general; they said that they had been held for a year without being charged.  A fourth Pakistani was also held there; he was released a few days after Jabour arrived.  Jabour said that this fourth man had been badly tortured: “you can’t imagine how much they were hurting him.”

Jabour said that the Pakistani prisoners told him that a Pakistani named Majid Khan had previously been held there with them.10 

Jabour was held in the Islamabad facility for more than a month.  He was never brought before a judge, charged with any offense, or allowed to see a lawyer.  While he was there, another prisoner, the Yemeni, was moved from the facility, supposedly for Yemen.  The day before Jabour was transferred, three other prisoners—the two 16-year-old boys, and the Algerian man—were taken away.

Secret CIA Detention

It was a grave.
—Marwan Jabour, recalling his two years in secret CIA detention.

Jabour was transferred out of the Islamabad facility on the evening of June 16, 2004. The Pakistanis brought Jabour and three other prisoners (the Palestinian, the Afghan, and the Libyan) to the airport. The prisoners were blindfolded; their hands were cuffed, and their legs shackled.  Jabour said that the drive to the airport took less than 20 minutes.

Before he was put on the plane, Jabour was led to the bathroom, where the Americans took off his blindfold.  “I saw Americans in front of me, talking in sign language.  A doctor was there, and he took my blood pressure and gave me an injection.  I knew it was the end of my life.”  Then the Americans put a sack over his head and changed his handcuffs.  The injection made him a bit woozy, but he did not pass out.

Jabour said everyone entered the plane through the back, using what seemed like the door of a military plane.  The plane seemed fairly small, like it could hold perhaps 20 to 30 people.  The prisoners were on one side, with a seat between them.  Their hands were cuffed behind their backs, and their legs were cuffed and shackled to the floor.  There were four prisoners and about a dozen other people on the plane.

Jabour believes that the secret prison facility he was brought to was located in Afghanistan.  He enumerated several reasons for this belief.  First, the time spent flying: the flight lasted a maximum of two hours.11  Second, the food served at the prison: during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, 12 the prisoners were given typical Afghan food, and near the end of his stay they were fed typical Afghan bread with regular meals.  Third, facts gleaned from his captors: an officer at the prison once let slip that after the earthquake in Pakistan relief supplies were flown “from here” to Pakistan.13  Fourth, the weather: it was extremely cold in the winter (colder than in most parts of Pakistan); one wall of his cell would be freezing to the touch. Fifth, the languages: the first director of the prison spoke fluent Farsi (Persian), suggesting that the prison was in a region where such language skills were useful.14 

Jabour said he thinks that everyone at the prison was American—the guards, interrogators, prison directors, and medical personnel—except possibly the Arabic-speaking translators.  Not only did the prison staff say they were American—informing Jabour that he was in U.S. custody—they spoke American-accented English.

The First Six Months

After the plane landed, the transfer team put Jabour and another prisoner in the back of a jeep, handling them roughly.  The jeep then drove down an unpaved road to the prison.

When the group reached the prison, two guards brought Jabour inside.  After they put him in a cell, by himself, they cut off all his clothes, leaving him naked. They released one of his hands from the handcuffs, and cuffed the other hand to a ring in the cell wall. It wasn’t possible for him to stand because the ring was near the floor, and he was attached to it via a short chain.

The cell was just over 1 meter wide by almost 2 meters long.  It was roughly the size of a single mattress, but it did not have a mattress. The only objects inside the cell were a bucket and two coarse blankets.

The cell had two video cameras near the ceiling, too high for a standing person to reach.  There were also speakers and a listening device built into the wall.

This cell, as well as other cells that Jabour saw later, had double steel doors that were very close to each other.  (In other words, to exit the cell it was necessary to go through one door and then the next.) The door that opened into the cell had a small glass window (about 40 cm by 30 cm) and a food slot below.  Except for the door, the cell had no windows, but the lights were left on all the time, including at night.

Jabour said that he thought the structure of the building was old, but the cells were new and modern. Everything was metal and seemed very new. 

