Suleiman Abdallah’s abduction and torture should be a cautionary tale of how individuals are abused when there are few checks and constraints on security services and governments.
The Nation explains:
“In fact, Suleiman never arrived in the United States, and none of the authorities ever disclosed his whereabouts. Suleiman joined the growing list of disappeared prisoners held at undisclosed locations with no access to a lawyer, tracked by a handful of global NGOs.
As in other countries caught in US crosshairs following the attacks of September 11, 2001, a bounty system emerged in Somalia in 2002, whereby people were captured by local warlords and sold to the CIA as “terror suspects” in return for cash. In lawless Somalia, anyone without local protection is highly vulnerable; as with many others, the main operating factor in Suleiman’s abduction appears to have been that he was a foreigner with few local connections.
As East Africa’s quiet war on terror became an increasing focus of my work, Suleiman’s file grew steadily more intriguing. Shuttled through the global system of secret US prisons, he remained mostly invisible. His name appeared in the margins of a confession barred by a Kenyan court in 2005 for having been obtained through torture. A 2007 report from West Point suggested that upon capture Suleiman was initially presented to the CIA as Fazul Mohammed, a Comorian terror suspect who was eventually killed by Somali police in Mogadishu last year. Elsewhere, media reports confirmed that as a young man, Suleiman’s nickname was “Travolta” because of his love of dancing.
But I still had no idea where Suleiman was being held. My questions probing his whereabouts evoked only blank faces from the former US prisoners I interviewed around the world. Finally, in 2008 I learned “off record” that Suleiman was being held at Bagram by American troops. About a year later, I discovered that he had been released. I arranged to visit him at his home on the Indian Ocean. “