As Mubarak Resigns, Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Mamdouh Habib Reminds the World that Omar Suleiman Personally Tortured Him in Egypt


Less than 24 hours since he delivered a pompous, reality-defying speech, insisting that he would stay in power until elections in September, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s dictator for 30 years, has stepped down, providing the first major victory for the people’s revolution in Egypt, now in its 18th day. In a brief announcement on Egyptian State TV, Omar Suleiman, the Vice President appointed by Mubarak just two weeks ago, indicated that he would not be assuming power personally, but would be handing control of the country to a military council.

I very much hope that this is the case, and that Suleiman will not try to keep control himself, as he is, if anything, an even more hated and hateful figure than the 82-year old Mubarak, as was explained today in a timely article in The Australian. In the article, Mamdouh Habib, the former Guantánamo prisoner who received a financial settlement from the Australian government last year for its role in rendering him to Egypt, where he was tortured prior to his transfer to Guantánamo, forcefully reminded the world why any transfer of power to Omar Suleiman would be disastrous for the people’s revolution, which must continue to call for nothing less than the removal of every aspect of Mubarak regime from the corridors of power.

As Egypt’s intelligence chief, Suleiman’s crucial role in torture has been exposed by a handful of perceptive journalists, who have pointed out — ever since Mubarak appointed him as Vice President — that he was in charge of the torture regime that has terrified Egyptians throughout Mubarak’s 30-year reign, and that, in addition, played a major role in radicalizing the Islamists who went on to form the core of al-Qaeda.

As has also been noted, and as I explained in my articles Revolution in Egypt – and the Hypocrisy of the US and the West and As Egyptians Call for Mubarak’s Fall, He Appoints America’s Favorite Torturer as Vice President (in which I cross-posted an analysis of Suleiman’s torture history by Stephen Soldz), Suleiman played a crucial role in the unholy alliance between Egypt and the United States in the “War on Terror,” when an unknown number of prisoners, seized by the Americans, were rendered for torture in Egypt.

It has not yet been confirmed that Suleiman was personally involved in the torture of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the emir of a training camp in Afghanistan, who falsely confessed, under torture, that al-Qaeda was discussing the use of chemical and biological weapons with Saddam Hussein, but in 2006, the author Ron Suskind, in his book The One Percent Doctrine (which also first exposed the US government’s false claims about the supposed “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah), stated that Suleiman was directly involved in his torture, and it seems likely, given that Mamdouh Habib has stated that Suleiman was responsible for personally overseeing his own torture.

The importance of this cannot be overstated, as Suleiman, described by a former senior US intelligence official as having a “close and continuing” relationship with the CIA, would therefore be directly implicated in one of the most monstrous lies of the “War on Teror,” in which, whether by accident, or, more likely, by design, torture was deliberately inflicted not to protect the US and its allies from further terrorist attacks, but to provide a justification for the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Al-Libi, who was eventually returned to Libya, where he died in mysterious circumstances in May 2009, later recanted his tortured lies about the connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, but not before Colin Powell had presented the fruits of his torture as evidence of the need to invade Iraq during a crucial presentation to the UN Security Council in February 2003.

Mamdouh Habib, who was kidnapped from a bus in Pakistan in October 2001, and suspected of involvement in terrorism because he had allegedly been in contact with supporters of the jailed Egyptian terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh”) was also tortured (subjected to electric shocks, nearly drowned, beaten, and hung from metal hooks) until he made a false confession — in his case, that he had personally trained some of the 9/11 hijackers. Although this lie was also patently untrue, the Bush administration was prepared to put him on trial at Guantánamo until Dana Priest and Dan Eggen of the Washington Post revealed the story of his torture in January 2005, and he was immediately released.

Speaking to the Australian, Habib explained that “it would be a disgrace if Mr. Suleiman became leader of Egypt given his personal role in overseeing the torture of terror suspects” from the mid-1990s onwards, when, under President Clinton, the US first started sending kidnapped terror suspects to Egypt, to be tortured. disappeared and/or tried and executed. In The Dark Side, Jane Mayer described how the program began — and how crucial Suleiman was to its development:

Each rendition was authorised at the very top levels of both governments … The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top [CIA] officials. [Former US Ambassador to Egypt Edward] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognisant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way.”

