Ethiopia now admits holding 41 terror suspects from 17 countries arrested in Somalia, following reports by Human Rights Watch of secret prisons for interrogation by the US FBI. One woman who underwent a similar ordeal told her story to the BBC News website’s Noel Mwakugu in Nairobi.
I will not rest until I get justice for all the humiliation and pains caused to me and my family
Kamilya Mohammedi Tuweni
If there is one thing Kamilya Mohammedi Tuweni will not do, it is to forgive Kenya’s security forces.
Ms Tuweni has begun proceedings in the United Arabic Emirates to sue the Kenyan government for wrongful arrest and abuse of her rights.
In February, she – along with two of her business partners from Oman – travelled to Kenya, hoping to establish contacts for a flourishing tea and coffee export business.
But before they even held their first meeting with their Kenyan contacts, they were bundled out of a hotel room in the Kenyan resort town of Malindi near Mombasa by policemen who suspected them to be terrorists.
“Just because we looked like Arabs and my partners could not speak English or Kiswahili but only Arabic, we had to be terrorists,” said Ms Tuweni, who was born on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar and now holds UAE citizenship.
Her nightmare in Kenyan police cells then began in earnest.
“First we were transferred to Mombasa where we were held at two different police stations and questioned for hours,” the mother of three told the BBC News website.
I resisted every attempt to blindfold and handcuff me, but instead I was floored with kicks and strokes of the cane
Kamilya Mohammedi Tuweni
Ethiopia admits detentions
After spending several chilly nights on the cement floors of the police cells in Mombasa, they were flown to Nairobi for further interrogation.
It was in the Kenyan capital that her partners from Oman were released after the Kenyan investigators were satisfied with their identities.
But for her, it was the beginning of an experience she will remember for the rest of her life.
“The policemen stripped me half-naked just to take a picture of me but I refused. They asked me all sorts of questions about my origins that left me crying all the time,” recalled Ms Tuweni, who is now back home in Dubai.
As if not satisfied with the information, she was driven to Namanga on the Kenyan border with Tanzania, where security operatives flew in from Dar es Salaam to quiz her.
“They also found no reason to have me detained and even advised the Kenyan policemen to release me, but they declined,” she said.
Instead, she was driven back to Nairobi under armed police escort but her tears and pleas of innocence fell on deaf ears.
Before long, their car arrived at a private section of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi that was guarded by armed policemen.
At the airport there were 15 other vehicles packed with suspects – all handcuffed and blindfolded.
“When I saw this, I resisted every attempt to blindfold and handcuff me, but instead I was floored with kicks and strokes of the cane,” she said.
Ms Tuweni was later given her passport and forcibly blindfolded. Together with the other suspects; she was bundled into a plane.
“When the plane landed, our blindfolds were removed, I could see we were at another airport but it was only after some women mentioned Mogadishu that I realised where we were,” she said.
The Kenyan government has denied sending prisoners to Mogadishu and has not commented on Ms Tuweni’s allegations.
She says in her group there were 22 other women and children, who were all forced into a shell-damaged cell at the airport.
The men were taken into a separate cell.
The women in her group were of different nationalities including Ethiopians, Somalis, a Swede, a Comorian and a Tanzanian.
They were forced to use pieces of boxes and some of their clothes to cover the gapping holes of the police cell at the Mogadishu airport.
“For 12 days we had no food, even for some of the women who were pregnant and the little children among us.”
A merciful Somali woman who lived by the airport would come on different occasions to the battered cell to give them a bowl of spaghetti and a jar of water to share.
And when the fighting between Islamist remnants and Ethiopian troops escalated in the Somali capital, the suspects were bundled into planes and flown to Ethiopia.
In Addis Ababa, the suspects were questioned by Ethiopian forces and US FBI officers for days.
“Although we were not ill-treated, I went on a hunger strike for three days demanding an explanation as to why I was in custody,” she explained.
The hunger strike bore fruits and her case was given priority.
After rigorous questioning from American investigators, Ms Tuweni was cleared of any wrong-doing last month.
“When I got the news that I was free, I thought it was just a dream. I could not believe it until I was transferred from the police cell to a hotel in Addis Ababa.”
Ms Tuweni says she is bitter that she had to undergo nearly three months of torment before the various security agents believed she was innocent.
“The Kenyans who arrested me had all details about me; I had nothing to hide but they still denied me the right to freedom.”
Ms Tuweni is now counting her lost income following her detention in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
“I will not rest until I get justice for all the humiliation and pains caused to me and my family,” she said