Revelation about CTV journalist Jawed Ahmad's recent release from US military custody:
Afghan journalist says Canadian tip-off was behind his arrest, imprisonmentJaved Ahmad was held in a US prison in Bagram in what human rights groups calling for his release termed a "legal black hole." The Globe and Mail's Graeme Smith has more on his allegations of torture by US forces:
By Bob Weber
KANDAHAR, Sept 24 (CP) - An Afghan freelance journalist recently freed after spending 11 months in a U.S. military prison undergoing harsh interrogation said Wednesday he was arrested at the suggestion of the Canadian forces.
"It was Canadians who told them I was a risk," said Javed Yazamy [Jawed Ahmad], known by the nickname Jojo among western journalists in Afghanistan.
Yazamy was unexpectedly set free Sunday after being arrested on Oct. 26, 2007, at Kandahar Airfield, the main coalition base in the southern province. He had been declared an enemy combatant by U.S. authorities and was held both at Kandahar and at the main U.S. military base at Bagram, near Kabul.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said Monday that Yazamy was handed over to Afghan authorities because he was no longer considered a threat, although no specific reason was ever given for his arrest...
Yazamy estimated he was interrogated more than 100 times during his incarceration. He faced shouted questions, threats and kicks.
"Whenever I was trying to sleep, it was jigsaw, jigsaw. Jigsaw means stand up," Yazamy said Wednesday.
"Six hours they stand me in the snow. No socks, no shoes. Nothing. I had nothing except that orange suit. And two times I became unconscious."
"They were dragging me - jigsaw, jigsaw - and I was totally useless. Finally they took me inside."
He was housed in a dark cell with 16 other detainees who, he said, beat him so badly they broke some of his ribs.
Although Yazamy made no mention of the alleged Canadian involvement in his arrest in initial interviews after his release, he now says that his American interrogators told him that it was Canadians who fingered him.
He said his captors told him: "We were informed by Canada that you were a risk for us" and "we were told by Canada you were a risk and that you should be banned from (Kandahar Airfield)." ...
Both CTV and the New York Times vouched for Yazamy in an effort to secure his release. The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded that U.S. authorities disclose evidence and specify charges against him... (link)
... [H]is excellent language skills and physical fitness made him an ideal candidate when the U.S. Special Forces arrived in southern Afghanistan looking for translators.Related:
Mr. Ahmad spent the years after 2001 roaming the country with elite troops, who gave him the nickname Jojo and a rich network of connections in the new regime. He eventually left the military for better pay as a freelance security consultant, and started working full-time as a media translator in 2006, mostly for CTV. He became known for his dogged reporting, once suffering broken bones in a vehicle accident but returning to work the next day to record footage of a bombing scene in Kandahar city.
But his journalistic endeavours may have contributed to his eventual imprisonment, Mr. Ahmad said, because much later his U.S. interrogators seemed interested in his forays into Taliban territory...
About halfway through 2007, he started having problems getting through the gate at Kandahar Air Field, the main military base in the province.
He was once briefly detained and given a warning to stay away. He avoided the military base for a while, but returned Oct. 2, 2007, to help a 12-year-old boy shot by Canadian troops. After leaving the base hospital, a U.S. Special Forces soldier put a gun to his head and threatened him, telling him to stay away from the military base.
He again obeyed the warning, he says, until late October when he says he received a phone call from a male caller who described himself as a U.S. public-affairs officer who wanted to conduct an opinion survey of Afghan journalists. Mr. Ahmad agreed to meet the officer at KAF's main gate. A red pickup truck arrived, he said, and the driver asked him to climb inside.
They drove into the U.S. Special Forces compound at KAF, he said, and soon events started unfolding like a movie...
His hands were bound with plastic ties, and he was hooded with a heavy bag. In the following days, he says, he was questioned, taunted, screamed at, beaten with chairs and slammed into walls.
"I was crying," he said. "They were laughing, saying 'You're a spy,' " His captors accused him of spying for Iran, Pakistan or the Taliban.
They said he sold a sniper rifle to the insurgents. Interrogators falsely told him his family had been arrested and confessed. They even concocted wild stories about his Canadian employers, telling him that CTV had arranged for his detention - or, on another occasion, that a CTV reporter was a foreign intelligence agent.
"I knew these were lies," Mr. Ahmad said.
The worst treatment he received at KAF was sleep deprivation, he said.
Placed in a small metal cage, and monitored by soldiers on a boardwalk overhead, he said they refused to let him sleep for nine days, frequently shouting abuse at him during the ordeal.
After the initial questioning he was flown to Bagram airbase north of Kabul, he said.
Still badly sleep-deprived, he was unloaded at the U.S. base and forced to stand for six hours in the snow wearing only a thin jumpsuit - no shoes, no hat - and he fell unconscious twice. Each time the guards forced him to stand up again.
"It felt like I had no skin left on my feet," he said.
He tried to endear himself to his guards, who were amused to find a prisoner who enjoyed reading Shakespeare. But his situation got abruptly worse in early 2008, he says, when the stories began appearing in the media about his situation. Soon afterward, he was formally declared an enemy combatant. He was placed in a room he describes as the "death cell."
Telling the story, his eyes brim with tears when he thinks about his treatment there, and says he doesn't want to discuss all of it now.
He was deprived of sunlight, he said. "It was like a grave." The interrogations continued at Bagram, he said, and no less violently than in Kandahar.
"They broke two of my ribs during the beatings. Four days I couldn't eat because of this," he said.
He received hints on Friday that he would be released, and yesterday he was abruptly transferred to local Afghan authorities and then onward to the Red Cross... (link)
- Feb 2008: A journalist working for a Canadian firm, imprisoned without rights, by our leading ally and neighbor, while rights organizations scream... No, no story there! Canadian media shuns one of their own.