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Guantanamo detainee keeps his promise to prisoners

Your Canterbury News
March 28, 2010

KENT NEWS: Former Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes paid a visit to Kent to help fulfil a promise made to fellow inmates after six years of captivity.

The Libyan-born British citizen claims he was blinded, beaten and sexually assaulted at the notorious American detention camp between 2002 and 2007, despite having never been charged with an offence.

He is now one of six former Guantánamo detainees who are suing the British government and its intelligence agencies for alleged complicity in their abuse while behind bars.

Mr Deghayes is also featured in a new documentary entitled Outside the Law, which was introduced by co-director Andy Worthington at the University of Kent last week.

He said: “I already knew Andy and knew he had studied the subject deeply.

"He didn’t just take what the Americans and the British government told him and he really made an effort to find the truth.

"When I came home from Guantánamo I was silent for more than a year, but when Andy told me about this film I decided to speak to him because I knew he would use the information in a better way.

“I felt that I hadn’t done enough for the people still inside the camp, who I promised I would do my best to help once released.

“I blamed myself for not sticking to that promise earlier, but I’m hoping to make up for it now by spreading the word about what goes on inside places like Guantánamo.”

Born in 1969, Mr Deghayes and his family regularly went on holiday to Saltdean, near Brighton, until they moved to England permanently in 1980 after the execution of his father, a vocal opponent of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

After graduating with a law degree from the University of Wolverhampton, Mr Deghayes went travelling and eventually settled in Afghanistan, where he met his wife and brought up their son.

However, the family fled to Pakistan after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, which turned out to be the worst decision they would ever make.

Mr Deghayes said: “After September 11, bounty hunters were being paid a lot of money for any Arabs living in Pakistan, especially those who had been in Afghanistan. Many people were rounded up and handed over to the Americans, but most were never convicted.

“Guantánamo was a cruel and barbaric place. The guards tried their best to humiliate inmates and break us down, stupidly thinking they could get more information that way.

“I lost the sight in one eye and they broke my nose and my ribs. I’ve had operations on my fingers, which they crushed in a door.

“I’ve been beaten more times than I can remember and was put through psychological and sexual abuse as well. They were suspicious of anything and everything, and always thought there was something to be found.

“Most of us couldn’t see how we would ever be released, but I never lost hope.”

Despite still struggling to come to terms with his experiences, Mr Deghayes says he is determined to spread the word so others do not have to suffer.

He added: “President Obama promised he would shut Guantánamo but it hasn’t happened and there are still innocent people locked up. It’s sad to see it dragging on.

“But Guantánamo is only one prison and we fear that if he shuts that, people will forget about the others. That’s one of the reasons why I’m involved with the documentary, because we don’t want the prisoners to be moved from one camp to another.

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