- Ali Adorus was harassed by British security services
- He was arrested in Ethiopia during a family visit
- He was brutally tortured and forced to sign a confession in a language he does not understand
- He has symptoms of recurrent cancer
- British authorities are accused of having abandoned him
- The charges he faces carry the death penalty
Since January 2013, Ali Adorus, a 33 year-old Londoner, has been detained in some of the worst Ethiopian prisons.
After being brutally tortured by Ethiopian forces, he gave a false confession which now serves a basis to try him on terrorism-related charges which carry the death penalty.
However, his health is the immediate concern. He has a kidney condition that has worsened since his detention; it is feared that this signals the return of his cancer.
British authorities are said to have done little to ensure he is treated humanely.
On a wider scale, the case of Ali Adorus confirms a worrying pattern of young Britons of East African descent being harassed by MI5 and later ending up tortured in a third country, just like Mahdi Hashi and Ahmed Diini.
Harrassed by MI5
The case of Ali Adorus first attracted public attention in 2010 after the release of a CAGE report (then Cageprisoners) highlighting the criminalisation of those associated with the Horn of Africa.
His experience was featured in The Independent.
He had left with two friends from West London for a week-long safari but was refused entry in the country. The men were threatened with beatings and held for days in inhumane conditions, only to be told that MI5 was behind their rejection from the country.
The three friends then returned to Britain with a stopover in the Netherlands. There, Ali Adorus was stopped by two men, one of whom introduced himself as Nick from British MI5.
“Look (…)! I am going to tell you what has happened and why you were sent back. I am going to tell you exactly why we are doing this to you”, Nick told him.
He continued explaining he was suspicious about his travel and believed he had tried to join the fight in Somalia. Eventually, Ali was released but warned: “Ali you have come out clear but we will be watching you at every step”.
Upon his arrival in the UK the next day, he was further interrogated about his religious beliefs and political views. “They wanted to put words into our mouth and wanted to force us to say that we wanted to go to Somalia”, he said.
Ali Adorus concluded his testimony to CAGE: “The MI5 guy, Nick, had said to me as well that our details will be passed to the secret services of the whole world. They were framing us for no reason whatsoever”.
Abandoned in Ethiopia
Nearly two years later, in February 2012, Ali Adorus travelled to his native Ethiopia to visit his family and was considering setting up a business. However, on 25 January 2013, he was arrested on his way to visit a family member and taken to Maekelawi police station.
Maekelawi had been singled out by Human Rights Watch in a report for its systematic use of torture and denial of basic needs to extract confessions. Ali Adorus was no exception. There, he alleges that a Commander by the name of Tekelay was the lead torturer:
“If you do not confess, I will not give you room to breathe. You will receive torture like you have never known. (…) Your embassy does not give a s*** about you”, the Commander allegedly said.
A petition to the United Nations explains Ali Adorus was brutally beaten, handcuffed behind his back for extended period of time, beaten on his hands with heavy wires, hooded, electrocuted and denied toilet access. Without legal assistance, the Londoner eventually signed a false confession in Amharic, a language he does not even speak.
He was later transferred to Kaliti prison, named by some as Ethiopia’s Gulag or the Robben Island of Ethiopia. He is currently being tried before an Ethiopian court on the basis of his forced confession and the testimonies of witnesses who have also alleged tortured.
Toby Cadman sent an urgent communication to the United Nations principally against the Government of Ethiopia but also against the United Kingdom.
“Mr Adorus is a British national and these allegations have been brought to the attention of the British authorities on several occasions and to date, no investigation has been initiated”, he noted.
He wishes that the British authorities are directed to carry out a full and independent inquiry to ensure that his rights as a British citizen are upheld.
“I understand the Ethiopian's do not make it easy but I feel if I didn't chase the FCO and ask them to visit him and attend court, they would not do anything. If I don't chase them up I don't hear from them”, says his wife who for over a year has been trying to campaign for her husband to receive medical treatment. “It seems like my husband has been left there. The British have left him at the hands of the Ethiopians to do what they want with him”, she added.
British War on East Africans
According to Asim Qureshi, CAGE’s Research Director who recorded Adorus’s testimony of MI5 harassment in 2010, his case should not be viewed in isolation.
“It is yet another example of a British citizen harassed by UK security services and who later ends up arbitrarily detained and tortured in a third country”, he said.
“In 2010, our report aimed at showing that the British security services had systematically suspected and criminalised anyone associated with the Horn of Africa. We felt that the tactics used to recruit them as informants were inappropriate to say the least”.
Multi-award winning journalist Jamal Osman has recently gone public about the pressure he has been put under to become an informant over the last five years.
“The incentives they offer range from a "handsome salary" or a "nice car" to a "big house". I have even been told that they "could help me marry four wives". I have declined all their offers. Their psychological tactics include telling me how easy it is for them to take away my British passport and destroy my career – and even my life”, he wrote in The Guardian.
This treatment has created a climate of fear in the Muslim community in general and among East Africans in particular who often let these experience go unreported.
“Our message is one of empowerment and dignity. It goes without saying that Muslims should report any crime they are aware of. However, Islam, in line with basic moral values strictly prohibits Muslims to spy”, said Asim Qureshi.
“Muslims need to learn from communities who have suffered similar treatment before us. Against the Irish, MI5 harassment has been drastically reduced while it’s on the rise in the Muslim community. The difference is that the Irish have systematically refused and publicised their harassment.
Based on experience, keeping your head low will not make it go away. We need the victims of harassment to continue to come forward until the community as a whole forces the authorities to treat us with decency.”
NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.