Australian Mamdouh Habib is starring in a play about the years he spent imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, under suspicion of training militants and having prior knowledge of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Waiting for Mamdouh details his allegations of rendition and torture.
Mamdouh Habib says he was chained and brutalized after being arrested in Pakistan a month after the attacks on September 11th, 2001.
He says he was looking at schools for his children after becoming disillusioned with life in Australia.
A new play details his allegations of mistreatment while in custody in Egypt, which he says was ordered by U.S. authorities.
Excerpt from the play: "They try to keep their hands clean but they sent me to Egypt for torture. I have been beaten, electric shock. I hear people suffering, screaming in the other cells. They bring someone from the different cell, they put him in electric shocks [gave him electric shocks]. They killed him in front of my own eyes."
The former detainee, a dual Australian-Egyptian national, was sent from Egypt to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. government has a military prison camp. He was released five years ago without charge and returned to Australia.
Habib says U.S. President Obama should close the prison camp at Guantanamo and reveal the truth about the rendition - the transfer of prisoners to other countries where they were abused. The Obama administration has plans to close the facility.
Habib remains a vocal critic of the Australian government, which he says is part of a global conspiracy to erode the rights of individuals.
"I can say Australian government [is] hiding a lot of truths," Habib said. "The public in Australia they [are] very naive people. People doesn't believe what is going on. They don't understand. We talk about democracy, we're talking about freedom, we're talking about human rights - we don't have that."
The theater production is highly critical of former Prime Minister John Howard for allowing Australian citizens to be held without charge at Guantanamo.
"Waiting for Mamdouh" also tells of the trouble his wife Maha experienced in Australia during his incarceration.
Actor: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for hearing me today. I don't want to take too much of your time. But Mr Howard is acting like a war criminal by allowing Australians to be locked up in Guantanamo Bay and he and the government must protect their citizens. My husband has been in Guantanamo Bay for four years and nobody cares and nobody is saying anything. Are we too afraid? He is not a dog that we just lock up in a cage and leave to die. I urge the Australian government to help my husband and to bring him home and to say enough is enough. He is in hell and he does not deserve this."
Habib was one of two Australians held at Guantanamo. The other was David Hicks, a former kangaroo hunter, who spent more than five years imprisoned without a trial before admitting to charges of providing material support to the al-Qaida terrorist network. After serving a sentence in Australia, Hicks is now free.
Kuranda Seyit, co-author of Waiting for Mamdouh, says the play shows how the innocent are at risk. "What I believe is a play like this can really highlight and raise awareness about the types of abuses that we can all fall in to," Seyit said. "Who is going to be the next Mamdouh Habib, the next David Hicks, the next person who is in the wrong place at the wrong time?"
The Australian government has investigated Habib's treatment but found no evidence to substantiate his allegations of torture.
Although former President George W. Bush, who opened the Guantanamo prison, has denied his administration used torture, he and officials in his administration have said sometimes harsh treatment was needed to combat terrorism.
A former cabinet minister, Fran Bailey, thinks that in Habib's case, the correct procedures were followed. "Any minister making a decision, no matter what the matter is, whether it is repatriating someone back to a country who is held by another country on foreign territory, you really can only act on the best advice that you are getting from your department. There were apparently very good reasons why my government of the day did not repatriate him back to Australia sooner," Bailey said.
Although Australian authorities never charged him with any crimes, Habib's passport was taken away. News media reports after his return home said he was still considered a security risk, in part because of contacts with suspected terrorists. Australian authorities will not comment on whether he remains under investigation. Habib says he is trying to get a new passport.
Bailey thinks Australian society remains ambivalent toward Habib, who unsuccessfully ran for office in local elections in Sydney three years ago. Some remain suspicious of him and his reasons for being in Pakistan in late 2001, while others are sympathetic to him.