THE SYRIAN PRISONERS
For all its condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad's human rights record, the United States appears to have had few qualms about sending terrorism suspects to Damascus. Although Almalki, Arar, and El-Maati have been released, seven prisoners whom the United States rendered to Syria remain missing. In interviews with journalist Stephen Grey, Almalki named six of them as his fellow prisoners in the underground cells at the Palestine Branch.
The first detained was Muhammad Haydar Zammar, a German citizen arrested in Morocco in December 2001, whom the United States questioned and then flew to Syria. Five others were transferred to Syria in May 2002: Barah Abdul Latif, Bahaa Mustafa Jaghel, Abdel Halim Dalak, Omar Ghramesh, and a teenager captured in the same raid as Abu Zubayda, whose name Almalki never learned.
The teenager -- who would now be well into his 20s -- was most likely Noor al-Deen, whom the Washington Post reported in 2009 was 19 years old when he was captured with Zubayda. Former CIA operative John Kiriakou told the Post that Deen cooperated with interrogators because "[h]e had come to the conclusion that his life was over," and was terrified that he was about to be executed. Instead he was transferred first to Morocco and later to Syria.
Another Syrian, Mustafa Setmariam Nasr, a high-level al Qaeda strategist who also holds Spanish citizenship, was detained in 2005 in Pakistan and turned over to the United States. Human rights groups have long suspected that Setmariam, who is also known as Abu Musab al-Suri, was later transferred to Syria. The Guantánamo documents released this spring by WikiLeaks confirm that Suri is detained "in his native Syria."
The U.S. and Syrian governments are unlikely to answer any questions about the detainees' rendition or their current whereabouts. If Assad's regime falls, perhaps activists or journalists will find the answers in a binder labeled "CIA" in one of the mukhabarat's many offices. Until then, they remain missing.
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