The guards let Jabour sleep the first night (or let him try to sleep) and returned early in the morning.  No one said a word to him, but they shaved his head, and also shaved off his beard and moustache.  Then, without giving him any clothes to wear, they took him to an interrogation room. In retrospect, Jabour finds it hard to believe that he was paraded around naked in front of a group of men and women, but at the time he was so disoriented and upset that his lack of clothing seemed relatively minor.

The interrogation room was a relatively big room and it held about ten people, including guards and people who appeared to be doctors.  Some members of the group were women.  They put him a chair, shackling his hands and legs to the chair.  A doctor came and another person made a video recording of Jabour’s body.

A bearded man, whom Jabour had seen at the airport in Islamabad, began to talk in American-accented English. He said he was the “emir” (director) of the facility.  He said Jabour had only one option: to cooperate.  He promised that if Jabour cooperated, he would be treated well.

During this interrogation and countless future interrogations, his questioners asked about Jabour’s activities in Pakistan, the people he had met, and his knowledge of terrorist groups.  He was shown many hundreds of photos, some of people who were obviously in detention (they were wearing prison jumpsuits and showing a plaque with numbers).

During the first six months that Jabour was being interrogated, a huge, muscular man—whom Jabour called a “Marine” because of his build—would sometimes stand behind the interrogator and act intimidating.  Jabour was also frightened by an object that the interrogators called the “dog box.”  It was a wooden box, about 1 meter by 1 meter in size, and the Americans told him that they put people inside it.  “They said that KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] had spent some time in the dog box and then he talked.  They kept threatening me: ‘We could do this to you.’”15

Jabour said that he was slapped a few times at the beginning of his stay, but was not beaten while held in the secret facility.  Instead, when the interrogators felt he was not cooperating, they would chain him up in extremely uncomfortable positions, which would become painful over time.16  His hands would be attached to his ankles, and to the floor, and he would be left like that for a half hour to an hour.  “At times it was difficult to breathe,” he explained. In all, he estimates that he was put in these stress positions a total of 15 to 20 times.

Jabour said that during the first six months he was held at the secret prison they would sometimes play rock music at ear-blasting levels, which could last an hour, a day, a few days, or even a week.  “It was loud, awful music,” he said, “like the soundtrack from a horror movie.”

Besides the music, there was also a constant, low-level, white noise; Jabour said that it sounded like a generator. Jabour thinks that one of the main reasons for the noise was to prevent prisoners from communicating with each other.

Two weeks after Jabour arrived at the prison, he was provided with a Koran.  After three-and-a-half months, he was given a prayer mat.

Jabour said that the food was awful.  It was almost all canned food (often tuna or sardines): uncooked, very bland and bad-smelling. “It was like dog food,” he remembered.  During his first several months at the prison, his weight dropped considerably.  Whereas he had previously weighed 93 kilograms, his weight fell to 58 kilograms.  (They weighed him every week.)  “I felt weak, dizzy, unbalanced all the time, like I was on a ship.”

Jabour received his clothes back piece by piece over time.  First, after a month and a half at the prison, he was given a pair of pants.  Then, after about three-and-a-half months, he was given a tee-shirt.  Finally, after about eight months, he was given a pair of shoes.

Jabour told Human Rights Watch that his legs were left shackled to each other for one and a half years.  During the time his legs were shackled, he could only take small steps; the chain running from one of his ankles to the other was about 75 centimeters long.  Whenever he was taken out of the cell and brought to another room for interrogation, he was blindfolded.

The Remaining 19 Months

Jabour’s treatment improved considerably after the initial six-month period of detention, and continued improving in stages after that.  The first major change was a transfer to a much larger cell. 

