TARA BROWN: Everyone has an opinion. Either Mamdouh Habib is a dangerous terrorist who should have been left to rot in jail or he is an innocent man persecuted because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's one or the other, simple as that, if you believe the propaganda. But so far, you've not seen this mysterious Mr Habib, never heard a single word from him. Now, after more than three years in prison, his story of terrorism and torture, and I have to say, some of his allegations are shocking and quite explosive. For the first time, your chance to judge Mamdouh Habib for yourself.
TARA BROWN: If we're to believe what we have been told about Mamdouh Habib, then this is one very dangerous and evil man.
Well, George W Bush said you were the worst of the worst.
MAMDOUH HABIB: Well, George Bush, he can say whatever he want to say. George Bush, he say he never touched nobody. George Bush is a liar. If I'm the worst, why he release me? If I done anything to him, why am I here now? Why he not charging me?
TARA BROWN: Since his release, Habib, as you'd expect, has been intent on making up lost time with his wife Maha and their four kids. For more than three years, Mamdouh Habib says his world was a torture chamber where he suffered repeated physical abuse and mental torment, including being told his family had been killed.
MAMDOUH HABIB: I want to die. I want to go (inaudible) I want to go with my kids, my wife. You killed them. I'm not interested to live any more.
TARA BROWN: His claims are shocking, but then so are the allegations against him. Have you ever supported a holy war against the West? Do you admire Osama bin Laden? Are you a terrorist? The case against Mamdouh Habib later. But it is a fact that, for three and a half years, Habib was jailed without a single charge. In all that time, the Americans didn't produce the evidence to convict him. Worst still, if you believe Habib, an Australian citizen for 20 years, he suffered repeated torture, including threats of sexual assault.
MAMDOUH HABIB: They have a dog, they make me naked. Then they bring the dog and they said this dog to do sexual with a human.
TARA BROWN: So they were telling you that they had trained this dog to sexually assault human beings?
MAMDOUH HABIB: Yes.
TARA BROWN: Is that right?
MAMDOUH HABIB: And the dog was behind me all the time. But he doesn't do anything to me. Just to scare me.
TARA BROWN: In the weeks after the September 11 attacks, Pakistan was pressured by America to turn over its suspected terrorists and round up al-Qaeda operatives fleeing Afghanistan. This is how events unfolded. Sometime between October 2 and 5, 2001, Mamdouh Habib was travelling on a bus in Pakistan. He claims he'd gone there looking for work and for schools for his children, as he was thinking of leaving Australia. Habib was apprehended, along with two Germans suspected of links to al-Qaeda. Habib says a hood was placed over his head and he was taken in for interrogation where the torture began almost immediately.
MAMDOUH HABIB: They take me in, like a jail and they have a roll, a concrete roll. They have a wire in the inside and lift me up and put me in the top of it and ah, they put electric shock on it and they make me run on it. They ask me to say something.
TARA BROWN: Did they ask you if you were a member of al-Qaeda?
MAMDOUH HABIB: They never ask me al-Qaeda or anything like this. They say, "You do blow up a consul, Egyptian consulate, in Pakistan."
TARA BROWN: Did you?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I never know it the Egyptian consulate has been blown up.
TARA BROWN: Habib says he was held in Pakistan for three weeks.
Tell me if you recognise that man.
Twice, he says, he was visited by an Australian Government official who witnessed his interrogation and later, at a military airport, stood by and did nothing while he was physically abused.
MAMDOUH HABIB: One hundred percent they say me tortured in a airport.
TARA BROWN: How were you tortured?
MAMDOUH HABIB: They beat me, about 15 of the guys, the American guys, and about four Pakistani, the Afghans. And when they stripped me, I don't know, they put something in my bottom. I don't know what it is. And they put me in a piece and they tied me up. And they make photograph of me in front of him. And they make video.
TARA BROWN: Did this Australian beat you? At all?
MAMDOUH HABIB: No, Australian … he was watching me when I was being beaten.
TARA BROWN: Habib claims he was flown from Pakistan to Egypt, possibly in this covert CIA plane. Former CIA agents and other sources say Egypt is a country used by America to do its dirty work, softening up suspected terrorists with hardline brutality.
MAMDOUH HABIB: I was there for six months. I have not even one rest one day from torture.
TARA BROWN: And how did they torture you?
MAMDOUH HABIB: Electric shock. Beating. They … drugs.
TARA BROWN: Did you meet any Australian officials in Egypt?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I believe was one Australian guy. And he was talking with the American guy to tell him about the questions they're going to ask me for and what he wants.
