Nairobi — Tanzanian authorities enabled the CIA to subject a Dar-based trader to abuse in a secret detention centre in Djibouti and at "black sites" in other countries, human rights attorneys are charging in a case filed with an African Union judicial body.
In the first suit challenging African co-operation with the CIA's secret-prison network, two international law groups contend that Tanzanian police seized their client, Mohammed al-Asad, at his home in Dar es Salaam on the night of December 26, 2003.
Mr Asad was not told why he had been apprehended. He was soon bound and blindfolded and placed on a Tanzair flight to Djibouti, although he was not informed of his destination, the suit states.
The detainee then entered the CIA's "secret detention and torture programme," the law groups maintain.
Mr Asad was held incommunicado in Djibouti for two weeks where he was "interrogated by an American agent and subjected to torture and inhuman treatment," according to the New York-based Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice and London-based Interights.
He was then held for 16 months at a CIA facility in Afghanistan and at a secret location in one other country, the groups say.
Mr Asad was never charged with a crime, nor was he allowed to contact his family or an attorney, according to the filing with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
In 2005, he was transferred to a prison in his native Yemen.
He pleaded guilty the following year to charges of having forged travel documents and was sentenced to time served.
Mr Asad currently lives freely in Yemen with his Tanzanian wife. The legal filing asks the African Commission to rule that Djibouti violated Mr Asad's human rights and to specify compensation due him.
The case was confidentially filed in 2009 and made public last week.
"By serving as the doorway for the US secret detention and rendition programme in Africa, Djibouti directly violated the human rights of our client," says Jayne Huckerby, research director for the New York University human rights law centre.
She adds that the Gambia-based African Commission has "an historic opportunity to not only stand up for African sovereignty and human rights, but also to provide long-overdue truth and justice to an individual who was illegally abducted, detained and tortured in the name of state security."
Mr Asad, now 51, says in a filing with the African Commission that he visited his father and uncle in Tanzania in the early 1980s and moved there from Yemen in 1985 "Because the communist government in power in Yemen at the time had strict policies regarding travel permits, I had to be smuggled out of Yemen by car and then travelled onwards using my Yemeni passport," he states. "I obtained a fraudulent Tanzanian birth certificate and passport in order to be able to make a living and own land in Tanzania."
Mr Asad says he became a successful and respected businessman during this 18 years in Dar es Salaam, where he owned property.
"At the time I was disappeared, my business was doing quite well. Besides owning the building, I also owned land in Mtwara and had been granted permission to start a new business," he tells the African Commission.
His Al-Asad Trading Company rented space in the Dar building to the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation.
"That may have been the reason I was secretly detained," Mr Asad suggests in the filing with the African Commission.
Al-Haramain's branches in Tanzania, Kenya, Pakistan and Indonesia were designated by the United States in 2004 as organisations engaged in or supporting terrorism.
"I believed that by renting office space to the Foundation, I was helping a charitable organisation," Mr Asad tells the African Commission. "If the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation engaged in other types of activities, they were kept secret from me and I was not aware of them."
The government of Tanzania has declared that Mr Asad was deported as an illegal immigrant under the Immigration Act of 1995.
It was not until June 2004 -- six months after his deportation -- that Tanzanian authorities revealed that Mr Asad had been sent to Djibouti.
The admission came in response to a writ of habeas corpus filed by Mr Asad's father with the High Court of Tanzania.
Kenya has also sent detainees to secret sites in Djibouti, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The UN group has reported on the case of a Somali who was handed over to the CIA in Kenya and then flown, blindfolded and shackled, to Djibouti.
A second detainee was also transferred from Kenya to Djibouti as part of the US rendition and secret detention programme, the UN has said.
Djibouti has become an important ally of the United States in the years following the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
In the five years after September 11, 2001, Djibouti received 40 times the amount of military aid it had been given by the US in the five years prior to the twin terror attacks.
"My life and that of my family have been unjustly ruined and no one has been held accountable," Mr Asad said recently. "It is my sincere hope that the African Commission will finally allow me to receive a measure of justice for what was taken from me."
The CIA declines to comment on the specifics of Mr Asad's case.
But an agency spokesman told The Washington Post last week that "much of what has been alleged about the former CIA detention and interrogation programme, which ended over two years ago, is simply incorrect."