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Judge: Detainee’s abuse claim not believable

/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge ruled Friday that an Australian man's claim that he had been mistreated in custody in Pakistan before being sent to the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay could not be believed.

Justice Peter McClellan of the New South Wales state Supreme Court ruled against Mamdouh Habib in the man's defamation suit against a Sydney newspaper, which Habib said had implied he lied about being tortured.

"I am satisfied that Mr. Habib's claims that he was seriously mistreated in the place of detention in Islamabad cannot be accepted," McClellan said.

He said Habib was "prone to exaggerate," "evasive" and had made claims about mistreatment in Pakistan and Egypt which could not be sustained.

"I have reflected at length on his evidence and have ultimately concluded that I cannot accept the allegations of mistreatment in the detail which he gave the evidence in this court," the judge said.

Habib, an Egyptian-born immigrant, was arrested in Pakistan in late 2001. He says he was held there for 28 days and was interrogated by Americans before being transferred to Egypt, where he alleged he was beaten, shocked with electricity and nearly drowned while under interrogation.

After six months, he was sent to the U.S. military base at Bagram, Afghanistan and then Guantanamo Bay. He was returned to Australia in January 2005.

U.S. officials accused Habib, of traveling to al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan and knowing about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks before they happened.

Habib has appeared regularly in media interviews talking about the alleged abuse. In 2007, he ran for state parliament in New South Wales on a ticket that included trying to draw attention to alleged rights abuses at Guantanamo.

Habib sued Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper for a 2005 article he said defamed him by implying he had lied about the alleged torture. A court initially upheld Habib's claim.

The paper's publisher, News Ltd., launched a legal defense of the article, which was based on challenging Habib's credibility. Friday's ruling was the result of that case.

Habib is also suing the federal government for compensation, arguing the government failed to uphold his rights as a citizen during his detention. It was not immediately clear what effect Friday's ruling would have on the compensation case, which is under way in a different court.