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Query:

1. What is the probability that an individual who has been connected in the press to two 9/11 hijackers but who has been cleared by the U.S. government would be detained/tortured/harassed by the governments of Yemen or Saudi Arabia if deported to either of those countries?

2. Have any NGOs reported any instances of individuals connected to 9/11 being detained/tortured/harassed upon return to Middle Eastern countries?

3. Have there been any media reported instances of individuals connected to 9/11 being detained/tortured/harassed upon return to middle eastern countries?

4. Has Human Rights Watch, or any other comparable NGO, made any official recommendations that individuals who have been questioned in connection with 9/11 not be returned to certain countries because they would be subjected to persecution?

Response:

BACKGROUND

The RIC was unable to locate any reported instances of torture of suspected members of al Qaeda after being returned to either Saudi Arabia or Yemen. Neither Human Rights Watch nor Amnesty International has reported on any specific incidents where suspected al Qaeda members were tortured upon their return to any Middle Eastern country, and the RIC was unable to locate any such reports among any of the other human rights organizations or news reports. The RIC was unable to locate official recommendations by any international human rights monitoring organization that individuals who have been questioned in connection with 9/11 not be returned to certain countries because they would be subjected to persecution.

The RIC will periodically monitor reporting on this issue and will submit additional information, as appropriate.

RETURN TO SAUDI ARABIA OF SUSPECTED AL QAEDA MEMBERS OR INDIVIDUALS LINKED TO THE 9/11 TERRORIST HIJACKINGS

In their 2002 annual report on observance and monitoring of human rights around the world, Human Rights Watch indicates that it would be difficult to follow up on treatment of individuals returned to Saudi Arabia (HRW 2002a). The report states:

"Saudi Arabia remained one of the [Middle East] region's embarrassing wastelands [in 2001] with respect to an openly functioning network of independent human rights lawyers, other activists, and institutions. As a result, victims of abuse and their supporters were left isolated and vulnerable, and the timely documentation of rights violations was exceedingly difficult. International human rights organizations were not granted access during the year, and foreign journalists based in the country rarely investigated and reported allegations of abuse" (HRW 2002a).

RELATED INCIDENTS OF RETURN TO SAUDI ARABIA OF SUSPECTED TERRORISTS OR COLLABORATORS

On 13 August 2002, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on the return from Iran to Saudi Arabia of 16 individuals (a later AFP report indicates only 14 were returned) based upon their suspected membership in al Qaeda (AFP 13 Aug 2002).

A subsequent AFP report on 11 September 2002 states that six of the returned individuals were released as Saudi officials found they had no links to al Qaeda. The report states that at that time the remaining men were "being interrogated" (AFP 11 Sep 2002).

There is no indication in either AFP report as to whether any of the 14 returnees were tortured by Saudi Arabian authorities. Both articles are attached.

Another incident involves not a suspected member of al Qaeda, but rather an individual who was thought to have information about the bombing of the Khobar Towers military barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. In 1997, Saudi citizen Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh was arrested in Canada and transferred to the U.S.. The U.S. deported him to Saudi Arabia in 1999. Information on this case is attached (AIUSA 7, 13 1999; AIUSA 22 Oct 1999; HRW 5 Oct 1999; USDOJ 11 Oct 1999).

Amnesty International issued two "Urgent Action" appeals on Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh citing the organization's fears that he would be subjected to torture and/or the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Both documents are attached (AIUSA 7, 13 1999; AIUSA 22 Oct 1999).

The first Urgent Action released 7 October 1999 and re-issued on 13 October 1999 states: "Hani el-Sayegh was handed over to the government of Saudi Arabia by the US authorities on 11 October 1999. He was arrested immediately on arrival, and his whereabouts are now unknown. Amnesty International is concerned that he is at risk of torture, and at risk of execution after an unfair trial" (AIUSA 7, 13 Oct 1999).

In its 22 October 1999 update to the first Urgent Action, Amnesty International stated: "Hani el-Sayegh is now known to be held in al-Hair prison, and is reported to be in good health. His family were allowed to visit him for the first time on 19 October" (AIUSA 22 Oct 1999). An October 2001 Washington Post article cites an unnamed U.S. government official in stating: [Mr. el-Sayegh]...was not executed and is in jail..." (WP 21 Oct 2001).

In yet another incident, Osama Yousef Basnan, accused of passing money from the wife of the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. to two of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, was deported along with his wife from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia in November 2002. There has been no indication in press reports that Basnan or his wife have been harmed in Saudi Arabia since their return. Several news articles on this issue are attached (FoxNews 23 Nov 2002; SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE 22 Oct 2002; SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS 25 Nov 2002; THE TIMES (London) 27 Nov 2002).

RETURN TO YEMEN OF SUSPECTED AL QAEDA MEMBERS

The Human Rights Watch 2002 annual report for Yemen states the following:

"In October [2002], [governmental security forces] detained Abd al-Salam Nur ad-Din Hamad and Ahmad Saif, two visiting academics affiliated to the Centre for Red Sea Studies at Exeter University in the United Kingdom. During the two-day detention, they were blindfolded and beaten while being interrogated about 'spying for foreign powers, and maintaining a relationship with Osama bin Laden, Israel and the separatists,' the latter referring to the 1994 southern Yemeni effort to declare an independent state. Yemeni officials denied that they were ill-treated and justified the detentions as one of their 'preventive measures' following the September 11 attacks in the U.S." (HRW 2002b).

