A British accountant with a relief organization was just released from a 3-week detention by Israeli security forces in which he was subjected to physical and psychological abuse, intense interrogation and death threats, according to the British newspaper "The Observer".
Ayaz Ali returned home to Birmingham, England on Sunday, after being released from Israeli custody when a military tribunal determined he had done nothing wrong.
Ali arrived in Israel last December to direct aid efforts by Islamic Relief in Gaza and the West Bank. The Birmingham-based charity, which works with Britain’s Department for International Development, provides fortified milk for children, imports artificial limbs and runs education centres. He had been working for five months with no problems, but on the 9th of May, he was stopped by Israeli police as he drove from Gaza towards Jerusalem and told he was being detained in connection with terrorism. He was taken to a prison in Ashkelon where he was blindfolded, handcuffed, shackled and put in a cell measuring 6ft by 8ft.
Every day he was taken to an interrogation room to be questioned for up to 14 hours under bright lights by agents of Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, while handcuffed and shackled to a chair. When his interrogators deemed he was being co-operative, his handcuffs were removed; they were replaced when they believed he was not helpful.
‘They were brilliant at playing mind games. They said they knew everything about me and they had been watching me for five months. They knew my wife was expecting a baby, and told me I would never see my baby. I just tried to be completely honest,’ Ali said.
The interrogations were led by an aggressive man who was assisted by others who played a sympathetic role. ‘He told me that if he thought I was an imminent threat or knew about an imminent threat, he was prepared to kill me. I was in fear for my life,’ he said.
The main interrogator would scream at him within inches of his face, saying that at best he faced a long time in jail. Then the man would storm out, to be replaced by a more sympathetic colleague – in a classic ‘good cop/bad cop’ scenario. ‘I felt completely helpless, degraded and full of despair. They knew what they were doing and I would have kissed their feet if they asked me,’ he said.
Shin Bet confiscated Ali’s laptop computer and mobile phone, which provided most of the material for the interrogation. Several times it descended into farce as Ali was asked to explain mundane things the investigators had found. ‘They went through my phone’s address book and found "Derek the builder". I told them Derek was a handyman in Birmingham who did work for me, but they didn’t seem to understand the concept,’ he said.
After five days Ali was visited by a British embassy official. ‘The first question he asked me was, "Have they tortured you?" I told him they hadn’t physically harmed me. When it seemed the embassy was paying attention they went slightly easier on me.’
After the first week the interrogations became less intense as Shin Bet ran out of questions. ‘They asked me about Palestinians I knew in Britain, about other charities in Gaza and all the people I knew,’ he said. In his final week of captivity he was transferred to a police station where he was questioned again, but ‘in a friendly way’, before his release.
British-born Ali said it was unlikely he would return to Israel, and Islamic Relief was considering the possibility of legal action against the Israeli government for his false imprisonment.
The Israeli government, for its part, continued the harassment of the relief worker after his release, issuing a statement containing unsubstantiated claims implying that Ali was a neo-Nazi and a supporter of al-Qaeda — despite the fact that he had just been cleared of suspicion by an Israeli military court. A spokesperson for the British Department for International Development said it had no reason to believe there was any truth in the allegations against Ali or Islamic Relief.
*this article was sourced from observer.co.uk