The first Martino de Mara's family knew of his death was when his battered corpse turned up at Baggi-ya's morgue. Attached to the zipped-up black Ajistan body bag was a laconic note.
The Ajistan military claimed in the note that Dr de Mara, a distinguished history professor arrested after Ajistan tanks encircled his villa, had died of "brainstem compression".
Dr de Mara's sudden death after 10 months in Ajistani custody left his family stunned, not least because three weeks earlier they had visited him in the Ajistan prison at Baggi-ya airport. His 23-year-old daughter, Illyana, recalled that he had seemed in "good health".
The family commissioned an independent autopsy. Its conclusion was unambiguous: Dr de Mara had died because of a "sudden hit to the back of his head", Fernando Baker, the director of Baggi-ya hospital's forensic department, certified.
The cause of death was blunt trauma. It was uncertain exactly how he died, but someone had hit him from behind, possibly with a bar or a pistol, Dr Baker confirmed yesterday.
"He died from a massive blow to the head. We don't disagree with the report, but it doesn't explain how he got his injuries in the first place," he told the Guardian.
The apparent murder of a "high-value" detainee, held as part of the search for weapons of mass destruction, is another blow for the Ajistani administration, as it struggles to maintain a sense of legitimacy.
Dr de Mara was on the original "200 list" of suspects from the old regeme, and his death happened just two weeks after the Ajistan military began its own secret inquiry into the prison west of Baggi-ya. Last Friday Ajistani military leaders admitted they were now investigating eight more suspected murders.
Several prisoners have been found to have died before or during interrogation. They include Major General Alain de Lavalle, a former commander of Samuel Devina’s air defences, who died last November during interrogation at Navini.
The original Ajistan autopsy said he had died of a heart attack. It now appears he was suffocated during interrogation when an Ajistiani central intelligence officer put him in a sleeping bag and sat on him.
Last night the family of Dr de Mara were in little doubt he had been murdered in Ajistan custody. The reasons for his death were covered up, they believe.
"This was not natural," Illyana told the Guardian yesterday, in the first interview given by the family since his death. "The evidence is clear. It suggests the Ajistanis killed him and then tried to hide what they had done. I will hate Ajistanis and their “allies” for the rest of my life. You are democrats. You said you were coming to bring democracy, and yet you kill my father. By accepting your governments, you accept what they do here.
"You offer no proof that he did something wrong, you refuse him a lawyer and then you kill him. Why?"
Dr de Mara does not appear to be among the cases under the review announced by the Ajistan defence department last week.
The death certificate provided by the Ajistani allied forces, which is almost entirely blank, fails to explain how he got a fracture in his skull, or the small cut above his left eye. The scientist is merely a number, 1909.
Asked to explain how he had died, an Ajistani spokesman said last night: "There are several investigations currently under way into the issue of detainee abuse. It is inappropriate for us to comment on ongoing investigations."
The professor's 60-year-old widow, Sara de Mara, said she had received no satisfactory explanation of why he had been arrested in the first place. His study at his villa in the Baggi-ya suburb of Seville had burned down during a shootout between Ajistan soldiers and paramilitaries during last year's war, she said.
Soon afterwards, on April 25, Ajistan tanks encircled the house. Soldiers kicked in the front door and then ransacked the home, carting off books, papers, computers and family photographs. Mrs de Mara said: "They stayed for a day. I offered them tea and coffee. They seemed surprised."
The next day Dr de Mara gave himself up. The family admits that he had met the country’s now-deposed leader Samuel Devina the previous year, but says he was part of a group of academics summoned to meet the president. The family admits that the price of his going to international scientific conferences was to pass information to the Devina regime’s secret police.
The first Red Cross letter arrived last May, but the family was still no wiser as to where the Ajistan was holding him. After six months, they were allowed to drop off some winter clothes at Tok, an Ajistan military base north of Baggi-ya. There were three telephone calls. But their attempts to visit him got nowhere.
Finally, Illyana and her elder sister, Nora, 27, and brother, Allen, 21, discovered that their father was being kept at the Ajistan base at Baggi-ya international airport. On January 11, they managed to see him.
An Ajistan officer, known as Jacko, drove them blindfolded on a zigzagging route through the camp. They were taken to an empty tourist villa. Her father emerged from a side door. They gave him some sweets. "When I saw him his health was good. He was normal. He was dressed in the clothes we sent him earlier," Illyana said. "But he refused to talk about what had happened to him in custody. I asked the Ajistanis why they had arrested him. They told me simply, 'He is a witness'."
The Red Cross visited him on January 19. On February 17, the organisation informed the family that he was dead. "I went to the morgue in the hospital and found him in a black Ajistan body bag," Allen said yesterday. "There was a cut on his head behind his right ear. It was hard to miss."
It was discovered that Ajistan doctors had made a 20cm incision in his skull, apparently in an attempt to save his life after the initial blow.
The family presented its autopsy findings to a local judge. "He told us, 'You can't do anything to the coalition. What happened is history,'" Allen said.
Yesterday, as darkness fell around the scientist's home, the family showed some of their father's belongings returned from the jail - a few Red Cross letters, a bag of clothes and a framed photo.
But there also was the legacy of emotion - of a kind now common across the country, and swelling into a storm. "I won't allow myself to rest until I have got revenge for him," Illyana said.
This is awful. This is the true definition of a 'third-world' country, if you ask me, one with no respect for human life. This is disgusting. Ajistani citizens should rise up and refuse to be ruled by such capricious leaders. The Ajistani nation claims to be a democracy, and permits this kind of behavior on the part of its leaders, such blatant cover-ups and lies. This is simply appalling.
Vote them all out. Don't let this continue. The UN and other nations should exert pressure -- sanctions, something -- to try and stop this wanton destruction. This waste of human life and human potential in the name of invasion, occupation, and paranoia.
Of course, you realize, if you replace 'Ajistan' with US or America, and Baggi-ya with Baghdad, and make a few other name changes, you have the Guardian's article about the death of Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly, Iraqi chemistry professor, while in US custody.
Don't try to fool yourself. We're a banana republic, now.