Technically, US law required the CIA to seek “assurances” from Egypt that rendered suspects wouldn’t face torture. But under Suleiman’s reign at the EGIS [the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, or Mukhabarat el-Aama], such assurances were considered close to worthless. As Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer [and head of the al-Qaeda desk], who helped set up the practise of rendition, later testified, even if such “assurances” were written in indelible ink, “they weren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”

Reinforcing these claims, Mamdouh Habib told the Australian, “This guy is an agent for the United States and the CIA. If Australia supports Suleiman, they are supporting torture and crime.” As the Australian described it, Habib said that, after he was rendered to Egypt, “Mr Suleiman helped torture him,” and explained that, in his book, My Story: The Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn’t, Habib “wrote that Mr. Suleiman had often been present during his interrogations.”

The following passages are taken from the article in the Australian:

“I was sitting in a chair, hooded, with my hands handcuffed behind my back. He came up to me. His voice was deep and rough. He spoke to me in Egyptian and English,” Mr Habib writes. “He said, ‘Listen, you don’t know who I am, but I am the one who has your life in his hands’.”

Mr Habib writes that Mr Suleiman had told him that he wanted him to die a slow death: “No, I don’t want you to die now. I want you to die slowly. I can’t stay with you; my time is too valuable to stay here. You only have me to save you. I’m your saviour. You have to tell me everything if you want to be saved. What do you say?”

When Mr Habib said he had nothing to tell him, he says Mr Suleiman had said: “You think I can’t destroy you just like that?”

They had taken Mr Habib to another room and then Mr Suleiman had said: “Now you are going to tell me that you planned a terrorist attack. I give you my word you will be a rich man if you tell me you have been planning attacks. Don’t you trust me?”

Mr Habib had replied that he did not trust anyone.

“Immediately he slapped me hard across the face and knocked off the blindfold; I clearly saw his face,” Mr Habib writes.

Mr Habib alleges Mr Suleiman said: “That’s it. That’s it. I don’t want to see this man again until he co-operates and tells me he’s been planning a terrorist attack.”

When you think that a similar process must also have taken place with Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, whose death in a Libyan prison in May 2009 suited three parties — the US, the Libyans, and the Egyptians, who had been somewhat humiliated by the revelations of his tortured lies — it becomes horrifically clear that the last person who should be anywhere close to a position of power in Egypt is the CIA’s most trusted foreign torturer.

Suleiman, like Mubarak, must go — and in his wake, those seeking an end to Egypt’s torture regime, and accountability for America’s repulsive alliance with the Mubarak regime in the torture program at the heart of the “War on Terror,” must focus not only on Omar Suleiman, but also on those who were feeding on the tortured lies emanating from Egypt’s dungeons — former US President George W. Bush, and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Note: On March 10, 2011, this article, which I wrote for free, was sponsored — for $50 — by a friend and supporter, George Kenneth Berger. This was an initative I launched during my quarterly fundraising appeal, as a way of trying to raise money to cover what I described as “the otherwise unpaid hours I spend writing the many articles that are published exclusively here.” I like it as a model for supporting bloggers, who often write for nothing (in between paid assignments, if they’re lucky!), and I’m grateful to George for picking up on it. It is, I hasten to add, a permanent offer!

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

34 Responses

  1. Tweets that mention As Mubarak Resigns, Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Mamdouh Habib Reminds the World that Omar Suleiman Personally Tortured Him in Egypt | Andy Worthington -- says...

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andy Worthington, ChrisTEngle, سلوى – كلام في العظم, reemao8, joseph warner and others. joseph warner said: As Mubarak Resigns, Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Mamdouh Habib Reminds …: It has not yet been confirmed that Suleima… […]

  2. Important As Mubarak Resigns, Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Mamdouh Habib Reminds the World says...

    […] […]

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Carl Clark wrote:

    Mubarak and his regime, correct Andy!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Magnuson wrote:

    Shared, Andy; thanks!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Zahara Ali wrote:

    Thanks Andy, shared.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Clean sweep.
    I hope Suleiman will fear the people of Egypt. It’s time for him to have a taste of his own medicine.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Azza Mahrous wrote:

    But we’ve only taken the first few steps on what can only be a long, hard road.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Jabril Mujahid-Alexander wrote:

    I am one of those people who do not trust Military Governments; I am praying that the people of Egypt don’t celebrate too much. As they say in the country, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’ll share this one too, at once.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Aneta Jerska wrote:

    shared! 🙂

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Umm Amina Ned wrote:


  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, many thanks, just posting from Antony Loewenstein:
    So that’s what being a good Western ally means
    In case we actually needed any further proof of his unfitness for public life:
    “Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman promised Israel in 2005 that he would prevent Hamas from gaining control over Gaza, according to a US diplomatic cable released on Friday.
    According to the cable, which was leaked to WikiLeaks and published by Norweigan newspaper Aftenposten, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, secretly visited Suleiman, then the head of Egyptian intelligence, in September 2005. Gilad then reported on the visit to US diplomats in Tel Aviv.
    Gilad and Suleiman discussed their common fear of Hamas winning the Palestinian elections set for January 2006.”

