kidnapping habib illegal: gonzales

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    Kidnapping Habib illegal: Gonzales
    By Marian Wilkinson
    January 8, 2005

    The White House legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, told the US Senate that the kidnapping of Sydney man, Mamdouh Habib, from Pakistan to Egypt where he was allegedly tortured would be illegal if US officials were involved.

    Mr Habib's case, which was prominently reported in The Washington Post, was raised during Senate hearings to debate Mr Gonzales's nomination by President George Bush to become the next Attorney-General. Asked by Senator Dick Durbin if it would be illegal for the US to take a prisoner and turn him over to a country that would torture him, Mr Gonzales said: "Under my understanding of the law, we have an obligation not to render someone to a country that we believe is going to torture them."

    Mr Habib, who is a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, claims that both US officials and an Australian were present at an airport in Pakistan when he was assaulted, photographed and bundled onto a plane to Egypt where he suffered severe torture for six months.

    A US court released documents on Wednesday based on interviews between Mr Habib and his US lawyer, Joe Margulies, that allege he endured horrific tortures in Egypt including electrocution, near drowning and beatings.

    Australia's Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, on Thursday tried to dismiss Mr Habib's claims that an Australian official was present when Mr Habib was assaulted at the Pakistan airport or that Australian authorities were aware he was being sent to Egypt.

    But Mr Habib's detailed description of the presence of an Australian official while his clothes were being removed and he was being photographed before being placed on an aircraft raises serious legal problems for the Australian Government.
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