Habib ‘told not to talk about Guantanamo torture’


FORMER Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib says he did not reveal details of his torture in early interviews with media and others because he was told not to by his doctors and lawyers.

Mr Habib was giving evidence today in second-stage defamation proceedings against Nationwide News, over a February 2005 column in Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph.

A jury has found the article defamed Mr Habib by implying he falsely made claims about torture.

The former terror suspect told the NSW Supreme Court that in interviews in 2005 with human rights group Amnesty International and the 60 Minutes television program, he did not talk about being given electric shocks and being drugged on legal and medical advice.

In one interview he denied being tortured before being taken to Guantanamo Bay, saying there was “just kicking”, and in the other he stated that he had been beaten only once for refusing to sign a document.

“I explained I be kicking (sic), no blanket, and told (Amnesty) I have a lot of stuff I can’t talk about until my court case,” Mr Habib said.

“I have been told by my psychological doctor not (to) go through the torture because I was very stressed.”

Mr Habib said his memory of what happened had come back slowly because of the trauma and the drugs he had been given, but he insisted his current account was accurate.

“Now I have no reason not to give evidence about tortures,” he said.

Nationwide News barrister Alec Leopold accused Mr Habib of trying to erect a “smokescreen” around what actually happened.

“(Mr Habib’s evidence this week) was a complete revision of history,” Mr Leopold said. “I want to suggest to you that you made up your evidence… on Wednesday.

“The real position was that stated approximately two years ago to (Amnesty).”

Mr Habib replied: “No.”

Mr Leopold grilled Mr Habib on his recollections of Australian consular official Alastair Adams during his interrogations.

He also played a tape of Mr Habib’s first interview with Australian officials at Guantanamo Bay in May 2002, saying he seemed then to be “articulate, in terrific spirits and very good condition”.

The voice on the tape is heard to say: “I don’t fight, I don’t kill nobody, I don’t harm nobody.

“Jihad does not mean carrying a gun and killing people for no reason.”

The former Guantanamo inmate said a number of his supposed answers in the interview were incorrect and refused to confirm that the person speaking on the tape was him.

“I believe I met with people from Australia (in Cuba), but I never have any interview with them,” he said.

ASIO officers were to give evidence this afternoon about their interviews with Mr Habib in Guantanamo, Egypt and Pakistan.