A One-Way Ticket
The Story of An American Citizen in Cairo’s Torture Chambers
Omar Mazen — AJ. Net
When Khaled Hassan left his hometown of Alexandria for the first time in 1999 heading to the United States, he had just turned 20. Now, twenty years later, Khaled is back to Cairo, with an American passport, but in a dark cell in one of Egypt’s many prisons.
Khaled grew up in a middle-class family in Alexandria. He later immigrated to the US and settled in New York City. The day after the 9/11 bombings, Khaled was chased down the street where he lived by strangers due to his Middle Eastern looks. So he left NYC and returned a year later.
In 2006, Khaled worked as a cab driver. To supplement his income, he started a private company, exporting American technology to South America. Visiting Peru for work, he met his future wife.
While he did not consider himself religiously observant, Khaled spent time in Islamic Centers and mosques in New York and got to know many of the imams of these mosques. However, he confirms that he never joined any political or religiously organized group. In fact, he “used to smoke and drink alcohol.”
When Khaled visited Egypt 10 years after leaving, he was arrested at Cairo Airport because the officers thought that he had applied for asylum in the US, but he was released when he bribed the officers. After returning to the US, Khaled didn’t visit Egypt again until after the January 2011 revolution.
While in Egypt and after the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi by a military coup in 2013, Khaled participated in demonstrations against the coup. He frequently shared his views on social media.
Khaled’s activities attracted the attention of the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), with whom Khaled met several times.
“My meetings with the FBI agents were always cordial,” recalled Khaled. “Sometimes they asked me about neighbors of mine who travelled to Syria, and I was not embarrassed to tell them what I knew.”
On a cold January morning, less than two weeks after Khaled returned to spend the holidays with his family in Egypt, he was stopped by three people. “They kidnapped me,” Khaled said, “when I tried to talk to them, they violently silenced me, saying: ‘State Security’.” They beat him up until blood was flowing from his face and body.
He was then moved to a National Security building. “They ‘welcomed’ me with electric shocks, constant beatings and suspension,” Khaled recounted. He was being thrown on a wet mattress that would then be connected to electricity. “Many times, my genitals were connected to electrical wires,” Khaled said with a trembling voice. “They showed no mercy.” This torture continued for 8 days.
Khaled’s family filed several complaints with the police and the prosecutor to investigate his disappearance. The police’s response was to raid Khaled’s house, and force his wife and kids out of the country.
Khaled was then transferred to Cairo. On the way there while blindfolded, a guard ordered him: “Take off your clothes as if you are a newborn.”
“When I entered into the building, I smelled a rotten stench and saw through the side of my blindfold naked barefoot people with long hair and beards,” Khaled recalled.
What Khaled recalled is documented by human rights organizations as well as the testimonies of many former detainees of enforced disappearances.
On the first day, or “welcoming day” as Khaled describes it, they started torturing the upper part of his body and head. “They electrocuted my ears and tongue,” Khaled said. They questioned him about his Facebook posts.
The torture sessions used to continue for hours, while the electrocution sessions lasted for an hour or less. “They used to electrocute me one day, including on the genitals, hang me one day and so forth,”. His shoulder was dislocated, and his body was full of torture stab wounds.
Every day, Khaled was dragged back to his tiny cell, in which at least 15 people were cramped. “We literally used to sleep on top of each other,” he said. In the cell, one of the soldiers — known as the ‘nurse’ — would come with some medicines, topical creams and ointments and some medical needles trying to treat Khaled to make him ready for next day’s torture.
When one of the officers threatened to rape Khaled’s wife and Khaled insulted him back, the latter “flew off the handle” and brought in another security agent. “The officer said that he would bring in another security agent who would rape me. I didn’t believe him. But he did,” said Khaled.
Khaled was raped twice during the interrogations: once with a wooden stick and once by another man. “It was then that I totally broke down,” said Khaled.
“I was ready to admit anything,” Khaled said, adding that he told them while he cried that he was willing to sign any confession they give him. But the officer forced him to verbally confess. Khaled believes that the officers recorded him confessing.
Even after his confession, torture did not stop. “I even thought about killing myself while I was there,” Khaled added.
Khaled’s cellmates used to help him go to the toilet as he could not move at all. “I urinated in a small can next to me,” Khaled explained. It was then that he heard the ‘nurse’ warning one of the officers that he had to be moved so that he does not die there.
On that night, almost a month after he was abducted from Alexandria, Khaled was taken back to the building where he was first tortured and received intensive medication for three months.
Khaled appeared before the Military Court on the morning of May 3, almost five months after his abduction. “The officer charged me with enough crimes to have me executed,” said Khaled. He was accused of spying for a foreign country, joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), funding terrorist organizations and planning to blow up military installations.
The prosecution included Khaled’s case in a larger case, labelled the ‘Second Sinai Province Insurgency’, which included hundreds of defendants, of whom 245 were tried before a military court despite being civilians.
Later, and following a report by Human Rights Watch regarding Khaled’s condition, the Egyptian State Information Service officially denied that Khaled had been detained during the period from 8th January till 3rd May.
By the time he appeared before the Military Court, he had lost a lot of weight and traces of torture were still apparent on his arm and foot despite the months that the Egyptian authorities had spent trying to cover them up.
Khaled’s wife and younger daughter were banned from entering Egypt.
In a meeting in Washington with representatives of the US State Department, a US official denied their knowledge of the presence of a US citizen in Egyptian prisons. However, representatives of the US Embassy in Cairo continue to regularly visit Khaled in prison in the presence of a prison officer.
Khaled continues to be harassed and abused by officers in prison. At the time of this report, the authorities discovered that Khaled was using a mobile phone in detention and transferred him to solitary confinement.
Update: One month after publishing this story, Khaled attempted suicide after he was denied visitations by the authorities. He was rescued by his inmates and transferred to the prison hospital and then back to his cell 5 hours later.
Source: Aljazeera.net (Original Content -Arabic)