Rendition Mission: N982RK, 8-11 June 2004

N982RK, 8-11 June 2004

Aborted rendition of Laid Saidi from Afghanistan to Tunisia

Gulfstream III, operated by Richmor Aviation

Route: Washington DC – Luton – Larnaca – Kabul – Jordan – Tunis – Jordan – Kabul – Baku – Palma de Mallorca – Gander


Straight after Khaled el-Masri’s rendition out of Afghanistan, Richmor’s N982RK was contracted to return to Afghanistan and fly from there to Tunisia. The details of this mission, deduced from invoices and trip planning documents, definitively correlate this flight with an abortive attempt to render the black site prisoner Laid Saidi to Tunisia.

According to the New York Times, Laid Saidi was rendered in May 2003 from East Africa to “a place that is out of the world”. This was the beginning of over a year’s imprisonment in CIA black sites in Afghanistan, for part of which he was held in the same site as Khaled el-Masri, outside Kabul.

When apprehended, Saidi had been in possession of a Tunisian passport. This played a formative role in what was to follow:

In the late spring or early summer of 2004, he said, he was flown to Tunisia, apparently because his captors thought he was Tunisian. But when Arabic-speaking men boarded the plane, he said he told them he was from Algeria and that his Tunisian passport was fake.
This account is supported by the Report of the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, in relation to his 2010 visit to Tunisia. The Tunisian government stated that

Laid Saidi had arrived with a “special flight” on the 9 June 2004, where he was presented by four foreign security officials to Tunisian authorities at the airport of Tunis Carthage under the name of Ramzi Ben Fredj. The Tunisian security services conducted an audit and concluded that the person had usurped the identity of the real Ramzi Ben Fredj. The person then acknowledged that he was actually Laid Saidi. [Para. 51]
According to Scheinin’s report, Saidi was then “sent back with the same special flight to a ‘foreign country’; he was then still accompanied by the same foreign agents.”

N982RK’s mission, numbered on invoices as 53457, corresponds to all the particulars of this narrative, and fills in several missing details.

The trip was contracted by CSC for a total cost of $339,230 and at the outset followed the pattern set by the el-Masri rendition of a few days before. On the way to Afghanistan, the plane passed initially through London Luton (EGGW) for refuelling. Before the commencement of the mission proper, passengers and crew – numbering eight in total – were once again encouraged to “steal away” to the Larnaca’s Golden Bay Beach Hotel, where they spent the night of 8-9 June (after $380 of VIP meals). Data released by EuroControl to the European Parliament’s Justice and Human Rights Committee shows that N982RK was then scheduled to arrive in Kabul on the morning of 9 June. From Kabul the plane made its way via Amman, Jordan (OJAM) to Tunis (DTTA), where its arrival time was set for 19:27.

As Laid Saidi recollected, the fact that he was not Tunisian was discovered after the plane landed, and he was then returned to Afghanistan where he spent “75 more days in jail”. Flight plan data again corroborates this. The plane left Tunis after a slightly longer than normal stopover, leaving at 23:10. It evidently was compelled to make an “urgent permit assistance” request for permission to return to Jordan on 9 June. The urgency suggests unexpectedness. On 10 June a flight plan shows it landing in Amman from Tunis at 02:29 and leaving at 10:10. An invoice for 10 June shows the plane in Amman, paying for landing, parking, ground handling and communications. Presumably during this period Mr Saidi remained on the plane. From Jordan the plane filed a flight plan back to Kabul, where Mr Saidi must have then been dropped off at around 11:15 GMT on 10 June.

From Kabul the plane returned north-west to Baku in Azerbaijan. In Baku it was charged for landing, customs, immigration, ramp handling and overnight parking from 10-11 June, as well as for 12 litres of water/chemicals, security and lavatory services. A flight plan then shows it leaving Baku on 11 June at 08:55 and proceeding to Palma de Mallorca, where it stops only briefly before continuing to Canada. It is likely that, after its unexpected return to Kabul, the plane’s stop in Baku was a change in the itinerary to allow for a nearer overnight rest stop. Booking had initially been made for an overnight stay in the Marriott Hotel, Palma (eight rooms booked in advance) but the flight plans show only a short stop in Palma (14:01 to 15:16), presumably for refuelling.

CSC’s total payment for this mission represented a $53,472 profit for sub-contractors.