Arrest in Kenya
At the end of July 2009, he, alongside three other persons, was arrested in Kenya under the accusation that he was on his way to Somalia, a claim that Saddek Sbaa strongly rejects. During his detention, he understood from what his interrogators explained to him that they had been arrested in order to prove the US that Kenya was actively involved in the War on Terror. Their arrest occurred while Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, was scheduled to visit the country within two weeks. She arrived in the country on 4 August 2009 as part of a tour in Africa. The Kenyan authorities eventually handed the four men over to the Deutsch authorities.
Stopover in Belgium
Saddek Sbaa was shortly detained in Belgium. There, he affirmed that he suffered religious abuses.
“In Belgium, I got insulted. They humiliated my religion and insulted our prophet peace be upon him, just to make me angry”.
Detention in Netherlands
Saddek Sbaa was transported to Vught prison (a former Nazi camp) in Netherlands. There, he was detained in the T.A (a department reserved to the alleged terrorists). He was kept in solitary confinement with no rights to communicate with other inmates. He would not be allowed more than an hour a day outside his cell, a time which would be spent in a cage (16mx2m).
After several months in detention, Saddek Sbaa was released by the Dutch authorities as they were no evidence to support the Kenyan accusations. Even though, he had been entirely cleared, this experience left a deep mark and left him depressed. This feeling was amplified by the suspicious attitude people adopted towards him at work or at school. Saddek Sbaa later learnt from his employer that the AIVD (Dutch intelligence) had interrogated them about him. Nevertheless, he slowly began to recover and started a business as well as registered for the following academic year in order to complete his degree with the support of his family and friends.
However, his plans collapsed when he received a letter from the IND (immigration and naturalisation service) informing him that his residence permit was to be removed. The justification was that official reports from the AIVD (intelligence) had been sent to the immigration service describing Saddek Sbaa as a threat for the national security. He had the right to a “referral requirement” to challenge this decision. He then gathered (with the help of his lawyer) testimonies from his family, friends, colleagues, school friends and teachers to support his case. Bearing in mind that he had lived all his life in Netherlands and that he had no criminal records, they requested that the IND inquired about him and interview his entourage. Nevertheless, this demand was left unanswered.
After this event, the police eventually turned up at Sbaa’s house. Two policemen entered into the family home and informed him that the IND had ruled he was undesirable in the country. He was asked to sign several documents before he was taken into a cell of the Hoefkade office in The Hague in which he spent a day. He was then taken back to the Vught prison.
In Vught prison, he was detained in the T.A department reserved to the inmates suspected or convicted of terrorism. However, his detention was not due to such accusations but was related to the expiring of his residency permit. After two weeks under this harsh regime, his lawyer finally obtained the transfer Saddek Sbaa to facilities allowing him to live under more lenient conditions.
During his stay in prison, an agent who would visit him repeatedly pressurised him to go to Morocco and await his trial there, reinsuring him that he had nothing to fear over there. He also threatened him indirectly to send him back to the T.A department with harsher conditions of detention.
“Do you already feel at home in the custody house or is the T.A better?”
However, Saddek Sbaa insisted that he wanted to remain in Netherlands until the beginning of his trial.
Transfer to the T.A
Saddek Sbaa then received a visit from an official who informed him that he would be transferred to the T.A for the third time. He was not allowed to take any of his personal belongings and was left undressed in a room before an agent eventually came to hand him some clothes. He was then handcuffed, blindfolded and transferred to the T.A wing. Upon his arrival he was again left naked in a room for twenty minutes.
Voluntary departure to Morocco
Saddek Sbaa was forced to live under the stringent conditions imposed in the T.A department while again his case was not related to terrorism but to an immigration issue. During that period of time, he was urged by officials to go back to Morocco and await his trial there. He received insurance from the AIVD (Intelligence) and the IVD (immigration) that he could do so in his family homeland and that he would be safe and free there. After 7 months of incarceration, fearing for his mental and physical health, Saddek Sbaa decided to accept this offer and went to Morocco on 4 November 2010 despite the advice of his lawyer.
Arrival to Morocco
From Netherlands to Morocco, Saddek Sbaa was handcuffed and escorted by Dutch civil servants. Upon his arrival to Morocco, he was approached by a group of people who did not introduce themselves. They ordered him to follow them and he was taken to an office in a bus. There, his ID documents were checked and he was searched. He was then put in a room for several hours without being permitted to talk to anyone and without being given any explanations.
Eventually, an agent who was holding his passport came into the room and requested Saddek Sbaa to follow him. He explained to him that he would have to answer few questions and would then be allowed to go freely. He was taken into another room in which he was suddenly handcuffed. From there, he was brought to a cell filled with insects and was threaten by a guard.
Disappearance and torture
Saddek Sbaa remained in his cell until the evening. Then, guards would prevent him from sleeping, yelling at him, throw things/water at him or banging the iron door to wake him up. The fatigue was accentuated by the fact he was taken from Netherlands at the beginning of the night. Early in the morning, he was brought to an office that Saddek Sbaa believes to be Temara, a secret place of detention where torture is notoriously practised. For eight days, he had no access to the outside world. He was verbally and religiously abused. He was also threatened, beaten up, tortured with smoke, and strangled in different manners. He was also forbidden to sleep and deprived from food and basic items like a blanket... Interrogations would last up to 8 hours. This treatment left him extremely distressed and he attempted to commit suicide but could not find any object to carry on his attempt.
On the third day, facing the same questions again and again, Saddek Sbaa decided to fabricate confessions that would satisfy his interrogators to avoid further torture. He even accused people that did not exist. On the fourth day he was asked to sign documents which he refused as he did not benefit from the assistance of a lawyer. His interrogators forced him to sign without reading the documents. He was said that he would then be released. However, he was kept for several more days and was further interrogated. His DNA, fingerprints and pictures were taken.
Several elements indicate that the Dutch authorities participated to and benefitted from the torture of Saddek Sbaa. He said he was questioned in details by Moroccan interrogators about events that happened in Netherlands and people leaving there, including individuals who were not of Moroccan descent. Moreover, during the interrogation, the Moroccan agents would constantly receive faxes written in French but with the logo of the Dutch IND and AIVD.
He, for example, recounted the following event:
“After a while, I asked why it was taking so long. They said: “we are waiting for information from the Netherlands”. Then, a guy came in with a fax and started to ask me new questions. Questions about individuals and mosques I visited. They knew the names, street, all the mosques I visited and the people who came there”.
Similarly, Saddek Sbaa affirmed that one of his torturers told him:
“Netherlands is the one that is holding you here”.
On the seventh day of his captivity, Saddek Sbaa was handcuffed and transported to what he described as a court. There, he was presented to the investigative judge Chentouf who questioned him. Saddek Sbaa withdrew the statements he had made during his disappearance and explained to the judge that he had been tortured in custody. According to Sbaa, the judge responded:
“I have nothing to do with that, I am only asking you few questions to which you must reply”
He was then taken to Sale prison, next to Rabat.
Sale prison uprising
Soon after his arrival in Sale prison, the inmates started a strike to protest peacefully against their imprisonment and torture. The uprising was severely repressed by the army and the police. Several detainees were injured and two inmates were believed to have been killed. After this episode, several detainees, included Sbaa, were taken to an unknown location.
It was reported on 23 May 2012 that Saddek Sbaa was released.