    He promised Israel he could rig the Gaza elections!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Akkas Abdul-Hakeem Al-Ali wrote:

    i thought OS had refused power…

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger ‎wrote:

    Akkas I heard something similar from a FB friend, but she was not clear. Anyhow, who knows what will be going on behind the scenes?

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Kunle Balogun wrote:

    I want to believe, this is a means to an end and not an end itself. the struggle continue. those who worked to support the abuse of human rights will never no peace

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, everyone. I guess the truth right now is that we’re not entirely sure where Suleiman stands. It seems that power is now in the hands of the military, as Suleiman announced on TV that Mubarak had “decided to step down from the office of president of the republic” and had “charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country,” but we still need to hear more from the high council about exactly what is planned, as Suleiman in theory is a member of the council, although as Ahram Online reported today:

    Maj. Gen. Safwat El-Zayat, a former senior official of Egypt’s General Intelligence and member of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs, asserted, in an interview with Ahram Online, that the address delivered by President Mubarak last night was formulated against the wishes of the armed forces, and away from their oversight. He claimed that Vice Preisdent Omar Suleiman’s address, which came on the heels of Mubarak’s address, was equally in defiance of the armed forces and away from its oversight.

    Attributing this information to his own sources within the Egyptian military, Maj. Gen. El-Zayat said there was now a deep cleavage between the armed forces, represented in its Supreme Council, and the Presidential authority, represented in both President Mubarak and his Vice President, Omar Suleiman.

    According to El-Zayat, communiqué #2 issued this morning by the Supreme Armed Forces Council was not, as many people in Egypt and elsewhere understood it, an affirmation of the addresses of Mubarak and Suleiman, but rather an attempt to avoid an open conflict, while at the same time underlining that the army will act as guarantor for the transition to full democracy. He adivced that people should listen carefully to the anticipated communique #3.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Susan Hall wrote:

    Thank you Andy. I can so depend on knowing important information from you. As we see the victory in Egypt, we do need to WORK with each other. – I reposted your top comment & article.

  18. The Insane Reign of Count Mubarak Ends « KADAITCHA says...

    […] Live report: Wave of joy sweeps across Egypt Toppling the Autocrat Egypt’s lessons for Palestine Middle East: Human rights must not be cast aside amid Middle East politics Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Hosni Mubarak Egypt’s Mubarak resigns as leader As Mubarak Resigns, Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Mamdouh Habib Reminds the World that Omar Suleiman Perso… […]

  19. Franz Kurz says...

    Goethe: “Nothing is inside, nothing is outside; for what is inside, which is outside”

    Base to what I’ve written in Prison and the Character of Nations in August 2010

    You’ll find chapter C. Cleaning the Temple and we’ll realize it will take time cleaning Egypt’s nation best possible with the help of nations who have less problems with the justice system at home following Matthew 7: 1-6.

    I recently distributed my considerations and included in a postscript my opinion related to Bradley Manning. It pleases me when I read that some US citizen think similar to myself on these matters. Meanwhile even thoughts become global players! – Right, when Ralf Lopes in his heading writes WE ARE one may understand it as an answer on Samuel P. Huntington’s question in book WHO ARE WE from 2004.
    – Ralph Lopez; Dec 16, 2010 : We Are Bradley Manning
    – Joshua Holland, Dec 23, 2010: Bradley Manning Suffering Extreme Isolation Prison Torture by Our Goverment — Courageous Whistleblower ‘Physically Deteriorating’
    Bradley Manning is suffering inhumane isolation in prison that numerous experts say is a form of real torture.
    – Ewen MacAskill, Dec 23, 2010, UN to investigate treatment of jailed leaks suspect Bradley
    – John Grant, Dec 25, 2010: They’re “Slow Torturing” Bradley Manning Right Under Our Noses
    – Mary Shaw, Dec 27, 2010: Bradley Manning’s Pre-Trial Punishment

