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They seemed to think that he was part of a larger terrorist network. After this, they smashed the cell phone against the floor and laughed. They removed his shoes and socks and broke the heels from his shoes to look for explosive or any other hidden substances. Achmed Radu felt afraid and humiliated. He felt afraid for his family and friends, whose contact information were now in the hands of his tormentors. He knew it would do no good to ask them what they would do with his contact list, so he did not bother.
After the four officials exhausted their immediate options for torment, they led him outside, forcing him to go barefoot. A police car was waiting for him. Two of the officials rode in the front seats, while other two rode on either side of their victim. Mr. Radu tried again to find out what or who it was the officials were looking for. They ignored all his questions, and completed the journey in stony silence, as if to indicate that Achmed Radu knew very well what he was guilty of.
They stopped at a fortress type building, located apparently in the middle of nowhere. There were no other buildings close by, nor any indications of civilization. The building was surrounded by tall grass and trees, as if it had been built there at random. Mr. Radu was led inside. He was aware that two of the officials had a very tight grip on either of his arms. It did not hurt, but let him know that any attempts at escape would be useless. Once inside, Mr. Radu saw clearly that the building was a prison. A security gate was unlocked, and Mr. Radu was led into a long, dark corridor. There were empty cells on either side. At the end of the corridor, he was placed into the last cell in the line and locked up. He pleaded with the officials to tell him what his crime was, or at least give him the opportunity to make a call to his wife to let her know what had happened. They mocked him and laughed, refusing the request. Before they left, they tried to bring home to Achmed Radu the true extent of his predicament; they indicated that they might or might not return, and that they might do more to him than mere pushing, shoving and mocking. They succeeded in their purpose: Mr. Radu was afraid, and he was left on his own.
Night was falling, but little inside the cell changed. There were no windows, and Achmed was too far from the entrance to see what time of day it was. He became disoriented with the extreme fear he felt all day, and with hunger and thirst. No food, water or sanitary facilities were left for him inside the cell. Eventually Mr. Radu succumbed to exhaustion and fell asleep on the cold, hard cement floor.
Sharp light in his eyes woke Achmed Radu. He had no idea how long he had been asleep, but the pain and exhaustion he felt told him it had not been enough. He was ordered to get up and pulled unceremoniously to his feet. When his eyes had adjusted to the sharp contrast of the torch with the surrounding darkness, Radu recognized the four men of the previous day. He had hoped that he was having a nightmare. The officials told him that he might be set free during the day if he only told them the truth. When he asked what truth they were referring to, they laughed at him. He was led to another small, darkened room and asked questions relating to his daily activities. He was also asked whether he belonged to any terrorist organizations. When he told them the truth, they laughed, indicating that they did not believe him. When he asked for a phone call or for his lawyer, he was mocked.
The cycle continued for a week. Mr. Radu was not allowed to bathe. He received a scrap of food and water per day, and used a slight dip in the floor as a latrine. At the end of the week he was exhausted to breaking point, and disoriented to the point of psychosis. Still, he was unable to give them any information on terrorists, because he had none. The officials were finally obliged to believe him, and grudgingly took him back to the airport. Here he was allowed to collected what remained of his luggage and clothing, and he called his wife from a phone booth. He was so exhausted that she recognized him only on his third attempt at talking to her. The officials vanished as soon as it was established that Achmed Radu's wife would arrive to pick him up. Mr. Radu was mentally incapacitated to the point where he would not be able to fly again for years. Nightmares would keep him awake for days on end. He would never feel completely safe or happy within the borders of his country again, and he would certainly never trust anybody in a uniform again.
Mr. Achmed Radu is one of the tragic examples of the loss of freedom experienced by many a citizen in the United States after 9/11. Suddenly everybody is a potential terrorist, while the basic freedoms and rights guaranteed by the constitution have become worthless in the face of threat. The officials in Radu's case assumed guilt rather than innocence, and relented only once it became clear that Radu had nothing to hide. Their unsuccessful attempt to extract information from an innocent man is indicative of the badly focused and unethical effort of the war on terrorism. Such official actions are perpetrated on the basis of personal prejudice rather than legitimate concern. This is not doing things right, and certainly not for the right reasons.
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