TARA BROWN: Who was he?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I have no idea. But if I see him, I will know him.
TARA BROWN: You're sure again that this was an Australian?
MAMDOUH HABIB: Oh, positive.
TARA BROWN: Habib says, under torture, he made a series of admissions. What did you confess to?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I confessed about they tell me you train anybody to hijack flights and I did. I said yes.
TARA BROWN: Just for my clarification, they asked you did you train anyone...
MAMDOUH HABIB: Yes.
TARA BROWN: …to hijack the planes that flew into the World Trade Center?
MAMDOUH HABIB: They said, "Did you train them?" I say, "Yes." The other one, he asked me, "Did you do, see chemical in Afghanistan?" I say, "Yes, I even move it." And they ask me, I believe one they say, "You've been fighting in Chechnya?" I say, "Yes."
TARA BROWN: What part of your confessions were true?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I have nothing true. This … I make him happy. I want to save myself.
TARA BROWN: This is obviously hard going for Habib. He shows me how he was handcuffed and shackled. The scars, he says, are cigarette burns and bruises that won't go away. But it's what we can't see that distresses him most. When the Egyptians were done with him, Habib claims he was told he was going home to Australia. It was a lie. For the next two and a half years, home would be Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
What was the worst thing that happened to you at Guantanamo Bay?
MAMDOUH HABIB: They use every possible to make me crazy. They put me in isolation all the time. I never see the sun. I never have shower like a human being. I never have soap. I never have cup to drink. I never treated like a human being.
TARA BROWN: There have been reports of a prostitute wiping a tampon on you.
MAMDOUH HABIB: Yes.
TARA BROWN: Did that happen?
MAMDOUH HABIB: She … it's very rude, actually. She put her hand in her private. She take stuff with the blood and she threw it in my face.
TARA BROWN: At his lowest, he turned to fellow Australian detainee David Hicks.
MAMDOUH HABIB: I told him if you go home and you not find me in Australia, this mean I get killed. And let my family know what happened to me. And he say no worries, I will. And that's it. That's the last time I saw him.
TARA BROWN: Do you believe that there are terrorists in Guantanamo Bay?
MAMDOUH HABIB: If I'm innocent and they do all this to me, how will I know? But what I believe, maybe what they did to me, they do it to David Hicks.
TARA BROWN: If he is a terrorist, if his associations with al-Qaeda are proven, does he deserve the treatment he's getting?
MAMDOUH HABIB: No-one should be treated in a way people are treated in Cuba, the American … how they are treating people. They are terrorists, not the people like us. They have no humanity.
TARA BROWN: Habib maintains he is the victim of an outrageous miscarriage of justice, but his association with extreme elements of the Islamic community in Australia and America put him on ASIO's radar long before September 11. Of particular concern was his support for these two men, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny and blind cleric Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, both convicted of conspiring to carry out a campaign of terror attacks in New York and both linked to the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993. That same year, El-Gabrowny had telephone and fax contact with Habib. Habib also gave public support to the jailed cleric, but insists he was only trying to pressure the authorities to treat Rahmen's diabetes.
This is a man, a convicted terrorist now, who applauded the September 11 attacks, who said, "Kill the enemies of God". This is the man that you supported.
MAMDOUH HABIB: I didn't support anybody for what he did. I said I supported deeply for his sickness, that's all.
TARA BROWN: Do you or have you ever supported a jihad, a holy war, against the West?
MAMDOUH HABIB: My religion doesn't … the way I believe doesn't harm nobody.
TARA BROWN: Do you think that there is any justification in killing in the name of Allah?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I don't believe in that, no.
TARA BROWN: Do you admire Osama bin Laden?
MAMDOUH HABIB: What I know, I know he's a normal man. That's what I believe. Before September 11. But after September 11, I'm not very happy with what he's done.
TARA BROWN: Well, what do you think of him now?
MAMDOUH HABIB: If he done that, what they say they done, he's … he done a crime.
TARA BROWN: Another key allegation against Habib is that he knew about September 11 before it happened. Reports claim ASIO phone taps recorded Mamdouh telling his wife Maha something big was about to happen in New York. He says there's a simple explanation. He called from Pakistan after the attack asking about the news.
MAMDOUH HABIB: My phone at home has been traced for over two year. How come I tell the … my wife, hey, they have attacked the US. You think I'm a stupid terrorist?
TARA BROWN: Can you categorically say your husband didn't warn you that somebody big was going to happen...
MAHA HABIB: Of course not.
TARA BROWN: …in New York?
