Arrested: Kenya, 2007
Currently held: Guantánamo Bay
Current status: Held indefinitely without charge or trial
Kenyan father-of-three Mohammed Abdulmalik was transferred by his own government to US secret prison system. Abdulmalik now waits in Guantánamo Bay, while the Kenyan government refuses to admit responsibility or even accept that he is a Kenyan.
For 35 year-old Abdulmalik, Guantánamo is the just the latest stop on a nightmarish journey through America’s global secret prison network. His story exposes the global reach of a clandestine web of detention facilities that stretches thousands of miles across three continents.
It began with an arrest by Kenyan police in a hotel café in Mombasa in February 2007. He was held by Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, during which time he was badly beaten and interrogated over alleged plans to attack a forthcoming marathon event in Mombasa.
After two weeks of detention the Kenyan authorities apparently found no evidence linking Abdulmalik to any criminal activity. But he was not set free. Instead, Kenyan authorities drove him to an airport and handed him, with no form of judicial process, to US military personnel.
This was the beginning of Abdulmalik’s journey into the murky world of America’s secret prisons, as he was transferred and held in Djibouti, Afghanistan and finally Guantánamo Bay, where he arrived in March 2007.
He was flown from Kenya to Djibouti, where he was detained in a shipping container on a US military base and told by interrogators that he was about to embark on a “long, long journey.”
This was no idle threat. Abdulmalik was flown to Afghanistan, where he was taken to the prison at Bagram Air Base and kept in appalling conditions, before being transferred briefly to a second prison in Afghanistan, and shuttled back to Bagram yet again.
Eventually, Abdulmalik was shackled to the floor of a transport plane, drugged, and flown from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay, where he remains today. He has never been charged with any offense, nor has he been given a chance to challenge his imprisonment – or even been told the official allegations against him.
Meanwhile, his story has spread at home. The idea that the Kenyan government had captured one of its own citizens and transferred him to US military custody has caused justified anger amongst civil rights groups in the country. In response, the Kenyan government tried to duck responsibility by denying that Abdulmalik is Kenyan.
This is a laughable claim. Dozens of people, including his father and the midwife who delivered him – in Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria – stand witness to his Kenyan birth and heritage. The Kenyan government also denies its involvement in Abdulmalik’s illegal transfer out of Kenya, saying instead that he had simply been deported.
This is also demonstrably false. The US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, confirmed on Kenyan radio that Abdulmalik was “moved to Guantánamo Bay with the full consent of the Kenyan government … [as] part of collaboration between the two governments to fight global terrorism.”
In Guantánamo, Abdulmalik is no longer regularly interrogated, perhaps a sign that the US government have realised that he is not the big fish they thought he was. But there no plans for his release.
His case began with the Kenyan authorities, and it must end with them. Until Kenya admits that Abdulmalik is one of its nationals, his chances of release are slim. He will remain locked up thousands of miles from his home, a ghost prisoner plunged into the twilight world of secret detention by a government that would rather he simply did not exist
Recently there have been some utterances that have seemed to be indicative that he might be taken back home to Kenya but there have been no firm announcements and commitments from the respective governments and at the moment.
Darin Thompson, an assistant federal public defender said his client, Mohamed Abdulmalik, should be repatriated to face trial over his alleged role in a 2002 terror attack in Kenya targeting an Israeli-owned luxury hotel and jetliner.
The position is in line with that of Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which wrote to the U. S. government this month to ask that Abdulmalik be sent back to Kenya. That position by the government represented a change in policy. Previously Kenya tried to deny that Abdulmalik was even a Kenyan citizen.
The Pentagon has said that Abdulmalik acknowledged involvement in the November 2002 attack on the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel near Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, in which 13 people died, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. U. S. officials have also claimed that Abdulmalik, 37, is a member of al-Qaida.
Still, no charges have been filed against him, his lawyer said in an April 12 letter to Kenya’s foreign minister.
“It is clear that if Mr. Abdulmalik is believed to have committed Kenyan crimes, he should face Kenyan justice in a Kenyan court,” Thompson wrote in a letter, which was given to The Associated Press by human rights activist al-Amin Kimathi.
“Instead, he has been taken from his homeland to a United States military base on the other side of the Earth, forced to petition in Washington, D. C. for his release from indefinite detention in the black hole that is Guantanamo Bay,” Thompson wrote.
Thompson said the U. S. government has not given any indication that it will charge Abdulmalik with a crime even though he has been in U. S. custody since 2007.
Thompson has filed a case in the United States District Court in Washington, D. C. seeking orders to have Abdulmalik released. He lauded the recent efforts by the Kenyan government to have Abdulmalik repatriated.
Kenya’s director of public prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, declined to comment Wednesday on whether authorities would press charges against Abdulmalik if he is repatriated. Tobiko said it would be illegal to comment because of a lawsuit filed by Abdulmalik’s family against the Kenyan government. The family is seeking $30 million in damages for wrongful detainment and torture.
Abdulmalik’s family maintains he was held in Kenyan custody without charge longer than Kenyan law allows and was tortured by Kenyan officials. U. S. officials later took him from Kenya to Djibouti to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.