Source: The East African
Monday, July 17, 2000
Odeh Withdraws Torture Complaint
By KEVIN KELLEY
ONE OF the defendants in the East African embassy bombings case asked recently that his confession of guilt be annulled as trial evidence because Kenyan authorities had threatened to torture and kill him during interrogation.
The claim of psychological coercion was contained in a court affidavit filed on July 11 by attorneys representing Mohammed Sadeek Odeh. Now in custody in New York and awaiting trial next January, Odeh is accused of helping plan the 1998 the twin bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that killed 224 people and wounded 5,000 others.
But, in a confounding development, Odeh told his attorneys, after they had submitted the affidavit, that he wants it withdrawn.
Anthony Ricco, one of three lawyers representing Odeh, said he would comply with his client’s instructions on July 14. Odeh, a Muslim with Jordanian citizenship, decided for religious reasons that the affidavit must be removed from the case record, Ricco said.
In the July 11 court filing, the defendant maintained that a US prosecutor and a team of FBI agents had overseen his questioning in Nairobi during a 12-day period in August 1998. Odeh added that the Americans occasionally left him alone with Kenyan interrogators “who threatened to torture and kill me”.
“I felt I had no choice but to sign the paper giving up my rights,” Odeh told trial Judge Leonard Sand in the July 11 court filing.
The Kenya embassy in Washington would not respond specifically to Odeh’s allegations. But in a written statement, the embassy conceded that some Kenyan law enforcement personnel had been implicated in abusive treatment of detainees.
The Kenya Constitution expressly prohibits subjection of any person to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment, the embassy said. The government does not condone torture or other ill treatment of individuals, it added.
Odeh’s questioning in Nairobi began after he was flown there from Pakistan following a week-long interrogation in that country. He had been arrested upon arrival at an airport in Pakistan on Aug. 7, 1998, the day of the twin embassy attacks. No Americans were present during his seven days of questioning by Pakistani authorities, Odeh said in the affidavit.
During his detention in Pakistan, according to this week’s affidavit, Odeh was similarly “subjected to violence, threats of torture, psychological coercion, sleep deprivation, and other inhumane conditions.”
A spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Washington was more explicit than the Kenyans in denying Odeh’s allegations. They are false and baseless, a Pakistan press attacheÚ told The New York Times.
Along with the five other men held in New York in connection with the embassy blasts, Odeh has previously pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, he will face a term of life imprisonment. United States prosecutors had considered seeking the death penalty against Odeh, but have reportedly decided to bring capital charges against only two of his co-defendants.
The withdrawal of Odeh’s complaints of torture at the hands of Kenyan and Pakistani interrogators suggests that the admissions he made in the aftermath of the bombings will be admitted in court as evidence against him.
He is alleged by US prosecutors to have confessed to involvement in the attacks as well as to membership in al Qaeda, the international terrorist network commanded by Osama bin Laden.