Yonas Fikre is one of several Muslims from the Portland, Oregon, area who have been stranded overseas by the FBI in an attempt to coerce them info becoming informants.
Yonas Fikre has since applied for political asylum from Sweden.
Additionally, in apparent retaliation according to his attorney Tom Nelson, Yonas Fikre has now been indicted for “structuring” money transfers to him while he was abroad.
Yahoo News: US Muslim: I was tortured at FBI’s behest in UAE (April 18 2012)
Fikre says that in April 2009 he was asked to go to the U.S. Embassy to discuss concerns about “safety and security” for U.S. citizens.
Instead, he claims, two FBI agents told him he was on the U.S. government no-fly list, and they could help get him off it if he gave them information about the Portland mosque and helped them with a “case” they were working on. Fikre says he declined.
Fikre says he traveled to Scandinavia to visit relatives, and then to the United Arab Emirates to pursue business possibilities with a friend who had moved there from Portland.
According to Fikre, non-uniformed police pulled him out of his Abu Dhabi neighborhood on June 1, 2011, and took him to a prison.
Fikre says he was held there for more than three months, with his captors asking him questions like those he was asked at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan — details about the Portland mosque.
He says one of the worst moments was when a U.S. Embassy representative visited him in the prison on July 28. He says he was warned by his interrogators not to tell the representative he was being beaten, or “hell would break loose.”
He said he tried to wink and signal to her that he was under duress, but she didn’t notice.
“She was the only person that I felt could get me out of that position at the moment because she is my representative to the outside world, she’s my representative to my embassy and she just left me there and she walked away,” Fikre said.
Toner confirmed State Department officials were granted access to meet with him on July 28.
“According to our records, during the July 28 visit, Mr. Fikre showed no signs of mistreatment and was in good spirits,” Toner said. “He reported that he had been treated professionally and was being well-fed, and did not have any medical conditions or concerns.”
Fikre says the beatings and interrogations continued, and that during the last days of his confinement an interrogator acknowledged the FBI had requested that he be detained.
The Local (SE): ‘Tortured’ US Muslim seeks asylum in Sweden (April 19 2012)
Yonas Fikre, a 33-year-old American Muslim, is currently in Sweden awaiting word on his application for political asylum after having been imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates where he claims he was tortured for 106 days at the request of American government agents.
“He told me to lie down on the floor and he started beating the soles of my feet,” he said in a video clip published on the YouTube channel of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group for American Muslims which has supported Fikre throughout his ordeal.
“This guy looked at me and said, ‘Look, your government doesn’t care about you. You’re in our hands now. You do what we tell you to do and you’ll get out of here as soon as possible. Otherwise you’re going to sit here for years and years to come and your government will never, ever find you.’”
Fikre’s problems first started back in 2009 while he was visiting Sudan and stem from his association with a mosque in Portland, Oregon in the western United States.
While he was in Sudan, Fikre, a naturalized US citizen from Eritrea who converted to Islam in 2003, was “harassed” by FBI agents from Portland looking for information about Portland’s Masjid as-Sabr mosque.
According to Fikre’s Swedish lawyer Hans Bredberg, the agents thought Fikre could help them learn more about the mosque, where Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali American charged with plotting the “Christmas tree bomb” attempt in 2010, had once worshiped.
“He refused to cooperate so they started harassing him,” Bredberg told The Local.
“I think these agents were sort of working on their own initiative, that it wasn’t officially sanctioned, but the FBI isn’t saying anything.”
Suddenly, Fikre found himself on the FBI’s “no-fly” list and unable to fly to the United States.
He then travelled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but the harassment continued, and on June 1st, 2011, Fikre was arrested and imprisoned, not to be released for another three months.
He claims to have been tortured for 106 days, in what he described to the AP news agency as the most isolating experience of his life.
In addition to having his bare feet beaten, Fikre claims to have been kicked and punched and sprayed with a fire hose.
“It wasn’t actual FBI agents who tortured him, they were private contractors,” said Bredberg, adding that the prison where his client was held was “a few hundred metres” from the US embassy.
When officials from the US embassy came to visit, Fikre was threatened by his interrogators that “all hell would break loose” if he hinted that he was being mistreated and was subsequently held even longer.
“This is a disturbing case. It fits a pattern of what we call proxy detention, where the American government has a US citizen detained and tortured overseas for information,” CAIR spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper told The Local, explaining the incident isn’t the first time an American Muslim has been detained and tortured in such circumstances.
“They do things to their prisoners that are illegal in America.”
Other links (arrest & torture in UAE, asylum in Sweden):
- Oregonian: Portland Muslim claims FBI involvement in his torture, detention overseas (April 17 2012)
- MSNBC: American seeks political asylum in Sweden, alleging torture, FBI coercion (April 18 2012)
- Salon: US Muslim: I was tortured at FBI’s behest in UAE (April 19 2012)
Other links (money transfer charges):
- Oregonian: Portland Muslim held overseas faces federal charges of money transfer violations (May 3 2012)
- Mother Jones: US Charges Yonas Fikre, American Who Claimed Torture, With Conspiracy (May 3 2012)
- Post-Intelligencer: Feds: Seattle man, purported torture victim illegally sent money to Sudan (May 3 2012)
- MSNBC: US files charges against American who alleged torture (May 7 2012)