To bring Jabour to the new cell, the guards blindfolded him and walked him around a long, complicated route, in and out of different rooms, confusing his sense of direction.  When they reached the cell and removed his blindfold, Jabour found himself in a room that was about 5 meters by 7 meters in size, with a mattress, a pillow, a sink, some books of Koranic interpretation, and some strawberries. The big cell was also quieter than his previous, small cell, and the lights were turned off from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Jabour was kept in the new cell for three days, then he was sent back briefly to his previous cell.  “They told me I could take one thing with me,” Jabour recalled. “I wanted both the mattress and a book, but I chose the book.”

On December 18, 2004, Jabour was moved to a large cell in a separate building. When the guards moved him to that building, they took him outside; he estimates that the second building was 70 meters from the first one.  His new cell number was B1.17  Like his first cell, it had no windows and no natural light.

While he stayed in the second building, he was allowed to shower once a week, on Saturdays.

Not long after he was moved into the second building he was given a watch, a calendar and a prayer schedule. He remembers that in summer the dawn prayers would be held as early as 3:25 a.m., whereas in winter the dawn prayers would be as late as 5:15 or 5:25 a.m., times that correspond to prayer times in Afghanistan.18

Except for interrogations, solo exercise, and his weekly shower, Jabour spent all his time confined within the four walls of his cell.  With nothing else to occupy his mind, Jabour poured his energy into decorating his cell.  After a year had gone by, the Americans gave him a map of the world, and later they gave him pictures of fish and animals. “I had asked them for a plant, which they didn’t give me, so I drew a big tree, with leaves colored on it,” he remembered.  “I cut it out and taped it up on the wall.” He also made grass out of strips of paper.  “I drew flowers, and I stood on my chair and stuck them to the ceiling.”  Sometimes the Americans would take photos of his cell.

A year into his detention, the Americans started allowing Jabour to watch a movie once a week.  The facility had a list of 200-250 films, including big-budget Hollywood films, documentaries, cartoons, sports, horror movies, and wrestling.

After a year and a half, an officer taught Jabour how to play chess.  Jabour drew a chess board and made chess pieces out of paper.  He also played checkers and cards with some of the women interrogators. About four months before he left, he was given a computer chess set, and a small video game.

Jabour spent much of his time reading.  The prison had a big library with hundreds of books and finally, by the time he left, more than a thousand books in a variety of languages.  The majority were in Arabic, but there were also books in languages such as Urdu, Persian, Indonesian and English.

One of the most momentous occasions for Jabour was when he was allowed to see sunlight.  He had spent a year and a half in captivity without even a glimpse of natural light.  One day the Americans opened up a skylight in his building. “They brought me a chair and let me sit under the skylight,” he remembered.  “I was so happy.  I joked with them, pretending to call outside, ‘Help! Someone help me! Let me out!’”

The second building he was held in had an exercise area, about 5 by 6 meters in size, in which Jabour was allowed to kick a soccer ball by himself. Near the very end of Jabour’s captivity, he was allowed to use a large gymnastics room: about 8 by 15 meters in size.  The ceiling of the room was quite high up, and for a short while one of the prison subdirectors uncovered windows on the ceiling, through which Jabour could see sunlight and the sky.  Jabour expressed warm feelings for the person who instituted these improvements, describing him as “a very good man.”

The food also improved toward the end of his more than two-year confinement.  He started receiving Afghan bread with his meals, and toward the very end his meal would arrive heated.  He was also very occasionally given Western food like pizza and hamburgers, as well as cookies and candy.19

Jabour was never permitted to contact his family, the hope for which never left him. “I told the kind ‘emir’ [a prison subdirector] that I was worried about my family,” Jabour recalled. “He said, ‘There’s some things we can do, but some things we can’t do.’  He said he couldn’t allow me to contact them.” 

Secret Prison Staff

Jabour estimates that in the more than two years he was held at the prison, he saw a total of about 70 staff, consisting of some 25 guards and 45 civilian staff, including interrogators, supervisory staff, three or four doctors, and a few psychologists.  He said everyone was American except for the translators, who he said were mostly Arabs.  (They could have been Arab-Americans.)  He said there was an Iraqi translator, three Egyptians, and a Lebanese woman.