"Police and security forces detained suspected members of radical Islamist groups throughout [2001]; thirty-five were arrested in December, another thirteen in January, and fifteen in June. Further arrests were carried out in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and by late October, the Yemen Times reported, several hundred 'Afghan Arabs' (Islamists who had returned after spending time in Afghanistan) had been picked up for questioning in Sana'a, Taizz, and Aden. Many were reportedly released within days, however. At least eight suspects in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole were still held without charge in November, most of whom had been held well beyond the maximum six-month period permitted under the criminal code of procedure" (HRW 2002b).

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References:

Agence France Presse (AFP). "Iran Confirms Extraditing Al-Qaeda Suspects to Saudi Arabia" (13 Aug 2002) [NEXIS]

Agence France Presse (AFP). "Riyadh Frees Six Al-Qaeda Suspects Extradited by Iran" (11 Sep 2002) [NEXIS]

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). FURTHER INFORMATION ON EXTRA 140/99 ISSUED 7 OCTOBER 1999 - FEAR OF TORTURE/FEAR OF DEATH PENALTY: SAUDI ARABIA, HANI EL-SAYEGH (Nederland, Colorado: 13 Oct 1999).

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). FURTHER INFORMATION ON EXTRA 140/99 ISSUED 7 OCTOBER 1999 AND RE-ISSUED 13 OCTOBER 1999 - FEAR OF DEATH PENALTY/UNFAIR TRIAL CONCERN: SAUDI ARABIA, HANI EL-SAYEGH (Nederland, Colorado: 22 Oct 1999).

FoxNews. "Saudi Links to Sept. 11 Not Probed Enough, Congress Says" (23 Nov 2002) [NEXIS]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). "Halt El Sayegh Deportation to Saudi Arabia: Saudi Promise Not to Torture Insufficient" (5 Oct 1999) http://www.hrw.org/press/1999/oct/saud1006.htm [Accessed 18 Dec 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). WORLD REPORT 2002. "Saudi Arabia"- (2002a) http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/mena7.html [Accessed 11 Dec 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). WORLD REPORT 2002. "Yemen" (2002b) http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/mena10.html [Accessed 11 Dec 2002]

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. "Couple Plead Guilty; To Be Deported to Saudi Arabia" (22 Oct 2002) [NEXIS]

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. "Saudis Bristle at Complaints They Are Soft on Terror" (25 Nov 2002) [NEXIS]

THE TIMES (London). "U.S. Says Saudis 'Could Do More' on Terror Funding" (27 Nov 2002) [NEXIS]

U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ). HANI EL-SAYEGH DEPORTED TO SAUDI ARABIA (11 Oct 1999) http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/1999/October/473ag.htm

WASHINGTON POST (WP). "The Government's Round-about Admission of Torture: 'Silence of 4 Terror Probe Suspects Poses Dilemma' " (21 Oct 2001) [NEXIS]

Attachments:

Agence France Presse (AFP). "Iran Confirms Extraditing Al-Qaeda Suspects to Saudi Arabia" (13 Aug 2002) [NEXIS]

Agence France Presse (AFP). "Riyadh Frees Six Al-Qaeda Suspects Extradited by Iran" (11 Sep 2002) [NEXIS]

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). FURTHER INFORMATION ON EXTRA 140/99 ISSUED 7 OCTOBER 1999 - FEAR OF TORTURE/FEAR OF DEATH PENALTY: SAUDI ARABIA, HANI EL-SAYEGH (Nederland, Colorado: 13 Oct 1999).

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). FURTHER INFORMATION ON EXTRA 140/99 ISSUED 7 OCTOBER 1999 AND RE-ISSUED 13 OCTOBER 1999 - FEAR OF DEATH PENALTY/UNFAIR TRIAL CONCERN: SAUDI ARABIA, HANI EL-SAYEGH (Nederland, Colorado: 22 Oct 1999).

FoxNews. "Saudi Links to Sept. 11 Not Probed Enough, Congress Says" (23 Nov 2002) [NEXIS]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). "Halt El Sayegh Deportation to Saudi Arabia: Saudi Promise Not to Torture Insufficient" (5 Oct 1999) http://www.hrw.org/press/1999/oct/saud1006.htm [Accessed 18 Dec 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). WORLD REPORT 2002. "Saudi Arabia" (2002a) http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/mena7.html [Accessed 11 Dec 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). WORLD REPORT 2002. "Yemen" (2002b) http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/mena10.html [Accessed 11 Dec 2002]

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. "Couple Plead Guilty; To Be Deported to Saudi Arabia" (22 Oct 2002) [NEXIS]

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. "Saudis Bristle at Complaints They Are Soft on Terror" (25 Nov 2002) [NEXIS]

THE TIMES (London). "U.S. Says Saudis 'Could Do More' on Terror Funding" (27 Nov 2002) [NEXIS]

U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ). HANI EL-SAYEGH DEPORTED TO SAUDI ARABIA (11 Oct 1999) http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/1999/October/473ag.htm

WASHINGTON POST (WP). "The Government's Round-about Admission of Torture: 'Silence of 4 Terror Probe Suspects Poses Dilemma' " (21 Oct 2001) [NEXIS]



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