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Terrorism Suspect Moves to Suppress Statements Made to FBI due to Torture Threats

Terrorism Suspect Moves to Suppress Statements Made to FBI due to Torture Threats

by Matt Clarke

A former British citizen with ties to the U.S.-designated terrorist group al-Shabaab asked a court to suppress statements he gave to FBI agents on the grounds that he was illegally pressured into making them after facing threats of torture by local authorities in the eastern African nation of Djibouti, where he and two co-defendants were arrested.

Madhi Hashi, 25, was accused “of conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab, ... providing material support to al-Shabaab, and with using firearms during and in relation to violent crimes.” The Somali-born Hashi was arrested on August 4, 2012 along with Ali Yasin Ahmed, 30, and Mohamed Yusuf, 32, on the terrorism-related charges; they were later extradited to the United States to face federal prosecution.

Hashi said he was repeatedly threatened with physical and sexual abuse if he did not “cooperate with the Americans” following his arrest. He also alleged that in interrogations first conducted by Djiboutian law enforcement authorities, he witnessed Ahmed being hung “upside down from his ankles. He was gagged, blindfolded and beaten.” Hashi claimed he could hear other prisoners being beaten and tortured.

Further, Hashi said, he was blindfolded when removed from his cell, interrogated after being forced to strip to his underwear and told of how his co-defendants were being “raped and beaten.”

“I feared that my refusal to cooperate would result in physical torture and sexual abuse,” he stated in an affidavit.

In his U.S. District Court filing, Hashi said he was “interrogated for several days after his arrest by Djiboutian law enforcement and subsequently by a group consisting of Djiboutians and Americans, who [he] believed were representatives from the Joint Special Operations Command or the CIA.” During that time, Hashi alleged that he and his co-defendants were held in a “secret government facility located in Djibouti City, Djibouti ... under extremely harsh conditions, and without ever having been informed of any of his rights.”

“On many occasions, Mr. Hashi was subjected to physically and psychologically abusive treatment with an aim of obtaining compliance and extracting additional information,” his attorneys wrote. “Furthermore, at no time prior to or during these interrogations was Mr. Hashi given Miranda warnings and at no time did he waive his rights.”

Three weeks later FBI agents arrived to conduct a new round of questioning, and even though they advised Hashi of his right to remain silent, he argued that any statements he made should be suppressed because those warnings “failed to overcome the ‘presumption of coercion’” they were “designed to dispel.” Hashi said that during the FBI questioning, “each session was attended by one of the Djiboutian agents who either participated in beatings or who threatened [him] with abuse.”

“A cynic would say it’s easier to get a conviction under spurious evidence in the United States than anywhere else,” said Asim Qureshi, executive director of CagePrisoners, a British human rights organization. CagePrisoners has advocated for Hashi, claiming the case against him was too weak to support prosecution in a European court. “Just alleging somebody is a member of al-Shabaab won’t get you very far in the U.K.,” Qureshi noted. “A judge would just throw out the case before it even gets started.”

Transporting terrorism suspects to the U.S. remains problematic. Congress and the Obama administration continue to wrangle over the legal pathway for bringing suspects arrested overseas to American shores – and courts. Hashi and his co-defendants were transported to New York in November 2012 and held in secret detention until the charges against them were made public more than a month later.

Hashi’s attorneys filed a motion to suppress his post-arrest statements on September 16, 2014. Although federal prosecutors had argued in previous court pleadings that Hashi made his statements voluntarily and they were therefore admissible at trial, in response to the motion they indicated they “will not introduce any of the disputed [post-arrest] statements for any purposes.” Therefore, the district court denied the motion to suppress as moot.

On May 12, 2015, Hashi, Ahmed and Yusuf pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; their sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 25, 2015. See: United States v. Hashi, U.S.D.C. (E.D. NY), Case No. 1:12-cr-00661-JG-LB.

Additional sources: Washington Post,


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Related legal case

United States v. Hashi