The prison had three “emirs,” or directors, during this period.  The first was a bearded man, who Jabour estimates was about 40 years old; the second was a man with a shaved head who was about 38 years old (with whom Jabour played chess on occasion); and the third was an older man, about 55, who arrived in May 2006.  There were also five people who seemed to have the position of subdirector.  Two of them called themselves Mr. Charlie and Mr. Warren.

Jabour said that every few months he would see a psychologist.  One was a man about 50 years old.  Another was a woman about 55 years old; Jabour said that he spent an hour with her on one occasion.

The translators, the doctors, and the interrogators all wore normal civilian clothing.  The guards, who were all men, wore black uniforms and gloves, and had black plastic masks covering their eyes.  They did not carry weapons and they did not speak, except at the very end of Jabour’s imprisonment, when they spoke to him in American-accented English.

Other Prisoners

Given the size of the prison where he was held, Jabour estimates that it had a capacity of 30-35 detainees.  His estimate is further supported by the hundreds of books and videos in the prison library, and the large number of personnel who worked there.

Nearly all of Jabour’s contact with other prisoners occurred in the first month of his captivity.  He estimates that there were about 12-15 detainees held in the same area as him during that time. “They used to bang hard on our cell doors when they brought our meals,” he said.  “At the beginning, they knocked on about 12-15 doors.”

Jabour found a name written on the wall in his cell: Marwan al-Adeni.  He also heard what he described as “terrible shouting”—“someone saying ‘Help! Help!’”—during the first three days.  On the third day, in a brief moment when the white noise had stopped (Jabour believes that it was a break between two generators), Jabour heard someone call out to him in Arabic: “Who are you? Don’t be afraid, talk.”  Although Jabour had been warned not to talk to anyone, he conversed with this prisoner whenever the generator was quiet.  The man said his name was Marwan al-Adeni, and that he had been held there for two months. He said that he had been arrested the previous year, and that the Americans had kept him in a secret prison that had Russian guards.20  He said that he and six other prisoners had been brought together from that prison to the present one.

Jabour said that the two of them spoke every day for three days, until a guard came and punished them: he left Jabour shackled for an hour is a painful stress position.  Jabour never spoke to Marwan al-Adeni again, but a year later, he found his name written on a mattress, and once he found his name written on a shirt.  Also, during an interrogation when Jabour was first in custody, an interrogator showed him a photo that he said was of al-Adeni.21

Jabour also heard other prisoners talking during this time, again in the brief moment when it seemed like the generators were being switched.  Several people gave their names, including Hudaifa, Adnan, Abdul Basit, and Abu Yassir al-Jazeeri.  And once, during that first month, Jabour heard Ayoub al-Libi (whom he had been held with in Pakistan) calling him.

Another prisoner with whom Jabour had more indirect contact was Majid Khan, currently incarcerated at Guantanamo.22  On December 18, 2004, the day Jabour was transferred to the large cell, he found an inscription below the cell’s sink. It said: “Majid Khan, 15 December 2004, American-Pakistani.” He also received a book in May 2006 from the prison library that may have been meant for Khan.  He had not requested the book, and believes it was given him by accident; inside it had a note written in good English that said: “I’m feeling depressed and upset. I want to go home to Pakistan. And I want the newspaper every day.”

Cell B1, where Jabour was held for about a year and a half, was on a corridor with two other cells.  For nearly a year, Jabour said—from December 2004 until late the following year—two Somalis were held in the cells next to his.  He could sometimes hear them speaking to each other in Somali.  When the two Somalis were moved, at least one other prisoner replaced them, but that prisoner never spoke and Jabour does not know who he was.

Twice when he was confined in that cell he heard a prisoner yelling, sounding very upset.23  Jabour believes that both times it was a prisoner who was being led down the corridor: the sound approached and then it receded.

