Translate page with Google

Story Publication logo April 12, 2007

Ethiopia's jails nice, say Al-Qa'eda suspects


Media file: 245.jpg

U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops grabbed headlines in late 2006, invading Somalia to drive the Islamic...

author #1 image author #2 image
Multiple Authors

Ethiopia has launched a campaign to offset reports that hundreds of al-Qa'eda suspects are being held in appalling prison conditions.

Several suspected terrorists were shown on state television praising their guards on Tuesday evening.

The Ethiopian government had previously confirmed that it had detained 41 terrorism suspects who allegedly fought against Ethiopian troops in Somalia. The government said most of the prisoners had now been released. advertisement

The broadcast showed the suspected Somali Islamic allies thanking the Ethiopian government for their good treatment and denying that they had been abused.

"I do appreciate everything," said one suspect, a Rwandan identified as Muhibitabo Clement Ibrahim. "The treatment here is very good. Ethiopians are very sociable and they respect human rights."

The men, some wearing clean, bright tracksuits, appeared to be healthy. The Ethiopian News Agency also released a separate picture showing them smiling.

An American suspect, Amir Mohammed Meshar, was quoted in the Ethiopian report as saying that conditions in prison were good. Munir Awad, a Swedish citizen of Lebanese descent, was even more complimentary. "They treat us very well, they are like our friends," he said.

Ethiopia's foreign ministry confirmed that it was holding terrorist suspects days after civil rights groups claimed that hundreds prisoners of 19 different nationalities had been moved to secret prisons in Addis Ababa, some to be interrogated by CIA agents.

But the operations, the first of their kind reported in east Africa, have chilling echoes of the CIA's so-called "extraordinary renditions" of terror suspects to third party countries for secret interrogations.

The suspects are thought to have been fighting alongside Islamic militants in Somalia.

Ethiopian troops have fought to support the country's weak, internationally recognised government, against Islamic rebels.

The US government denies involvement in flying some of the suspects between countries in the region.

Several human rights groups have reported claims of prison torture that included beatings, use of electric shocks, detainment without trial and confinement in tiny, dark cells for weeks at a time.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says that showing prisoners of war on television violates the Geneva Conventions.

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues