ABC News’ Lee Ferran and Rym Momtaz report:
NEW YORK – One of the men campaigning to lead Egypt into its post-Mubarak future used to oversee torture for the Mubarak regime, according to Western intelligence experts, and even aided the CIA in its controversial “rendition” program for suspected terrorists.
The announcement by Omar Suleiman that he would be running for president brought thousands of protestors into Cairo’s streets this week, and spurred Egypt’s parliament to pass a law that would bar Suleiman and another former official in the Mubarak regime from seeking office.
Suleiman served at the top of Egyptian intelligence from 1993 until he was briefly appointed vice president to then-President Hosni Mubarak just days before the regime fell in February 2011. As ABC News reported last year, in that time experts said Suleiman had been America’s “point man in Egypt” and was integral to just about every intelligence operation the U.S. conducted there.
Ron Suskind, author of the book The One Percent Doctrine, told ABC News last year that when the CIA once asked Suleiman for a DNA sample from a relative of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Suleiman offered the man’s whole arm instead.
“He’s a charitable man, friendly,” Suskin said. “He tortures only people that he doesn’t know.”
John Sifton, who authored a 2007 Human Rights Watch report on torture conducted by Egyptian intelligence, said Suleiman oversaw joint operations with the CIA and other Arab countries “which featured illegal renditions and tortures of dozens of detainees.”
Despite such accusations, a leaked 2006 State Department memo underscored Suleiman’s value in America’s eyes.
“Our intelligence collaboration with Omar Soliman,” says the cable, using an alternate spelling of his name, “is now probably the most successful element of the [U.S.-Egypt] relationship.”
Mass protests by Islamist groups in Egypt have reportedly followed Suleiman’s bid for presidency, with thousands chanting in Tahrir Square Friday, “Suleiman, do you think this is the old days?”
Egypt’s parliament passed legislation Thursday that bans former Mubarak top officials from becoming president — a measure that, if approved by Egypt’s ruling military, could put a quick end to Suleiman’s controversial run, according to Egypt’s English-language newspaper Ahram.
Rejecting claims by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that he would return Egypt to the days of Mubarak, Suleiman wrote in a state-owned newspaper that “no one, no matter who he is, will be able to reinvent a regime that fell, folded and was rejected and revolted against.”
“The clock cannot be turned back and the revolution laid down a new reality that cannot be ignored,” he wrote.