Jabour saw only a single other prisoner during his entire time at the secret prison.  The circumstances of his meeting were surprising.  At the end of February 2006, the prison subdirector, whom Jabour liked, told Jabour that he had good news.  “He said they’d let me sit with another brother,” Jabour recalled.  “I said I don’t believe you. He asked me who did I want to sit with: Someone religious? Someone funny? … I said I wanted a funny guy who likes to joke. He said they had just the guy for me, a good guy: Yassir al-Jazeeri.”24

He met al-Jazeeri the next day.  Al-Jazeeri told Jabour that he had arrived at the prison in April 2004.  “I think he was part of the group of six prisoners who were transferred with Marwan al-Adeni,” said Jabour.  Al-Jazeeri told Jabour that he had been in a place where they beat him badly, doing permanent damage to his arm.  Once they played loud music for four months straight.25  He said that the guards were Russian but the interrogators were American.  He also said that there were a lot of prisoners at that prison, and the prisoners could speak to each other.

Jabour was allowed to sit and talk to Yassir al-Jazeeri about eight times, sometimes once a week, sometime once a month. Once their meetings were suspended for a month after al-Jazeeri told Jabour that some Americans had entered his room at 3 a.m. to show him photos of Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, who was dead.26  The two were not supposed to talk about such things.  The last time Jabour spoke to al-Jazeeri was in July 2006, a week before Jabour left the facility.

Jabour also learned of other detainees in US custody via his interrogations. An interrogator showed him a photo of a Somali man whom Jabour had known previously; the photo had been taken in Jabour’s cell (the first small cell). Also in US custody was an African man named Speen Ghul; the Americans showed Jabour photos of him both before and after his arrest.  Other detainees that Jabour remembers seeing photos of were two men named Retha al-Tunisi and Talaha.27

One photo that surprised Jabour was of a boy named Talha, who appeared to be nine or ten years old.28  His father was said to be Hamza al-Jofi, a militant leader in Waziristan.29 When Jabour saw the photo of Talha, who was apparently in custody, he expressed amazement that the United States was holding someone so young.


As the months and years passed, Jabour lost all hope of leaving prison.  But on the evening of July 30, 2006, without warning, the subdirector of the prison informed Jabour that Jabour would be leaving the following day.  Notably, this announcement came just one month after the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which the Court held that detainees held as enemy combatants were protected under the Geneva Conventions.30

Transfer to Jordan

The prison subdirector said he knew where Jabour was going to be sent, but that he could not tell him.  He said there was no toilet in the plane so Jabour would have to wear diapers, and that they would make a video of his naked body to show that his body had not been harmed. He told Jabour to be ready to leave at 6 p.m.

The transfer team picked him up the next evening. They put cotton over his eyes, cotton in his ears, and rubber over that.  Then they put a band around his head, a mask over his face, and head phones over his ears.  His hands were cuffed in front and his legs were shackled. A belt was put around his legs, above the knees, and his handcuffs were attached to it.  “I felt like a mummy,” Jabour said.

They brought Jabour outside to a car, and laid him down in it.  Jabour is fairly certain that another prisoner was next to him.  The car drove for about an hour.

Jabour was brought outside and put in a chair, and he heard three shots. “I was afraid,” he said. “I thought they were shooting people.”  The team was very aggressive with him, increasing his fear.

Suddenly they removed all of his wrappings and took off all his clothes.  When his eyes opened, he saw a man pointing a video camera at him. Then the transfer team put a diaper on him, and put the same outfit back on, except this time they used plastic handcuffs.

He could only feel the airplane; he could not see it, but it seemed to him to be a small civilian jet.  The seats faced forward, as in a normal passenger aircraft.  In the plane, during the flight, a doctor took his blood pressure. The flight lasted about three-and-a-half to four hours.

Detention in Jordan and Israel

After the plane landed, Jabour was driven in a car for about 40 minutes and then brought inside a building.  His handlers sat him down and began taking off the wrappings that covered him.  Someone said to him in Arabic, “Keep your eyes closed.  Now open them slowly.”

When Jabour opened his eyes he saw uniformed soldiers as well as men in civilian clothing.  He could also see framed photos of King Hussein and King Abdullah, and he guessed that he was in Jordan. After questioning, he was sent to a cell, where a guard finally told him that he was in Amman, Jordan.  Jabour later found out that he was being held at the headquarters of the Jordanian intelligence services.

