Putting a face on torture in North CarolinaThursday, November 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm by Emily Odgers
In 2002, Kassim Britel was traveling to Pakistan to collect funding for a project he and his wife were working on. While there, Britel was arrested and then tortured by Pakistani and American agents. Under torture, he confessed to crimes he didn’t commit.
No charges were filed.
Britel was then flown to Morocco where he was tortured almost a year longer. Finally released, Britel was soon arrested again and held for nine more years.
No charges were filed.
Britel is one of many innocent people that have been held and tortured by the American government without due process.
He is also one of the many people transported by an Aero contractors’ plane to where he would be unlawfully held and tortured. Aero, based in North Carolina, is one of the numerous private corporations that have agreed to provide ‘torture flights’ for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.
North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NCSTN) and Quaker House have been working for over five years to stop this practice by a corporation based in their home state. They have petitioned the Johnston County Commission, which presides over the airport, numerous times.
Most recently, they decided to put a face on torture, presenting Britel’s case the board.
Members described Britel’s torture and spoke passionately of the injustice committed against him. The advocates stated they did not want to demonize employees or customers of the airport, but they remained firm that the commission has the duty to end the participation of ‘torture flights.’
A letter written by Britel’s wife, Anna, was read to the commission. The letter described the deep wounds inflicted by Britel’s treatment and his struggle to regain his life. She writes:
Every day I see Kassim suffer. Despite the treatment, he continues to be holding himself back. Every little appointment makes him tired. He often remains in silence for hours, and has difficulty communicating with anyone. He is forced to repress the rage that he feels and that he is frightened of. Often he paces up and down the long hallway in our house and I know that he feels that he is still in prison. He thinks of his ruined reputation and his lost employment, and asks himself what he will do in the days to come, what will we live on? My husband tries to follow a daily schedule, something I greatly admire, because he insists on doing so no matter how sad and difficult some days may be. I don’t know how to help him any further, for daily life feels burdensome to me and I believe I am suffering a depression similar to his. We feel alone. Our sustenance is faith.
Britel’s wife also highlights the injustice inflicted upon their family:
We have no right to anything, yet at the heart of our story there is an illegal act of the United States. People should not be secretly deported; families should not be left in anguish.
She continues to say that there are measures that could be taken to help ease the injustice. Anna maintains that the commissioners have not only the ability, but the duty to use all resources available to them to stop this activity.
The commission did not make any decisions at the meeting, but the members seemed to be more moved than they had at previous meetings. NCSTN and Quaker House promise to continue advocating against torture.