Saudi bomb victim's torture ordeal - and Britain's silenceBriton in Riyadh blast was beaten, drugged by police
A British victim of a terrorist explosion in Riyadh was tortured by Saudi secret police and forced to confess to the bombing in which he was injured, the Guardian can reveal.
Ron Jones, 48, a tax adviser from Scotland, was seized from the hospital bed where he was recovering from the explosion by agents from the feared interior ministry, and taken to an interrogation centre where he was systematically tortured for 67 days.
Speaking for the first time since his release in May last year, Mr Jones described how his hands and feet were caned and beaten with a pickaxe handle, how he was subjected to sleep deprivation, beatings, and psychological duress, and was unwittingly administered tranquillising drugs.
Mr Jones met the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, last August and told him his story. He was left in no doubt that the best policy was to keep quiet. He is due to meet the Foreign Office minster, Lady Amos, today.
The Foreign Office yesterday confirmed Mr Jones' account, as does a medical report into his condition after his release, which has been seen by the Guardian. The report's author, forensic pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary, says: "Having talked to Mr Jones and examined him I have no doubt about the authenticity of his allegations. The nature of the various kinds of torture speak for themselves in relation to the abuse of basic human rights."
Mr Jones, who now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, arrived in Riyadh to begin work at a Saudi-owned accountancy firm in November 2000, just as a wave of anti-western bombings was about to sweep across the country.
On March 15 2001 he was shopping in Riyadh and visited the al-Jareer bookshop. After browsing upstairs for European books he left the shop and stopped for a cigarette on the pavement outside. Moments later a bomb, planted in a dustbin, knocked him off his feet and scorched the right-hand side of his body.
He came to in hospital and saw two police guards at his bedside. Late that evening he was taken from the hospital, still wearing his nightgown, to a nearby police station.
"I was taken through some large electric gates, across a courtyard and into a room," he said. "They left me there for 24 hours. The next day I was blindfolded, shackled and handcuffed and taken to an upstairs room where I was asked about the explosion."
Mr Jones told them what he had done that day up to the moment the bomb exploded, but this did not satisfy his interrogators, members of the general directorate of investigation (GDI). After leaving him in solitary confinement for two days, they began to torture him.
"They said they knew I was part of the bombing circle, that I had planted the bomb, and that if I didn't admit it they would torture me until I confessed," he said.
"They punched me, kicked me, bounced me off the walls. Then the caning started. They caned the soles of my feet and then they started caning my hands, sometimes with pickaxe handle. They told me they had arrested my wife and son and that they were doing all this to them as well.
"There's a period of about a week that I can't really recall. I had a hair sample test done when I got back which showed I was given a rohypnol-style [sedative] drug. They tried sleep deprivation, too. They would interrogate you all night and not let you sleep during the day.
Mr Jones said on other occasions he was blindfolded, put in a room with a guard "and then the guard would pretend to leave. You knew he was still in the room because you could hear him breathing, and then all of a sudden you'd get a whack from him. On another occasion they put me blindfolded in a swivel chair and spun me round singing, and then whacked me each time the chair went round.
"Other times they tied my hands up behind my back, then hung them from the bars of the window so they were hung up behind me. They told me this was nothing compared to what was going to happen."
Eventually he confessed to the bombing: "They had won. I didn't care what the consequences were. They recorded a statement from me in which I confessed to the bookshop bombing. Alcohol was never mentioned. I swore another statement saying I had not been mistreated and that I had confessed willingly to this."
But on May 23 Mr Jones was released in unexplained cir cumstances. Subsequently James Lee and Jimmy Cottle, who remain in custody, made televised confessions to the al-Jareer blast.
Mr Jones is frustrated with the Foreign Office's policy of silence. "The government should be pressing the Saudis to release the men still detained unconditionally, and secure an apology for those of us who have been mistreated."
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