MAHA HABIB: Of course not. How could…
TARA BROWN: It didn't happen?
MAHA HABIB: No, it didn't happen.
TARA BROWN: Why were you in Pakistan in July 2001?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I was looking for a school, college and school, for my kids. And business for me and my wife. I tried to get away from what I have here.
TARA BROWN: Why?
MAMDOUH HABIB: Well, I been followed from the ASIO, I've been mistreated by and I want to go away for a couple of years to make some money and come back.
TARA BROWN: What is of grave concern is that you were also in Afghanistan.
MAMDOUH HABIB: Well...
TARA BROWN: Weren't you?
MAMDOUH HABIB: This question … I will answer this question for you in fully in a courthouse, in front of the judge.
TARA BROWN: What were you doing there?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I can't answer this question. I'll ask you … I answer this question I'm telling you in fully in front of the judge.
TARA BROWN: How could you afford to travel to this region so many times? Who was paying for it?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I leave this one in the court as well.
TARA BROWN: Habib argues he wants his day in court to get his passport back and clear his name. His reason for being in Afghanistan, he says, goes to the heart of his defence and he doesn't want to tip off his accusers. But the latest counter from Government sources is the only reason Habib was let go was to protect undercover operatives still in the region whose identities would have been exposed by a trial.
You would rather sit here and let people think you're a terrorist than tell me what you were doing in Afghanistan?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I believe people to think in ... they shouldn't think I'm a terrorist. Because if I'm a terrorist, I would be still in Cuba.
TARA BROWN: Did you ever visit or train at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan?
MAMDOUH HABIB: Never. Never ever. In my life.
TARA BROWN: So if you weren't at an al-Qaeda training camp, what were you doing there?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I never been al-Qaeda camp.
TARA BROWN: How do you explain the witness accounts that place you in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan at the time of the September 11 attacks?
MAMDOUH HABIB: Well, this is in a court. The judge is going to be approve between me and this witness if they have.
TARA BROWN: Some of the allegations against you are that you trained with al-Qaeda.
MAMDOUH HABIB: I told you, I never trained with any camp.
TARA BROWN: You had prior knowledge of September 11.
MAMDOUH HABIB: I have no knowledge about anything.
TARA BROWN: You trained hijackers in martial arts.
MAMDOUH HABIB: This is … what I'm going to say, I don't know how to say it, but this is a lie, full of lie.
TARA BROWN: You plan to hijack a plane yourself.
MAMDOUH HABIB: This is full of lie and this is not true.
TARA BROWN: You stayed in al-Qaeda safe houses.
MAMDOUH HABIB: This is full of lie.
TARA BROWN: You moved chemicals in Afghanistan for al-Qaeda.
MAMDOUH HABIB: That's lie. That's not true.
TARA BROWN: So when you sit here and you look at me...
MAMDOUH HABIB: Yes?
TARA BROWN: …you are telling me the truth?
MAMDOUH HABIB: I'm telling you everything I say is true. Everything I said is true.
TARA BROWN: On January 28, 2005, Mamdouh Habib landed on Australian soil.
What was that moment like?
MAHA HABIB: I feel it now, actually. I don't know. It's not easy to describe, it's just incredible, you know, the way … I was in the plane. So as soon as he walked in, he went, "Oh my God," he went like this. I can see it now. And we started, you know, hugging and, you know, and talking. It was a beautiful moment, to be honest. And I think it's a big gift from God that has returned my husband back to his family.
TARA BROWN: Habib is back in the care of his family. Winning the trust of the wider community may take a lot longer. People say he's either mad or he's bad, that he's crazy or he's a terrorist.
MAHA HABIB: He's none of these. He's the best. He's crazy about his kids, his family, yes. And I don't call this a terrorist if you cared about your family. He's not. He is a normal, wonderful person who cares for his family and his kids. Is that a crime?
TARA BROWN: Tonight, Mamdouh Habib is a free man who remains under suspicion. If he's innocent, he's the victim of an appalling injustice. If he's not, he's a terrorist walking our streets. Despite the fact he was released without charge, behind the scenes, intelligence sources maintain he is a dangerous man.
You've heard of the saying where there's smoke, there's fire. You understand that saying?
MAMDOUH HABIB: Well, yes.
TARA BROWN: Do you accept that that's how many people judge you?
MAMDOUH HABIB: Well...
TARA BROWN: That they can't believe you have been treated in this way unless you have done something wrong, unless there's something suspicious about you.
MAMDOUH HABIB: Well, some suspicion about me is not true. But I've been through a lot. I've been harmed. For no reason. I'm innocent.