An Oregon man is seeking asylum in Sweden, saying he was tortured while in the United Arab Emirates by interrogators cooperating with the FBI as it tried to investigate a Portland mosque.
Yonas Fikre says he was arrested in June and taken to an Abu Dhabi prison, where he was beaten, threatened and isolated during three months of detention. Fikre told reporters he was asked about the Masjid as-Sabr, spurring him to ask his interrogators whether they worked for the FBI.
The Associated Press quoted Fikre as saying that they first denied working with Americans, but later “when I was getting beaten, they did admit that the FBI knew exactly what was happening and they were working with the FBI."
The Portland mosque, which Fikre had attended, has been linked to suspects in two cases in the last decade: a 19-year-old who allegedly plotted to set off a bomb in Portland, and a group of seven people indicted for conspiring to wage war against the United States.
Fikre's case, originally reported by Mother Jones magazine, has been spotlighted by a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, which argues that it reflects a broader threat to the rights of American Muslims.
"This disturbing case fits a pattern of proxy detention in which American Muslims are detained in other nations or prevented from returning home in a manner that is clearly designed to circumvent their constitutional rights," theCouncil on American-Islamic Relationswrote to the Department of Justice.
A Portland FBI spokeswoman told the Associated Press that she could not discuss specifics of the case, but said agents were thoroughly trained about what was acceptable under U.S. law.Human rights activists say that such "proxy detention" echoes the practice of "extraordinary rendition," which involves transferring suspects for interrogation in countries that cooperate with the United States, and that it opens the door to torture.
In a videotaped interview released by his lawyers and shared online by Mother Jones, Fikre says that years earlier, while he was in Sudan, he was questioned about the mosque by men who identified themselves as FBI agents and told him he was on the federal no-fly list.
Fikre said they asked him to be an informant and he turned them down.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: Yonas Fikre describes his case in an interview released by his attorneys. Credit: Mother Jones