Families of the disappeared demand answers


By Robert Fisk

08 August 2002



http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia_china/story.jsp?story=322525



They came for Hussain Abdul Qadir on 25 May. According

to his wife, there were three American agents from the

FBI and 25 men from the local Pakistani CID. The

Palestinian family had lived in the Pakistani city of

Peshawar for years and had even applied for

naturalisation.



But this was not a friendly visit to their home in

Hayatabad Street. "They broke our main gate and came

into the house without any respect," Mrs Abdul Qadir

was to report later to the director of human rights at

Pakistan's Ministry of Law and Justice in Islamabad.



"They blindfolded my husband and tied his hands behind

his back. They searched everything in the house ? they

took our computer, mobile phone and even our land-line

phone. They took video and audio cassettes. They took

all our important documents ? our passports and other

certificates ? and they took our money too," she said.



Where, Mrs Abdul Qadir asked Ahsan Akhtar, the

director of human rights, was her husband? The

Independent has now learnt exactly where he is ? he is

a prisoner in a cage on the huge American air base at

Bagram in Afghanistan. He was kidnapped ? there

appears to be no other word for it ? by the Americans

and simply flown over the international frontier from

Pakistan. His "crime" is unknown. He has no lawyers to

defend him. In the vacuum of the US "war on terror",

Mr Abdul Qadir has become a non-person.



His wife has now received a single sheet of paper from

the Red Cross which gives no geographical location for

the prisoner but lists his nationality as

"Palastainian" (sic) and the following message in

poorly written Arabic: "To the family and children in

Peshawar. I am well and need, first and foremost,

God's mercy and then your prayers. Take care of your

faith and be kind to the little ones. Could you send

me my reading glasses? Your father: Hussain Abdul

Qadir."



The sheet of paper is dated 29 June and the Red Cross

has confirmed that the prisoner ? ICRC number AB7

001486-01 ? was interviewed in Bagram.



Needless to say, the Americans will give no

information about their prisoners or the reasons for

their detention. They will not say whether their

interrogators are Afghan or American ? there are

increasing rumours that Afghan interrogators are

allowed to beat prisoners in the presence of CIA men ?

or if, or when, they intend to release their captives.

Indeed, the Americans will not even confirm that

prisoners have been seized in Pakistan and taken

across the Afghan border.



Fatima Youssef has also complained to the Pakistani

authorities that her Syrian husband, Manhal al-Hariri

? a school director working for the Saudi Red Crescent

Society ? was seized on the same night as Mr Abdul

Qadir from their home in Peshawar, again by three

Americans and a group of Pakistani CID men.



"I have the right to ask where my husband is and to

know where they have taken him," she has written to

the Pakistani authorities. "I have the right to ask

for an appeal to release him now, after an

interrogation, I have the right to ask for the return

of the things which they took from my house."



An Algerian doctor, Bositta Fathi, was also taken that

same night by two Americans and Pakistani forces,

according to his wife. "I don't have any support and I

am not able to go anywhere without my husband," she

has told Mr Akhtar in Islamabad. Both Mr Hariri and Dr

Fathi are believed to be held at Bagram, which is now

the main American interrogation centre in Afghanistan.

"From there," one humanitarian worker told The

Independent, "you either get released or packed off to

Guantanamo. Who knows what the fate of these people is

or what they are supposed to have done? It seems that

it's all outside the law."



Many Arabs moved to Peshawar during the war against

the Russians in Afghanistan and remained there as

doctors or aid workers. The Abdul Qadirs, for example,

asked for naturalisation in January 1993 ? Mr Abdul

Qadir holds a Jordanian passport ? long before Osama

bin Laden returned to Afghanistan and founded his

al-Qa'ida movement.



"I don't know why all this happened to us because we

are Muslims and Arabs," Mrs Abdul Qadir says. "I want

to know about my husband. We will leave Pakistan if

the government wants us to leave. We will do anything

the government wants but in a human and civilised

manner."



* At least 15 people have been killed in a shoot-out

between Afghan police and what witnesses said was a

group of Arabs and Pakistanis south of Kabul

yesterday. Omar Samad, a foreign ministry spokesman

described the gang as "determined and suicidal". 




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