Amin al-Bakri is pictured (left) prior to his abduction by U.S. agents and (right) after 6 years of imprisonment in U.S. custody—first at secret CIA detention sites known for the use of torture in interrogations, and then at the U.S. Military's Bagram prison, where physical and mental torture have been commonly documented. Since 2002, Amin was confined virtually incommunicado, without access to counsel and with little contact with his family, except through heavily censored letters, and later, through rare, monitored phone calls. In a cry for help, Amin’s father, Mohammed al-Bakri, wrote to President Obama, “These pictures show the heavy toll that Amin’s imprisonment has had on him.”
Kidnapped, Tortured, and Indefinitely Imprisoned Without Charge
In 2002, Amin al-Bakri, a gem salesman with investments in shrimp farming, was on a five-day business trip to Thailand. After checking out of his hotel, Amin was headed to the airport to fly back to Yemen, eager to celebrate his 34th birthday with his wife and children, when unknown U.S. agents seized him. His wife and children had no idea what had happened to him until a Yemeni newspaper reported that he had been kidnapped by unknown American agents. All of the efforts by the al-Bakri family to find Amin were unsuccessful, and they had no idea what had become of him. "My son's wife and their three young children feared the worst," said Mr. Al Bakri's father, Muhammed al-Bakri. It was only after receiving a handwritten message delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that Amin's family learned that he was still alive. In the postcard, Amin asked family members to look after his two sons and young daughter.
During the month that U.S. agents seized Amin, two prisoners at Bagram were tortured to death by U.S. interrogators, and at least 84 others died as a result of abusive treatment in U.S. custody at various detention sites worldwide. Documented interrogation methods inflicted on prisoners at C.I.A. “black sites” and at Bagram have included beatings; electric shocks; prolonged suspension from the ceiling; stress positions; solitary confinement in “dog boxes”; sexual abuse and humiliation; starvation; freezing temperatures; water-boarding; simulated drowning; continual blaring of deafening music; intentional subjection to screams from neighboring prison cells; sleep deprivation; sensory deprivation; and mock executions.
Because Amin was held virtually incommunicado in Afghanistan without access to his attorneys, IJN was unable to determine where he was detained between his abduction in 2002 and his eventual imprisonment at Bagram. We did know, however, that Amin was subjected to serious abuse resulting in injuries to his knees and back, and that he has since had unsuccessful surgery on one of his knees. Beyond knowledge of these disclosed injuries, his family could only speculate about what Amin had endured and was still enduring.
Despite these horrific circumstances, Amin chose to utilize his knowledge of English, French, Arabic, Dari, and Urdu to act as an interpreter between U.S. military authorities and other prisoners. His actions helped defuse and mediate disputes between these groups.
A Family’s Sorrow
Amin’s disappearance and subsequent imprisonment caused devastating pain for his entire family. As Amin’s father has said, “My heart aches when I consider the terrible and degrading treatment he has been forced to endure.” Amin’s father worried for Amin’s children, explaining, “They’ve been robbed of the joy of their childhood. They know they’ve lost something." And he feared for Amin’s wife, who lived “as though half her soul is missing." The resulting prolonged stress caused health problems for both of Amin’s parents, because they had not seen their son for over ten years and did not know if they ever would again. In their efforts to win Amin’s release, the family has been grateful for the support of HOOD, a leading human rights organization in Yemen.
Release from Bagram
In September 2014, after nearly thirteen years of imprisonment without charge or trial, Amin was released from Bagram. The move came just weeks after IJN filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on Amin's behalf. The U.S. government transferred Amin to the custody and control of the Yemeni government, and he was reunited with his loving family soon after.
Revelations about Amin's Detention Prior to Bagram
In December 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report detailing the CIA's detention and torture program. The report revealed that Amin was held in CIA custody for almost 500 days before being rendered to Bagram.