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A Jordanian just released from Guantanamo: "I wished to die because of the severe torture" (English)

Al Jazeera (Arabic)                                                                                                                           (Arabic version)
by Muhammad al-Najjar
November 13, 2007

Amman. A Jordanian detainee, recently released from Guantanamo, said he wished for death every night because of the intensity of the torture, inhumanity, and insults which he experienced in the American prison in Cuba.

In an interview with Aljazeera net, Ahmad Hassan Sleman narrated the details of his six-year detention, starting in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, to Qandahar, Afghanistan, and finally to Guantanamo in Cuba.

The following is the transcript of the interview.

  When did you get the news of your release? And how did you greet that?
+ Indeed when I received this news, I cheered up and saddened at the same time. I was happy, as God had predestined me to be released, and I felt sad for these brothers that are still there. So my happiness was mainly because all of my suffering experiences were for the sake of God. On the other hand, I was delighted to meet my father, mother, brothers and sisters again. But my grief was to leave the poor brothers, still tormented, just because they testify that Allah is their God.

How were you arrested, and how was your situation while you were in Guantanamo?
+ After 9/11, I had been living in Pakistan since I got married to a Pakistani lady. By that time, the Pakistani authorities waged a campaign of arrests against foreigners, Arab and non-Arab alike, especially in Peshawar, the city in which I used to live. About six years ago--it was the second day of the Greater Barium, a Muslim feast--I was shopping when I was arrested in the street by Pakistani Intelligence. Among those who arrested me there was an intelligence officer that had arrested me before. | After that I was put in a dungeon prison under ground in the military intelligence for more than two months. It was obvious that those who arrested us were spiteful towards Arabs, and wanted to take revenge on us, and indeed sold us to the Americans. I had heard that if anyone delivered an Arab to Americans, he would receive twenty thousand dollars. | The circumstances in detention were extremely bad. We were put in a room full of mice, we witnessed a lot of painful torture and horrible situations. Stripping prisoners was very common, as well as torturing them in the most painful ways. After that, we were transferred from Peshawar to Afghanistan, where I and six other Arabs were delivered to Americans.

Were you not informed about the reason for your detention?
+ Those who investigated us in the Pakistani Intelligence prison were Americans. The one who investigated me was American as well. He claimed he lived in Kuwait. He was speaking a broken Arabic and questioned me about Osama bin laden, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Palestine and so forth.

After Peshawar, where did you go?
+ I was then transferred to a military base in Bagram, close to Kabul, in Afghanistan, where we were delivered to Americans. In the course of delivering us, the Americans started insulting us; they hit and trampled us badly. I swear to God, when we got on the plane to be transferred from Peshawar to Bagram, I prayed to God to let this plane fall down out of the severe torture we faced. | In Bagram, we got exposed to several humiliating forms of torture. Among them, they used to get us naked and photograph us. We stayed there for three weeks.

You say that they were stripping and filming you naked, this is the exact thing that the detainees were exposed to in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq later. Would you explain more about that?
+ Yes, they stripped us and then photographed us. I did not know what had happened in Abu Ghraib until later, in Guantanamo. What happened in Abu Ghraib also happened to us in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. There are detainees whose honour and dignity were exposed to violation and humiliation and so many other forms that I can not talk about. One of which was to lock us in an extremely cold place without blankets. We were deprived even from eating and calling for our prayers. This happened when I was in Bagram. It was around dawn when I heard someone calling to prayer from far away, so I started calling for prayer too. An Egyptian who works with the American military approached me and told me that doing so was not allowed, but I refused to obey him. After I finished, they came and put me in an intensely cold place and had me stand in the rain for three hours; standing and not allowed even to move.

Did you transfer to Guantanamo after Bagram?
+ No, after three weeks we were transferred to Qandahar's prison, where the treatment was worse than Bagram. We were dragged on the ground and by our beards. I stayed for four months in Qandahar; then we were transferred to Guantanamo. We were deported in a plane for six hours before we continued in a different plane. In the planes and at the airports, they treated us really bad. They covered our head by sacks. Thus, we could not see anything during the transfer period.

