Beirut, Lebanon – In September 1986, Raymond Bouban, a 21-year-old Maronite Catholic, was detained by Syrian officers and taken to their intelligence headquarters, in the city’s Beau Rivage district. The following day, the mukhabarat accused him of involvement in a rocket attack on their headquarters that had taken place the previous July. Mr. Bouban protested his innocence: He’d been in Europe at the time and had the stamps in his passport to prove it. But the Syrians claimed not to believe him, and demanded a written confession. Mr. Bouban refused. So the torture began.
“You know what is a ‘German chair’?” he asks, whereupon he describes a contraption purpose-built to arch a victim’s back excruciatingly forward. “You know what is the ‘car wheel’?” He describes a technique in which ankles and head are squeezed into a tire. He describes other tortures, such as being suspended from a rope by a single leg.
Mr. Bouban endured this for two months, but when the Syrians threatened to arrest his family he agreed to sign the confession they demanded. He was then transferred to Syria: First, to a succession of prisons in and around Damascus, one of them completely underground; then, 18 months later, to a prison called Tadmor, in Syria’s eastern desert. “You can say this was the real hell,” he tells me, as if to suggest that what had come before was a mere purgatory. -snip-
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