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Attorney Says His Torturer Lives in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) - A Somalian human rights attorney says he was imprisoned and tortured at the command of a colonel in Somalia's National Security Service - and that the colonel is living in Ohio. Abukar Hassan Ahmed says he suffered lasting injuries after Col. Abdi Aden Magan had him imprisoned and tortured for 3 months for his human rights work.

Ahmed says he was a lawyer and law professor at the Somali National University in Mogadishu in 1981 when he was first imprisoned, "without charge," under the Siad Barre regime.

After Barre took control in a 1969 coup, Ahmed says, the dictator set up the National Security Service as the "Gestapo of Somalia."

"The Barre regime suspended the existing Constitution, closed the National Assembly, abolished the Supreme Court and declared all political parties illegal," according to the complaint.

Ahmed says Amnesty International deemed him a "prisoner of conscience," and campaigned on his behalf until he was released in 1986.

Upon regaining his freedom, Ahmed says, he continued to "teach his students about human rights protections," and began representing "accused political dissidents" through his law practice.

In November 1988, Ahmed says, he was arrested again, by NSS officers under Col. Magan's command. Ahmed says they confiscated an Amnesty International report he was carrying, and took him to a prison in an "unventilated basement," where he was held in solitary confinement for 3 months, with his left wrist constantly handcuffed to his right leg.

"He was placed on a starvation diet of rancid bread, butter and tea once a day. He was forced to sleep on cold or wet floors without a mat or blanket. There was no toilet in the cell. He was forced to discharge urine in empty milk cans," according to the complaint.

Ahmed says the NSS officers interrogated him "day and night" and accused him of writing for Amnesty International. They threatened to kill him if he did not confess, Ahmed says.

He says that in February 1989, at Magan's orders, he was brought outside, with his hands and feet tied together.

"His legs were pushed back over his head, exposing his genitals. His testicles were squeezed with iron instruments, causing him excruciating pain. A five liter container of water, sand and small stones was forced into his mouth, cutting off his air supply. He fainted. When he regained consciousness, he was beaten with sticks," the complaint states.

Ahmed says that in March 1989, he endured a "sham trial" without an attorney, was eventually charged with "possession of subversive materials" and was fined 15,000 Somali shillings.

After he was released, he returned to practicing and teaching law, but he says Col. Magan had NSS officers relentlessly pursue and question him. Ahmed fled Somalia and found refuge in the United Kingdom - where he is now a naturalized citizen - after spending five years as a researcher in Italy, with Amnesty's help, he says.

As a result of his tortures, Ahmed says, he suffers from "hipbone distortion," and is unable sit down for long, and serious bladder damage which caused incontinence. He says he feels pain all over his body, cannot sleep well and "has recurrent nightmares about his torture."

After the Barre regime disintegrated, Col. Magan fled from Somalia as well, and arrived in the United States in 2000, according to the complaint.

Ahmed says he did not bring action against Magan previously because he feared for the safety of his family in Somalia.

Ahmed demands damages from Magan for torture, cruel treatment and arbitrary detention in violation of international law under the Alien Tort Statute.

His lead counsel is Tiffany Smith with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld of Washington, D.C. Co-counsel is the Center for Justice & Accountability in San Francisco.

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