06.08.2016 Author: Seth Ferris

Personal Interview with US-designated Arms Dealer Reveals Torture and Secret Prisons

54645645645645Amir Ardebili is one of the few people I know who is the protagonist of a whole book and subject of a movie, “Operation Shakespeare.

He’s neither a musician nor a film director; he didn’t save his granny from an aggressor or rescue a kidnapped child. But on the basis of what you’ve heard, you wouldn’t invite him to your daughter’s party or cry on his shoulders when you’ve quarrelled with your partner. Ardebili is supposed to be a monster, practically Satan in person: he is a convicted international arms dealer.

Or at least, this is what the mainstream media have reported so far.

He arrives at our lunch appointment in Iran a few weeks ago bit late, but is accompanied by his gentle and polite wife and a wonderful newborn baby in a pink cradle. Not bad for a monster. We greet each other, sit at the restaurant table and order traditional Iranian dishes.

We start chatting about travelling and places to visit, but his wife is rather nervous; she’s afraid I’m there to harm him, or play a bad trick on him. I explain that I am just an English teacher, but I know his case thanks to a mutual friend who did his best to give him a hand some time ago. I also point out immediately that it’s probably because of him that my former boss, an Argentinean jack-of-all-trades who was in good standing with the American Ambassador in Georgia, Richard Norland and his acolytes at USAID, began spreading it around that I was under the scrutiny of unspecified American secret services who was asking him about me.

According to him, quote, “I was following some Iranians.” Amir smiles: “Well, one of them may well have been me!”

And now, here’s the story.

In 2006 Amir Ardebili was an importer of electronic components on behalf of the Iranian Ministry of Defence. He went in search of some phase shifters, small items used in both civil and military engineering (for instance, to make radars). Since Iran was under sanctions and local engineers could not build reliable ones, people such as Amir would post the codes of the products online in specialised forums and wait for potential sellers to reply.

One day, the sales rep of an American company contacted him and offered his goods, guaranteeing the end user certificate (a document necessary to make sure that these components do not end up in bad hands, at least formally). The two men decided to meet up in Tbilisi to discuss the terms of the transaction.

The meetings took place at the Dzveli Tbilisi hotel. By this time, Georgia was in the terrible hands of former president Misha Saakashvili, a cocaine-addicted dictator who ruled the country under American protection. The worst sort of business was done there, for the benefit of a merciless oligarchy and a flourishing local and international mafia, which used the reliable services of international couriers working for the CIA, such as Barwil, Technological Management Company, TMC, and drug and weapons flows were shipped from Azerbaijan and Eastern Europe to Turkey and beyond.

Amir was in his early 30s, newly married and now going on his first trip abroad; he enjoyed a comfortable life, earned good money and had a brilliant, though a bit murky, career in front of him.

The American reps provided him with a catalogue which included phase shifters and also QRS-11 gyroscopes, Digital Air computers and DADC-107s; these are remote control devices which were necessary to make the old F4 airplanes work (those bought in the time of Shah Reza Pahlavi, before the Islamic Revolution). Amir was interested in the phase shifters, and received some samples later on, and also ordered some gyroscopes and other items. He presented $70,000 (please keep this amount in mind: $70,000) given him by the Iranian Ministry of Defence and waited for the ordered items to arrive.

The American guarantee was their own reliability and their first-hand contacts high in their own MoD Amir was offered machine guns and weapons via email, producing eloquent photos of these. Amir declined: these were not the sort of items he dealt in.

At a further meeting in Tbilisi, the American reps asked his opinion on the international situation and whether he thought the US would go to war against Iran. He replied by saying that this could well happen, especially as the US was already in Iraq and Afghanistan and Iranian president Ahmadinejad has made various threats against Israel, saying it should be wiped off the maps.

It was sensible to deduce that the Iranian government was getting ready for a new conflict, also taking into account the chronic instability of the region. But on hearing this, the Americans whispered to him that they’d got something in the cellar to show him: an RPG. What were they offering him this for? “Well, come downstairs and have a look at our stuff. We’ve got an arsenal downstairs!” they said. So Amir followed them, and put the grenade propeller on his shoulders as you would try on a jacket, laughing and joking with it.

Cameras recorded everything. Microphones recorded everything. The hotel had more bugs in it than a dirty old mattress.

Meantime, the items had not arrived although the Iranian government had put forward a lot of money, $70,000. Amir didn’t want to have to pay from his own pocket. So in doubt about the transaction, he arranged another trip to Tbilisi to see what was going on.

It’s October 2nd, 2007. During another round of talks with the American reps, the door is slammed, dozens of Special Forces agents (Georgians and Americans) break into the room and in a second Amir’s in handcuffs. Later on, the charges will be formalised: smuggling, money laundering and unlawful export of defence articles.

ICE undercover agents John Kellegan and Mike Ronayne, along with others, have fucked him. Amir is immediately sent to the military prison of Rustavi, which will soon after become widely known for the wild tortures which the criminal, former perverted ministers Bacho and Dato Akhalaia inflicted on political prisoners there.