A couple of weeks later, on about August 14, he was visited by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).  The ICRC representative was the first independent monitor that Jabour had seen in two-and-a-half years of imprisonment.  “He was very surprised by my story,” Jabour said.  Jabour gave the ICRC representative the contact information for relatives who lived in Jordan.  Two weeks later, a group of Jabour’s family members, some of whom had flown in from abroad, came to the detention facility on visiting day and were allowed to speak to Jabour for a short while.  “I was overjoyed to see them,” Jabour later told Human Rights Watch.

While in Jordanian custody, Jabour was also allowed to send letters to his wife and children, his first contact with them in more than two years.

On September 18, 2006, the Jordanians transferred Jabour to Israeli custody. That morning, they told Jabour that he was being released.  “They said congratulations, I was free,” Jabour said. “But I was still in handcuffs.  And then they took me to a car and drove me to the King Hussein Bridge [on the border of Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank].”  Israeli agents were waiting for Jabour at the bridge, and the Jordanians handed him over to them.

A few days after his transfer to Israel, Jabour was allowed to see a lawyer, and soon after that he was brought before a judge.  After six weeks in Israeli custody, he was released into Gaza, where some of his family members lived.  Two-and-a-half years after he was first arrested, he was finally able to speak to his wife and children on the phone.

2 Panorama Centre is a well known market in Lahore.

3 Although Human Rights Watch cannot corroborate these statements, the fact that in 2006 the US authorities released Jabour without charge suggests that they did not believe he was implicated in acts of terrorism.

4 A Human Rights Watch researcher was shown the light scars on Jabour’s arm and leg when she interviewed him in December 2006.

5 Moazzam Begg, a British citizen who was imprisoned for two years at Guantanamo, described how when he was in ISI detention in early 2002, he witnessed other prisoners being beaten and deprived of sleep for days. Moazzam Begg, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo and Back (London: The Free Press, 2006), pp. 15-17.

6 He was held on the ground floor, but he was under the impression that the building had a second story.

7 The other prisoners who Jabour met in the facility confirmed that it was in Islamabad. Moreover, there are many other accounts of “disappeared” prisoners have been held in Islamabad or brought there for questioning.  For example, a recent letter describing people recently released from secret detention in Pakistan states that among the detention centers where people were held was “a Safe House near Islamabad Airport.” Letter from Amina Masood, Defense of Human Rights, to the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan, December 19, 2006. See also “FBI questions al-Qa'eda man in Pakistan,” Daily Telegraph (U.K.), March 17, 2003 (“[Officials] said Yasir al-Jaziri, a Moroccan educated in America, was moved to the capital, Islamabad, for questioning after he was captured in a raid”); and “2 aides to Osama Yousaf arrested,” Daily Times (Pakistan), August 12, 2005 (“Sources also said Osama Bin Yousaf had been taken to Islamabad where a foreign investigation team would see him”).

Abdullah Khadr, a Canadian citizen arrested in Pakistan in October 2004, states that he too was held in secret detention in Islamabad, and was interrogated by both American and Pakistani personnel. See Affidavit of Abdullah Khadr, United States v. Khadr, Action No. EX0037/05, Superior Court of Justice, Toronto, 2006, pp. 25-27.

Moazzam Begg states that immediately after being arrested in early 2002 he was held in a house in Islamabad. He described it as a “very grand” house, like the house of a wealthy person, in what he thought was the G10 district of the city.  Although he was held in a room, he saw several cells in another part of the house.  Moazzam Begg, Enemy Combatant, pp. 6-13.

Finally, at least one detainee who is currently being held at Guantanamo stated in an administrative hearing that after being arrested he and a few others were brought to Lahore, interrogated there by American civilians, and then brought to Islamabad, where they spent two months in detention before being transported to Bagram air base in Afghanistan.  Fahmi Abdullah Ahmed (ISN 688), Combatant Status Review Tribunal Transcript, US Department of Defense, set 4, pp. 425-26 (released March 3, 2006). Ahmed was arrested some time after February 2002; it is unclear when.