  20. Dance For Peace » Blog Archive » US Hubris and Lack of Professional Journalists in Corporate Media says...

    […] a word about Suleiman’s record as torturer, and here, nor a hint of what the people of Egypt wanted.  What right has the US government or president in […]

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    On Digg, cosmicsurfer wrote:

    I cried as I watched the people of Egypt prove to the world that massive change can be made without violence (on their part) and with hope and perseverance.
    It was truly beautiful
    It is NOT for the outside world to determine their fate but it is for the world to support their freedom and self-determination…The freedom of all men and women and children to live without fear and reprisal.
    Suleiman has proven to be no more than a psychopath will little respect for the people of Egypt and only a desire for power, it seems, at any cost.
    Let the people of Egypt see what Suleiman is and support their desire to be better and to do better than what he represents.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Well said, cosmicsurfer! It was indeed beautiful and inspirational — toppling a dictator after 18 days, and essentially without violence!

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Umm Zain wrote:

    thanx andy for ur detailed info abt Egypts current situation. May god bless you for your incredible work for the rights of the people on a global scale.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Umm Zain. Much appreciated.

  25. Battle for Britain: Fighting the Coalition Government’s Vile Ideology — and Praise for UK Uncut | says...

    […] to the Egyptian revolution’s extraordinary toppling of the dictator Mubarak, the people’s occupation of the country’s public spaces, the workers’ strikes and the array […]

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Boeykens wrote:

    Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman is a CIA-agent who worked hand-in-glove with the CIA’s counterterrorism programs. Eric Holder, Obama’s Attorney General, was the first Department of Justice official to write a legal brief authorizing the rendition of alleged terrorists from third countries by the CIA to Egypt for purposes of interrogation and torture.
    In 1993, Suleiman ordered his intelligence service to conduct a “census” of all “Arab-Afghans” living in Peshawar, PAKISTAN, and surrounding areas. They were all veterans of the CIA mujaheddin war against the Soviets in Afghanistan — Egyptians, Libyans, Yemenis, Jordanians, Palestinians, Algerians, Sudanese, Bahrainis, Tunisians. The census database soon contained thousands of names and Suleiman and his colleague, Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal, added additional names of Pakistani and Afghan supporters of such Islamist groups as Harkatul Ansar and Ahl al-Hadith.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you very much for both of those very valuable pieces of information — about Eric Holder, and about the Arab census in Pakistan. I had not heard either before.


    […] allo straordinario rovesciamento del dittatore Mubarak dittatore Mubarak da parte della rivoluzione egiziana, all’occupazione dei luoghi pubblici del paese, gli scioperi […]

  29. Egypt: Some Progress On Release Of Political Prisoners Eurasia Review says...

    […] Mubarak’s choice as Vice President, who was deeply committed to the “War on Terror,” being personally involved in the torture of prisoners rendered to Egypt by the CIA. Despite the seal of approval from Mubarak, however, Suleiman was sidelined by the Supreme Council […]

  30. Credibility Gap | The World Around You says...

    […] Mubarak’s regime. For it imprisoned, tortured and killed countless Egyptians. Its record includes collaboration in the torture of people abducted from other parts of the world in the CIA’s “war on terror” […]

  31. Credibility Gap « Reflections – Deepak Tripathi's Diary says...

    […] Mubarak’s regime. For it imprisoned, tortured and killed countless Egyptians. Its record includes collaboration in the torture of people abducted from other parts of the world in the CIA’s “war on terror” […]

  32. A Call from Egypt for Solidarity and Support for the Unfinished Revolution « Stop Making Sense says...

    […] their lives — and sometimes losing their lives — in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt to topple the hated Western-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, and to demand fundamental political change, I have not devoted as much time as I would have liked […]

  33. Battle for Britain: Fighting the Coalition Government’s Vile Ideology — and Praise for UK Uncut | Dandelion Salad says...

    […] to the Egyptian revolution’s extraordinary toppling of the dictator Mubarak, the people’s occupation of the country’s public spaces, the workers’ strikes and the array […]

  34. Torture and Terrorism: In the Middle East It’s 2011, In America It’s Still 2001 – Dandelion Salad says...

    […] overseeing the brutal torture of terror suspects seized by the CIA, including the Australian Mamdouh Habib, the Pakistani scholar Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, and the Libyan Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the emir […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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