mercredi 9 janvier 2008

Interview with the Wife of Abou Elkassim Britel

Abou Elkassim Britel is an Italian citizen of Moroccan ethnicity, married to an Italian convert to Islam. On 10th March 2002, whilst in Lahore translating books on Islam, he was detained on a false passport charge, and subsequently interrogated and tortured by Pakistani security services. Transferred to Islamabad to be questioned by US intelligence agents, he was prevented from contacting the Italian embassy to prove the authenticity of his passport. On 24th May 2002, he was rendered to Morocco (with the co-operation of the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs), where he was detained incommunicado in Témara by the Moroccan secret service until February 2003. Released without charge and granted a border pass by Italian Embassy, he was again arrested on 16th May 2003 to the frontier before the bomb attacks in Casablanca. He was brought to Témara in secret detention for other 4 months. Condemned to fifteen years in jail, his sentence was reduced to nine years on appeal. Despite the European Parliament having solicited the Italian government to obtain his immediate release, he remains incarcerated in the Äin Bourja prison of Casablanca, where he is to be released in 2012. Cageprisoners spoke exclusively to Britel’s wife, Khadija Anna Lucia Pighizzni, about her husband’s plight and her fight for justice.
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CAGEPRISONERS: How long had your husband been in Pakistan before he was first arrested?
KHADIJA PIGHIZZINI: My husband had been travelling since June 2001.
CP: What had brought your husband to Pakistan?
KP: Kassim and I had an ongoing project, involving the translation of Islamic books from Arabic to Italian. My husband was seeking funds to finance the translation of Tafsir Ibn Kathir. We have a small website, Islàmiqra' translations of topics and authentic Islamic texts for the education and spreading of Islam, ( ) which I have updated very little during these years. It is an interesting project, useful for the Italian-speaking people who do not understand Arabic.
CP: When did you find out about the arrest of your husband?
KP: My husband disappeared on the 10th of March 2002. I had spoken to him on the phone that day. In the evening, he was stopped in Lahore at a police road block while he was travelling with his luggage on a taxi. As soon as they saw his Italian passport they told him it was false and took him to the police station. Then he disappeared until the 11th of February 2003.
CP: You claim your husband was tortured by Pakistani security services during his initial detention?
KP: Kassim still finds it difficult to relate what he’s been through. Even though he does speak about it now, he is not up to telling the whole story.
My husband was psychologically tortured with death threats against him and threats of violence against the female members of his family. They told him that the Italian ambassador was not interested in him “because he was a terrorist”. As for the physical torture, I know he was beaten severely, with a cricket bat at times. The handcuffs he wore around his wrists were tied behind his back with chains and he would be hung from the prison bars or off the ceiling for a long time. He would be blindfolded and his hands and feet would be chained so that he could not defend himself nor predict where he was going to be hit. The cell did not include a toilet and he was not allowed to relieve himself except once every 24 hours, when he was given a bucket. For three days he was sleep deprived, while tied to a gate.
When I saw him again after 11 months, he still had patches of yellow on his skin where he’d been severely beaten. This treatment, inflicted on him by the Pakistani police and secret services, lasted a very long time. At the beginning of April 2002 after another violent interrogation, Kassim was in critical condition, exhausted and continuously prone to fainting, so they gave him medical attention for about a week. My husband was transferred to Islamabad the 5th of May 2002, to the Pakistani secret services. He was then taken four times, tied and blindfolded, to a villa where he was interrogated by US agents

CP: In what way was your husband denied access to the Italian embassy in Pakistan?

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