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Egypt's "torturer" and VP: Up too close and far too personal

Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist and author [My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution, both published by MUP] writing on Crikey today:

"According to Sameh Shoukry, the Egyptian ambassador to the US, Hosni Mubarak has now transferred all powers to his recently appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman.

Despite a barrage of speculation that Mubarak was going to step down overnight — including comments from head of the CIA, which makes one wonder the current power America has over the Egyptian President — the President is staying put.

Egyptian bloggers and protesters on the streets in Egypt reacted with fury and pledged their determination to continue the movement.

Suleiman, the feared head of Egypt’s intelligence services, is a long-time friend of America and Israel.

But an Australian citizen, former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh Habib, has an intimate knowledge of Suleiman; he met him personally while Habib was illegally rendered to Egypt in 2001 and tortured.

Crikey spoke exclusively to Habib last night in Sydney and he reiterated his belief that the Australian government’s recent deal with him vindicated his allegations of serious mistreatment against Canberra, Washington and Cairo.

In his book, My Story, Habib outlines the ways in which Suleiman threatened him in an Egyptian torture prison — key extracts here — and today Habib is calling for the arrest and trial of Suleiman himself. Habib told me the following:

“People in Egypt know who Omar Suleiman is. They’re protesting against Mubarak and Suleiman. I’m not in Egypt but I’m sending a message to the world that Suleiman is an agent for the CIA, Mossad or anybody who is paying money.

“I knew about Suleiman before I was rendered to Egypt, every Egyptian did, but I had never seen him before. To talk about September 11 and kidnapping is that rendition had been happening for years [before 9/11].

“Australia, America and Britain are now supporting Suleiman even though the Australian government now admits they were mistaken and they did wrong [by backing my rendition in 2001]. Australia now has to ask for this man [Suleiman] to be arrested and in jail. He’s a criminal.

“I have a statement from somebody in the agency in Egypt, the Mukabarat [secret police], I’ve been in contact with him and some lawyer in Egypt and some lawyer overseas, and he’s given evidence about what happened inside the building with Omar Suleiman. I have this statement and this makes me settle the case with the Australian government. I have more evidence.

“I want to put my case in an international court to put Suleiman and Mubarak and the Americans who were involved in my rendition [on trial]. I know every single person involved in my rendition; the Australian ambassador in Islamabad, the CIA, Suleiman and some Pakistanis. I’ve got evidence and witnesses.

“Rendition still happens now. I can’t tell you much about the details because people inside Egypt give information but if I give news about cases people may be in serious trouble. One hour ago I heard about people being kidnapped from America and Britain and Kuwait [and rendered to Egypt].

“If America supports Suleiman again then Obama is a criminal and he’ll have big hatred from the Egyptian people. I’m telling the world to open their eyes about Suleiman.

“Only deal I have with the Australian government I’m not going to say how much I’ve been paid for the crimes been done to me, that’s all, but anything else I’m free to talk. I asked the Australian government to help me take Suleiman and the Australians to court to be charged.”

The Obama administration remains divided over the best way to manage the Egyptian uprisings but New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who has been in Cairo with the protesters, writes that America had a choice to side with the demonstrators or back the regime. Washington’s choice was clear. Canberra has simply followed America’s position."

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