On January 26th 2008 Amir is put on a private jet and sent to the US. Homeland security, FBI, secret services, the immigration office and journalists (Fox included) party together to celebrate the arrest of an Iranian international criminal caught by the infallible detectives of the USA. However that is but where the story starts.

Amir is given a Defence Attorney, Edmund Lyons, whose conduct and performance in court are so miserable that he acts more like a Public Prosecutor than the actual Public Prosecutor, David Hall. But wait a minute: why bother to help an accomplished criminal who comes from part of the Axis of Evil? Why should an enemy of the US stop the conflict that Sen. John MacCain, Dillon Aero and their acolytes are craving for?

Detention in the Federal Prison of Philadelphia is really hard. First, he is served two and a half years of complete isolation as a way to break him down. He receives no visits from his consulate – there isn’t one anyway, since the hostage crisis in Tehran ruined relations between the two countries– and abuse and torture follow. During dozens of hearings, Amir tries to make his point: he hasn’t actually done anything indictable. But public prosecutor and former Navy officer David Hall makes it clear: his job is to send people to jail, no matter what the mitigating circumstances are.

American taxpayers have already spent an awful lot of money on this operation, and it doesn’t matter whether it had any foundation or not; Kellegan, Ronayne & co. have been promoted, there’s the smoking gun of $2,980 already paid for the items – what more is needed?

Amir still claims to have paid $70,000 for his purchases, but in the official papers it says: “that he only gave $2,980 but where is the remaining $68,020—that is a difficult question to ask but getting an answer is a problem. And where is the complete footage taken by the hidden cameras in the Dzveli Tbilisi hotel? That too has never been seen in its entirety, but what we have seen has been carefully edited.

Where are the recordings of the 70 and more interrogatories held in various prisons in the USA? They do not exist, at least officially. Where is the recording of the indecent proposal that Amir could work for the service as a snitch being made? Never found.

Journal Veteran Today dug a little deeper into Shiffman and his credentials. Shiffman is yet another fake, more on a level of a snake oil salesman than a journalist.” https://www.johnshiffman.com/#!operationshakespeare/c1xfb

The production company he claimed to be passing on the message for, Bright Road Productions, is known for making hired gun hit pieces, much the same as CNN. Furthermore, it has a Facebook page and a few others, but seems to have no legal existence. The Associate Producer (read: glorified researcher) listed who is supposed to work for CNN is more probably freelance, as her links are more with British rather than the US companies affiliated to CNN.

The production company wrote Amir that it had been in contact with VT Bureau Chief Jeffrey Silverman, and “he has directed us to several sources that tell a very different story than the one told by the mainstream US media”. This is a big part of the reason we wanted to speak to you [Amir].”

I don’t blame you for your reluctance to speak with us or any US journalist, but know that we are trying to be as fair as possible. We are in the process of obtaining the full tape, but so far we’ve only found clips of the tape you’ve described. We’ve written to the court for archival material, but because you plead out there are no copies on record. So, it’s been difficult. As a producer, I’m not interested in bad guys versus good guys. Anyway, thank you for reaching out to us. I hope that we can continue to at least correspond by email, as the documentary proceeds. We want you to be represented honestly and fairly, and feel like we need your participation in order to do so.”

Silverman shared with Amir and the US Embassy that he has tapes of real weapons trafficking which has taken place in Georgia, and has made this known for several years. He said, “So if Mr. Shiffman and CNN are interested I would be more than happy to share the transcript of these tapes provided from Homeland Security. However, CNN might not like how that story would turn out, as it is not part of the prepared agenda they must keep to.”

Where are the reports of the US Embassy in Georgia, by that time known for illegal trafficking and misdoings? Carefully buried deep in the archives, which may emerge one of these days … and then an investigation may start, and lots of people – from diplomats to cops, from double agents to corrupted officers – may lose their jobs, and go straight to jail for being involved in high stakes corruption and gross violations of human rights.

The people involved in the case must explain why Amir Ardebili, who suffered severe pain during his detention as the result of a tooth infection, was not treated. His lawyer must explain why he hid rather than highlighted the endless incongruences and contradictions of his unfair trial, such as the inexplicable arrival of Amir’s wife in the US without his consent, which is expressively required by Iranian law – incidentally, being a witness gave her the chance of a fancy place under the sun in California.

They must explain where the sample phase shifters came from; they are the same devices that US weapons manufacturers happily sell to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Turkey, and all the state sponsors of terrorism in the world. They must also make clear why the plea that the judge in Philadelphia made Amir sign against his will. It was full of points which were in direct contrast to those in the rest of the documents enclosed in the proceeding files.

On Feb 3rd 2010 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outlandish spokesperson of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, suggested while on a visit to the UN in New York that three Americans caught hiking illegally in the mountains near Iraq (Sarah Shroud, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal) could be exchanged for Amir Hussein Ardebili. The proposal was well received, but it wasn’t clear whether Ardebili would be welcome back home – or rather, if he was going to jump from the grill to the frying pan.

