KUWAIT: U.S. confirms detention of American citizen who claims being beaten
A U.S. official has confirmed that an American citizen of Somali origin who claims he was beaten by security agents in Kuwait while they were interrogating him about his travels in Yemen and Somalia is being held in detention in the American-backed Arabian Peninsula country.
State Department spokesman Phillip J. Crowley offered few details about the case other than to say that the man, 18-year-old Gulet Mohamed from Virigina, was receiving U.S. consular assistance. Crowley denied that Mohamed was arrested by Kuwaiti authorities on behalf of the U.S.
"I’m not at liberty to say a great deal," he told reporters Friday. "We are aware of his detention, we have provided him consular services ... he was not detained at the behest of the United States government."
According to a report, Mohamed -- who said he was studying Arabic in Kuwait -- was taken into custody around Dec. 20 when he went to the airport there to have his Kuwaiti visa renewed. Mohamed had done the procedure every three months since he arrived in Kuwait in fall 2009, but this time he didn't get his visa stamped. Instead, he said he was hauled into a room and interrogated for hours by unknown officials before being blindfolded, handcuffed and driven to another location.
He has been held in detainment ever since and his name placed on a no-fly list, meaning he cannot return to the U.S.
Babylon & Beyond was unable to reach any Kuwaiti officials for comment.
In a published interview from his Kuwaiti detention cell a couple of days ago, Mohamed claimed he was beaten with sticks and threatened with electrical shocks if he didn't tell his interrogators what he was doing in Al Qaeda strongholds of Yemen and Somalia during his travels there in 2009.
He said he had traveled to Yemen to study Arabic and Islam and that he spent five months in Somalia living with his aunt and uncle before moving to Kuwait in August 2009 to live with family friends and study more Arabic.
But his interrogators were apparently not convinced that Mohamed was being truthful. They began grilling him about his family's clan in Somalia and whether he had been in contact with American Yemeni cleric and terror suspect Anwar Al-Awlaki while in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, Mohamed said.
Mohamed also claimed that American Embassy officials and FBI agents who visited him in the Kuwaiti detention facility asked him whether he knew Al-Awlaki and why he had gone to Yemen and Somalia.
The American teenager denied meeting with or having ties to suspected terrorists.
"I am a good Muslim, I despise terrorism,” he was quoted as saying.
His lawyer, Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has written to the U.S. Justice Department demanding an investigation into his client's detention in Kuwait.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: The 18-year-old American citizen Gulet Mohamed is being held in detention in Kuwait, according to U.S. officials. Credit: via Salon.com