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Guantanamo detainees protest harassment during prayers

Gulf News
by Nasser Arrabyee
January 8, 2007

Sanaa: The Guantanamo Bay detainees have been on a new hunger strike since December in a protest over rights abuses, said a recently released prisoner.

"The brothers in Guantanamo detention have agreed to hold this hunger strike mainly because of harassment while praying or while reading the Quran," Mohammad Ahmad Al Asadi told Gulf News in Sanaa after Yemeni authorities released him.

Al Asadi is the only one who has been released from among six Yemeni men who were handed to Yemen from Guantanamo last December.

"The soldiers interrupt the brothers from time to time even while praying, they inspect the Quran, they inspect their private organs, only to create psychological pressure on them," said Al Asadi, who spent about five years in Guantanamo.

The treatment in general, he added, has become very bad in terms of food, clothes, medicines, blankets, etc.

"They take the blankets at dawn when it's extremely cold."

However, Al Asadi said he would not have participated in this hunger strike for health reasons if he was still there.

"I cannot undergo a hunger strike because of health reasons, but I agreed with my brothers and encouraged them to do it," he said.

The Yemeni authorities released Al Asadi on December 23, two weeks after the US freed him along with five other men who are still in prison.

"I was released because they have found nothing against me. They found my file clean and President Ali Abdullah Saleh told them to release anyone if there are no accusations against them," he said.

However, he signed a paper pledging he would not participate in any armed activity before being released.

"Now, I'm going to start a normal life, to find a job, to get married, etc," the 26-year-old Al Asadi said.

Regarding why the Americans released him and the other five mates, he said, "They told us your release is a special favour to the six of you."

He refused to sign a US paper pledging he would not join Al Qaida or the Taliban.

"They told me that I no longer pose a threat to them but they asked me to sign a paper, which says if you join Al Qaida and or Taliban, then US has the right to arrest you once again. But I refused to sign that paper," he said.

"I said I'm now like anyone outside the prison, I'm innocent. Why do you not ask the other people who do not pose threat to you, to sign such a paper, why only me?

"They signed the paper and told me this paper will be sent to your country."

But he said the US government had asked the Yemeni authorities to put them in prison.

"There was an agreement between them and our government that we be sent to a prison not to our homes, but I don't know about how long they agreed we should stay in prison before being released," he said.

Al Asadi said he was exposed to less abuse than others during investigations in Guantanmao [sic].

"They used to investigate me every month, and the last year and a half I had no investigation at all," he said.

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