8 This is roughly the time it takes to make the trip using the Lahore-Islamabad motorway.

9 Zine Abd el Dine, aka Abu Zubaydah, is currently incarcerated at Guantanamo. He was among the 14 detainees transferred from CIA custody in early September 2006.  It is believed that he was badly tortured during his detention.  See, for example, Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of its Enemies since 9/11 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), pp. 115-18.

10 Majid Khan is currently incarcerated at Guantanamo. He was among the 14 detainees transferred from CIA custody in early September 2006.

11 This is more than enough time to get to Kabul from Islamabad.

12 The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking) is a three-day celebration at the end of Ramadan.

13 The US military sent relief flights from Afghanistan to assist people affected by the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.  See Embassy of the United States in Islamabad, Press Release, “250th Relief Flight Unloaded by the U.S. Military,” November 29, 2005.

14 Farsi and closely related languages are spoken in much of Afghanistan in addition to Iran.

15 KSM is a shorthand used by US officials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged to be the architect of the September 11 attacks.  Mohammed was held in secret CIA custody for three-and-a-half years.  He was among the 14 detainees transferred from CIA custody to Guantanamo in early September 2006.

16 Numerous detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere have reported being put in “stress positions” as punishment.  In December 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld issued new interrogation rules for Guantanamo, authorizing “stress positions,” removal of clothing, prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, and forced grooming (like forced shaving of facial hair), among other interrogation techniques.  In September 2003, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez authorized new interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, including the use of stress positions.  Memorandum from Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to Commander, US Central Command, regarding “CJTF-7 Interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policy,” September 14, 2003.

17 He was never told the cell number of his first cell.

18 See Islamic Finder ( (providing prayer times around the world).

19 He remembers receiving chocolate bars like Snickers, Twix, Bounty, and Kit-Kats.

20 It should be noted that unless the prisoners spoke Russian themselves, they might have mistaken a related language for Russian.  Also, there could be Russian-speaking guards in certain countries in Central Asia.

21 Human Rights Watch has not found other sources with information about this prisoner.

22 See discussion above.

23 He remembers that one of those instances was in February or March 2006.

24 Yassir al-Jazeeri was among the 26 people on Human Rights Watch’s November 2005 list of “ghost prisoners” believed to be in CIA custody.  Human Rights Watch, “List of ‘Ghost Prisoners’ Possibly in CIA Custody,” November 30, 2005 (

25 Al-Jazeeri also reportedly told Jabour that once, when a Lebanese interrogator visited that prison, they played Arab music for a full day.

26 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the Jordanian who led Al-Qaeda in Iraq until his death in June 2006.

27 From Jabour’s description of Talaha, it seems very likely that he is Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, also known as Abu Talaha.  Jabour said that Talaha was in his mid-to-late 20s, that he was a Pakistani but had lived in Britain; that he was quite tall, and somewhat heavy-set; that he spoke Urdu, English, and Arabic; and that he was originally from Karachi. He also said that he thought Talaha was arrested in about July 2004, because that’s when the Americans began asking Jabour about him.  All of these characteristics describe Noor Khan, who was on Human Rights Watch’s November 2005 list of 26 people who were possibly in CIA custody.  More than two-and-a-half years after his arrest, Noor Khan’s whereabouts are still unknown; his father has filed suit in Pakistan demanding information about what happened to him.

28 This is a different person than the man named Talaha, mentioned above.

29 American interrogators allegedly questioned Abdullah Khadr about al-Jofi while Khadr was being held in secret detention in Islamabad in October 2004.  See Affidavit of Abdullah Khadr, United States v. Khadr, Action No. EX0037/05, Superior Court of Justice, Toronto, 2006, pp. 25-27.  Human Rights Watch has no information about his son.

30 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006).