Mustafa Sitt Mariam Nasar, commonly known to most as Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, is a Syrian of Spanish nationality that is being held as a secret prisoner in Syria.


Mustafa Sitt Mariam Nasar, commonly known to most as Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, is a Syrian of Spanish nationality that is being held as a secret prisoner in Syria. Abu Mus’ab has green eyes, ginger hair and a very fair complexion. He studied to be a mechanical engineer, before joining the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1980. He spent the next few years travelling between Iraq and Jordan with a short stint in Egypt, all in the service of the grass-roots opposition movement of the Muslim Brotherhood which was committed at the time to overthrowing what they perceived to be the corrupt and dictatorial regimes of their homeland. Eventually Abu Mus’ab found his way to Afghanistan in the late 1980’s where he helped the Afghan resistance against the Soviet occupation.

Over-time Abu Mus’ab became best known for his writings which show strong  anti-colonialist sentiments and third-worldism. He generally opposed what he viewed as the projection of western power throughout the world and that it was his primary concern. Concurrently he also advocated military action against governments whom he perceived to be illegitimate.

Manhunt and Capture

After the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Abu Mus’ab became a fugitive fleeing through Afghanistan. He eventually found his was to Quetta in Pakistan. In his memoirs that he published in 2004, he remembers this period as a very stressful time always on the move.

In November 2004, Nasar was identified on the FBI ‘Most Wanted Terrorists’ List and on November 18, 2004, the U.S. Department of State offered a bounty of $5 million US for information concerning his location. Here the US described Abu Mus’ab as an al-Qaeda member and former trainer at camps in Afghanistan. As a point of fact, Abu Mus’ab has never been a member of al-Qaeda – in fact he was best known for his books and articles and other published material.

Sometime in late October or early November 2005, Abu Mus’ab was apprehended in Quetta, Pakistan. The raid in which one person was killed was carried out by Pakistani security personal. From here he was handed to the US and transferred to the secret detention facility at the US naval base on the Island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Diego Garcia has housed a US secret prison since the beginning of the War on Terror. Though they have consistently denied this, many independent sources have now verified the fact. Here he was held with many others and is suspected of having faced abuse and torture. It is important to note that Abu Mus’ab was never charged with a crime or given a trial before being deprived of his liberty.

Return to Syria

In September 2006 when six other prisoners were transferred from what is thought to be Diego Garcia to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Mus’ab was not among them. He was instead handed over to the Syrian authorities – a situation which in all likelihood result in his abuse, not only due to the nature of secret detention in Syria but also due to his involvement in the Hama uprising in Syria against the then dictator Hafez Asad, the father of the current president.

Illegal Detention, Renditions, Refoulement, and Torture

Abu Mus’abs transfer by the Pakistani authorities to the US was not a legal transfer of prisoners as the Pakistani government – he was sold to them for a bounty. Once the US had finished interrogating and torturing him, he was then rendered by the US from Diego Garcia to Syria. This too was a criminal action as the US must have been aware that due to his anti-government stance, he was in danger of abuse and torture and maybe even death in Syrian custody. When they transferred him, not only was it an illegal rendition but it also broke international conventions against refoulement – that is the transfer of a person to a place where they are likely to face abuse.

The US authorities are responsible for: holding Abu Mus’ab without charge or trial; for torturing him whilst he was in their custody; for rendering him without due process and against International law; and for transferring him to Syria.

Justice for Abu Mus’ab

Abu Mus’ab is a secret prisoner who has never been charged or tried and is being held secretly in Syria where he is most probably being subjected to torture. His transfer from Pakistani custody to US custody in Diego Garcia and from there to Syria both broke international conventions against refoulement. Further to this the US authorities must have been fully aware of Abu Mus’ab’s political exile from Syria and the abuse he would face there.

Abu Mus’ab’s political views do not abrogate the importance of upholding that his basic human rights: the right to a fair trial; the right to be free from torture; and the right to fair conditions of detention.

Spanish Citizen

One point in the case of Abu Mus’ab which is of paramount importance is that he is a Spanish citizen. It is therefore crucial for Spain to recognise the importance of extending the rights afforded to all Spanish citizens to Abu Mus’ab al-Suri. Anything short of that would call into question the value of Spanish nationality and the principal of citizenship as a foundational principal of its society. Thus Spain must demand the return of Abu Mus’ab, from a place where he is most definitely being tortured, as they would any other citizen. If the Spanish authorities then choose to try Abu Mus’ab for crimes he may have committed in that country that is their prerogative. They must not however let one of their citizens face secret detention and torture in a prison in Syria.  

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)