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Law

British men report abuse from Guantanamo

Beatings also endured in Afghanistan, they allege

By Jonathan Wald
CNN

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Three British men held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for more than two years have accused the United States and Britain of humiliating and abusive treatment.

A 115-page statement, compiled by former detainees Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed and their attorney, Gareth Pierce, was released in New York Wednesday and sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

All three men, from Tipton in the West Midlands of England, were captured in November 2001 in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led military campaign to oust the Taliban. They eventually were transported to Guantanamo, and in March were flown back to London, where they were released without charge.

Iqbal and Ahmed, both 22, and Rasul, 27, said they endured beatings and unnecessarily severe treatment in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, situated near the southeastern tip of Cuba. They claim they were repeatedly kicked and punched, hooded, forced to strip, photographed naked, deprived of sleep, injected with drugs, shown pornography, forcibly shaved and shackled in painful positions.

On his arrival at Guantanamo, known colloquially as "Gitmo," a U.S. soldier allegedly told Iqbal, "You killed my family in the towers and now it's time to get you back."

U.S. soldiers "would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet, and generally disrespect it," Iqbal said.

Ahmed said a U.S. soldier held a gun to his head while he was interrogated by a British Special Air Service officer who tried to make Ahmed admit he was in Afghanistan to take part in holy war. "He was told that if he moved they would shoot him," says the report.

Hundreds of detainees have tried to commit suicide in Guantanamo, according to the report.

The Pentagon defended the treatment of inmates in Guantanamo Bay.

"The United States operates humane and professional detention operations at Guantanamo Bay that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism," said a Pentagon official. "The United States does not condone abuse of detainees which is prohibited by law. When questioning enemy combatants, U.S. personnel are required to follow this policy and applicable law."

In an open letter sent to President Bush and members of Congress in May, Rasul and Iqbal said the Pentagon is lying when officials deny using physically abusive and humiliating techniques to elicit information from them.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled on June 28 that U.S. authorities may detain American citizens and non-U.S. citizens as terror suspects but prisoners have the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court. (Full story)

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal group co-representing 53 other detainees at Guantanamo, said one of the most disturbing revelations in the statement was the report of systemic abuse.

"It's chilling to read it, not because of one incident but because of what you see here, the United States was running here, was a two-and-a-half year interrogation camp," Ratner said at a news conference to release the report.

"This report tells you how badly and how terribly what the administration can do to people when it is allowed to run a law-free zone," he said.

British and American interrogators, claims the report, accused the three men of appearing in a video taped in 2000 alongside Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta, the reputed ringleader of the September 11 attacks. All three initially maintained they were in Britain when the tape was made but said their harsh treatment forced them to give false confessions that they were in the video.

On one occasion, Iqbal was "left in a room and strobe lighting was put on and very loud music. It was a dance version of Eminem played repeatedly again and again."

"I was left in the room with the strobe lighting and loud music for about an hour before I was taken back to my cell," Iqbal recalls. "Nobody questioned me."

Once British intelligence confirmed the men's alibis, Rasul, Iqbal and Ahmed flew to Britain, where they were questioned and released shortly afterward.

story.detainees.jpg
This image of detainees was released by the U.S. in 2002.

"The methods used to induce false confessions from these three individuals saying they were at an Osama bin Laden training camp when they were in Great Britain are extremely troubling," said Barry Scheck, president of the National Criminal Defense Lawyers. "It's troubling because it's false information. It's extremely troubling because it violates every precept of the American justice system in terms of fair treatment of any prisoner."

Human rights lawyers have said they have no evidence that the offenses alleged to have been committed by interrogators in Guantanamo were as serious as the torture suffered by Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison.

Louise Christian, a lawyer representing Tarek Dergoul, another British man released from Guantanamo at the same time as the three from Tipton, urged Washington on Tuesday to make public video of U.S. soldiers assaulting detainees in their cell.

Currently, 586 inmates are being held at Guantanamo, suspected of fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan or supporting al Qaeda.

CNN Producer Sheila Steffen contributed to this report.


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