April 10, 2008 | On a recent trip to Amman, Jordan, during a visit to the home of someone who had been detained by the Jordanian intelligence service in 2002, I was given two very thin strips of paper covered with Arabic writing and marked with a thumbprint. Curled up into a tight spiral, they were no bigger than the cap of a pen. My contact, who had smuggled the papers out of intelligence detention a few years previously, told me that the message therein had been written by a prisoner who had been detained with him. He said it gave a detailed account of that person’s experiences.
That evening, in my hotel room, an Egyptian colleague translated the text, word for word. Stunned by its contents, I transcribed the message into electronic form and sent it into cyberspace for safekeeping. The message’s author was a Yemeni terrorism suspect named Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, who was arrested in Pakistan in February 2002. Though the message was undated, it was clear from the narrative that it had been written in October 2002.
Sharqawi said that he had been delivered to Jordan by the CIA. Unknown to the outside world, he was held as a secret prisoner by the Jordanian intelligence service: unregistered, cut off from all communication and hidden during visits by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In the note, which he managed to slip to my contact without his captors noticing, he gave what he called a “short summary of my sufferings.”
“They beat me up in a way that does not know mercy,” Sharqawi wrote, referring to his Jordanian captors, “and they’re still beating me. They threatened me with electricity, with snakes and dogs … [They said] we’ll make you see death.” [source]