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Jordanians tortured me
Sangre Grande resident Keegan Roopchand is now saying the so-called Carnival terror plot was a scripted hoax he was given to recite by Jordanian security officials who tortured him to ensure he said what they wanted him to.
During his recent four-month detention in Jordan, Roopchand said he was dragged out of a vehicle by his beard, stripped naked, searched in “humiliating ways” and pressured by Jordanian authorities attempting to link him with a terror plot in T&T and the Islamic State (ISIS). He claims the Jordanians “scripted a plot”, rehearsed it with him many times and he was forced to go along with it. “I was living a lie to survive,” he added on being questioned by FBI officials also.
Word of so-called plot resulted in action by national security forces here in Trinidad which led to the detention of several Muslims, raiding of their homes and of mosques across the country. Eventually, however, the detained suspects were all released and police are yet to lay any charges arising out of this action although the Government continues to claim the threat was real.
Roopchand issued a detailed statement yesterday, following an initial one last Sunday in which he distanced himself from claims in a Newsday article alleging certain details on the February Carnival disruption plot given by an (unnamed) couple detained in Jordan earlier in the year.
Roopchand, his wife and two children, were held in Jordan in January. Reports were that they were detained by Jordanian authorities following collaboration between local and international agencies and they gave information on the February plot to disrupt Carnival. The wife and children were deported back here in April. Roopchand was deported last month. None of them was charged by Jordanian authorities but on their return home they were interviewed by police.
Yesterday, however, Roopchand said, “My wife and I have never been involved in any terror plots or plans to disrupt/destabilise Carnival, nor are we part of any Islamic cell. This ordeal has and continues to be extremely emotionally demanding. Each member of my family was subjected to torture, even my children. My wife remains mentally damaged.”
Roopchand’s story of his detention attempted to reply to some queries on it. He stood by statements that the family journeyed to Jordan pursuing further education through four-year courses.
“I pre-qualified for a BA programme in Islamic studies; my wife was interviewed and accepted to do a BSc in nursing at the same university. We were granted entry to Jordan and spent our first week finalising enrolment. We’d saved funding for food, rent, tuition payments and bi-yearly visits to Trinidad. We didn’t sell our home in Trinidad anticipating return,” Roopchand said.
“On January 23, 2018, our apartment was forcefully entered by heavily armed Jordanian authorities. They searched the house, convinced we had weapons. They found none. We were taken to another location for questioning. That was the last I would see or hear from my family until my return to Trinidad.”
Over two months, Roopchand claimed he was interrogated for hours.
“I was asked questions related to journeying to the Islamic State and developing chemical and explosive weapons. These claims were false. I denied them. But they were convinced that due to my educational background (BSc Physics) I knew how to make such devices—a false accusation.”
He said he was also kept in solitary confinement for over three months.
“In the small cell I would be exposed to extremely loud sounds and bright lights always on. On occasion, I was blindfolded, hand-cuffed and forcefully dragged by my beard from a vehicle. I was then punched repeatedly and put to face a wall,” he said.
“I thought I was about to be executed. I recited the Shahdah and waited for a bullet to pierce the back of my head. Another routine activity was that I was stripped naked and searched in a humiliating manner.”
Roopchand said during interrogation, Jordanians would describe “horrific methods of torture they would execute if we didn’t comply. These were described to both my wife and myself and included threats of lengthy imprisonment, burning and maiming our children. My wife was told I’d been hanged for not complying; also that she’d be taken to a location where ‘bad things’ would happen to her.”
He said the Jordanians presented accusations and claims in different ways, one of which was proposing hypothetical situations.
“They said for example ‘If someone would do this, how would it happen?’ Or ‘how would someone get to Syria from Amman?’ Not complying or answering resulted in punishment. They’d ask me to endorse statements from my wife though the information was untrue. I was told that if she lied they’d increase her punishment, describing horrible acts. I had no choice but to substantiate claims for our safety.”
He added, “I now understand she experienced mental issues and perhaps made up stories so that they would lessen her punishment. She’s still suffering the effects of this experience, unable to determine fact from Jordanian fiction. Hour by hour, daily, the Jordanians fabricated so-called plots twisting our words and taking advantage of our mentally weakened state. Many gaps in the fabricated stories were covered by claims there was a ‘cell’ (in T&T) and that ‘no one’ knew ‘the full plan’. The Jordanians scripted a plot and rehearsed it with me several times.”
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