Unofficially, government sources expressed concern that he may have spoken against his own country whilst in detention, or become a spy. That he may have gone mad, being now physically and psychologically debilitated by years of imprisonment and abuse. But he returned home, helped by his family (his mother is a former schoolteacher, his father a senior manager in the public administration). Little by little, he started a new life, getting a safer job in construction. However, he can’t travel abroad since his name is still on a number of black lists; and most of all, nobody has done him justice.

Amir’s not a monster, but the narrative of a mass media populated by journalists and editors who build careers on the back of news they don’t make, John Shiffman, or can manipulate for the sake of governments, lobbies, corporations and double-sided foundations, knows no mercy. One day or another somebody may come close to the truth, but does it really matter to the justice system? He even tried to sell more of his books by contacting Amir to participate in a CNN documentary after being released.

CNN Effect

John Shiffman, “I got a call and email from a company that says it is doing an hour-long documentary for CNN on your case. They would like to interview you. I am not familiar with this production company – and so I can’t offer advice as to what they are trying to do – but I am of course familiar with CNN. I offered to put them in touch with you. I know they are also in touch with Dave Hall and maybe the ICE agents, so I wanted to be sure you know about this, if you want to participate.”

Amir eventually declined the offer for obvious reasons – so that there would not be another hit on his reputation and more media spin.

Amir responded to Shiffman,

Last year Amir wrote “I am really tired of all craps done to me, and try to forget this nightmare. I suggest this company [linked with CNN] keep connection with Mr. David Hall as he could give all information to them and make U.S. Government happy again. I believe there are few people in united state who could still see the facts. I do not think  my participation have any help to my person … just give more credibility to them and what they  do  against me again. I think Immigration Agents already has many fresh hunts and they better focus on them and why waste time in cold case as mine.

Thank you for asking permission from me for sending my email. You have permission!!! But I wished you get permission from me before you write lots of personal thing from me in your articles.”

Even before Amir Ardebili told his grueling story and was handed over to the US he was a witness to torture in the Georgian prison system. This too needs to be investigated. Upon arrival in the US was given a fake name, so that his family and government would be unable to assist him, or even find him in the US Federal Prison System. He basically disappeared, and was told that he would never see his family again. He was placed in solitary confinement in order to force a confession.

It would be a very interested to write secret prisons and how people disappear in regular prisons, as in your case with fake name and in solitary confinement to force you to cope a plea.

As I sent to Amir and Shiffman before sending off this article, I have been hold your story, and only mentioned you in a recent article as part of the larger game being played here, and in terms of overall human rights violations, as your story is but the tip of an iceberg, and not only for foreign nationals.

Amir suggested that VT look into a secret prison that may be on the grounds of Fort Dix: please do some research “Fort Dix. 3 young brother (Albanian guys) all of them get 30 years + Life    it was stupid case; I was beside  cell of the  older brother  30-days before they got sentenced, his  voice still in my head  when  he  greet me every morning from  next wall.”

All such violations are not only against what was ONCE American law but contradict Treaty Law and the basic tenets of human rights and relations between countries. International law takes precedence over Georgian law in this matter, as torture and an illegal rendition are involved and his human rights were severely violated, both by the Georgian authorities and American officials.

At no time whatsoever did the so-called undercover investigation carried out by Homeland Security on the territory of Georgia, a sovereign state under international law, provide documentation that a crime had been committed. The undercover tapes provided to the Georgian authorities were “doctored” and edited in such a manner as to make the accused appear suspect and provide evidence, however flimsy, that a crime had been committed.

Documents submitted to the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office by Veterans Today Bureau Chief for Georgia, Jeffrey Silverman, clearly demonstrate that the United States is involved in using Georgia as a transit country for weapons transfers to Sudan, Turkey and other countries, and that this constitutes enabling international terrorism, as those weapons have ended up in the hands of terrorist organisations. Silverman has also been tortured on the order of US and Georgian authorities, this torture most likely related to his investigation of arms trafficking and some of his candid articles.

United we Scam

Amir Ardebili was a convenient scapegoat for many of the activities of real terrorists on the territory of Georgia. He provided the illusion that the US government was trying to stem the illegal export and control of restrictive materials when in fact it has been facilitating it.

Basic legal procedure have been grossly violated on the territory of Georgia by the sending of a man to the United States to disappear, the prevention of him establishing contact with human rights organisations, his family or his Embassy, and his torture whilst incarcerated.

All the while the devil on a front-page has always been sensational, and if evidence doesn’t come along they can be made sexier for the purpose. Some people in the police and security forces, diplomats and dubious relief agencies, are in need of promotions, career boosts and fame, and are willing to use every trick in the book in order to achieve them. Isn’t America the land of the conman, as the great Herman Melville taught us? The only difference is that in Melville’s profound South, Fox News and CNN hadn’t yet arrived.

Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.