The Center for Grassroots Oversight

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Profile: Mahmud Sardar Issa

Mahmud Sardar Issa was a participant or observer in the following events:

In the city of Blantyre in Malawi, the local National Intelligence Bureau, together with US officials who are reportedly CIA agents, move to arrest five foreigners on suspicion of belonging to al-Qaeda. They are Ibrahim Habaci and Arif Ulusam, both Turkish; Saudi citizen Faha al Bahli; Mahmud Sardar Issa from Sudan; and Kenyan national Khalifa Abdi. They are held incommunicado in an undisclosed location somewhere in Malawi, and defense attorneys take immediate action on their behalf. That evening, the High Court of Blantyre orders that the detainees be brought before it within 48 hours. (Amnesty International 8/19/2003)

The June 24 deadline, set by the Malawi High Court (see June 22, 2003), to release five foreigners from detention or bring them to court, expires without the court’s order being honored. Instead, the five men are secretly flown out of the country reportedly in the custody of US agents and aboard a US chartered airplane. Their destination is at first unknown, even apparently to the Malawi government. A Malawi official tells Amnesty International on June 26: “From the time the arrests were made, the welfare of the detainees, their abode and itinerary for departure were no longer in the hands of the Malawian authorities. Thus as a country we did not have the means to stop or delay the operation. The issue of terrorism has regrettably spurred worldwide erosion of fundamental principles of human rights not only in the world but also in the USA itself…. Malawi has had to cooperate with the USA on this request as we are under obligations internationally to assist. In Malawi we do not know where these people are but they are in hands of the Americans who took them out of the country using a chartered aircraft. They should now be going through investigations at a location only known by the USA.” It is later found that the five were flown to Zimbabwe, where they were held for a month, and then Sudan, where they were subsequently released. (Amnesty International 8/19/2003)

An official of the Malawian government writes to Amnesty International about the transfer of five men in US custody (see June 24, 2003), explaining: “From the time the arrests were made, the welfare of the detainees, their abode and itinerary for departure were no longer in the hands of the Malawian authorities. Thus as a country we did not have the means to stop or delay the operation. The issue of terrorism has regrettably spurred worldwide erosion of fundamental principles of human rights not only in the world but also in the USA itself…. Malawi has had to cooperate with the USA on this request as we are under obligations internationally to assist. In Malawi we do not know where these people are but they are in hands of the Americans who took them out of the country using a chartered aircraft. They should now be going through investigations at a location only known by the USA.” It is later learned that the five men were sent to Zimbabwe and then to Sudan, where they were finally released in late July 2003 after investigators could find no evidence linking the men to terrorism. (Amnesty International 8/19/2003)


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