Describe to us the moment you arrived to Guantanamo.
+ We arrived almost at sunset. Our group was around 30 persons, Arabs and non-Arabs. There they got us dressed in orange clothes. They were throwing us from the plane to the ground as if we are some sacks. Then they passed us through medical checks and everything was being done in a humiliating way.

Tell us about the most important things that still stick in your mind?
+ The worst moment for me was when they were trampling the holy Quran, throwing it away in the restrooms, and when they insulted our prayers.

We heard frequently that you were being brought for trial, is that true?
+ The investigation process in Guantanamo is nothing except torture, humiliation, and provocation against Islam, Allah and the Prophet (peace be upon him). We tried to retort back at them, but as a result we were punished and hit more and more. | What was happening through the investigation proved to us that the issue is not Osama bin Laden or the Taliban; it's nothing but the hate towards Islam and Muslims.

Did you pass all these years without any trial?
+ There were some nominal military trials; we just got investigated as I already explained to you. I refused to be prosecuted in front of this trial and asked to be prosecuted in my country. I was once put in front of a tribunal; there were four military officers. They just filmed us without any trial process. Next to me was an Egyptian female translator, and a person who claimed to be my personal representative. This was very painful for me, because they were threatening me that if I did not come to trial, he would represent me. And so it was the peak of mockery.

After all the oppression and torment that you experienced during these years, have you thought about suing those who arrested you to get compensation?
+ I know even if I brought suit, it would be ignored, because they do not consider us as humans. My brother has asked a Jordanian intelligence chief whether bringing suit against Americans would be successful or not. He told him we would not get anything. I am sure this is true. However, I ask God to reward me for what I experienced.
If there is any real opportunity for a successful case, I want to sue George W. Bush, Parwez Musharraf, and all those who tortured us in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US.

Americans claimed that some detainees have committed suicide in Guantanamo. How true is this?
+ In fact, these detainees have not committed suicide, but they have been killed by American soldiers. I saw them before they were killed. I saw Mani'a Aloutaiby, a Saudi, Yassr Alzahrany, Ali Saleh Alyamany, and another person whose nickname was Abu Talha (I did not know his real name). All of them were killed by Americans because they were participating in a hunger strike. | I saw Ali Saleh Alyamany before they claimed that he committed suicide. He was always back-handcuffed, so how would he commit suicide? Moreover, each detainee was monitored 24/7; each one was being overseen by six to seven guards. By God, we were punished if we did not even return an apple peel with the food. I was punished three days and they took my bed, just because I forgot the milk… in my room. These four detainees that I mentioned had been on a hunger strike for two years. Thus, they were fed forcibly. They all had memorized the holy Quran. They therefore refrained from committing suicide because it is forbidden in Islam, and whoever does so will be thrown into the hellfire. I do tell you if committing suicide had not been forbidden, I would have done that. Sometimes when we were being humiliated and our dignity was being humbled, I wished that committing suicide had not been forbidden. Because of the intense of humbling, I asked God not to wake me from my sleep.

I want to ask you about our colleague Sami Hajj. Did you see him? And what do you know about him?
+ Sami, God bless him, is one of those who always defended their brothers in Guantanamo. Two and a half years ago, I was his neighbor. He was being tortured badly and insulted because he was from Aljazeera. They were saying Aljazeera was a terrorist channel. The important thing is that he has a lot of regard for his family and relatives. I got his news before a while, and he will be released soon. The Sudani government has also demanded his release. I reassure his family he will be released with another Sudani whose name is Abu Ahmad. The last news which I received about Sami is that he is on a hunger strike and so is punished that they have given him a very light bed and blanket, and put him under a cold air conditioner all the time. All of this just because he works for Aljazeera.

What is the message that you want to send on behalf of your fellow Guantanamo detainees to their Muslim and Arab countries?
+ I want to tell them to realize the detainees’ situation in Guantanamo before they die slowly or come back mentally ill or without their mind. What is going on in Guantanamo is extremely dangerous; they all there wish to die because of the intense horror to which they were exposed by the Americans. Finally, I ask the human rights organizations to reveal the fake American culture and civilization in which we lived in Guantanamo.

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