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Guantanamo prisoners speak out

By Haroon Rashid
BBC NEWS
November 24, 2003

A number of Pakistanis released from the US high-security prison in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay talk about their experiences:

I have no complaints against the Americans or the Afghans and I don't seek any compensation from anyone. I leave it to Allah to reward me," says Abdul Raziq.

He is one of 11 Pakistanis released recently from the Camp Delta prison at Guantanamo Bay on the coast of Cuba.

The US is holding more than 600 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, most of whom were detained during the Afghanistan conflict which followed the 11 September 2001 attacks on America.

The holder of a master's degree in agriculture, Raziq says he was arrested in Afghanistan while on a preaching mission.

"They tied me up and sent me to Kandahar [in south-eastern Afghanistan] and later to Cuba. I suffered because I could speak English," he says.

Raziq, who hails from the tribal area of Malakand, has now vowed never to speak English again.

After 21 months in prison in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay, he says prison life was better in Camp Delta.

Bitter experience


"[In Afghan prisons] we did not have any facilities for bathing or ablutions. Food was short. But in [Guantanamo] we had all these facilities. We were allowed regular walks," Abdul Raziq says.

But other former prisoners are not so sanguine about the time in Guantanamo Bay.

Abdul Mulla, for one, is extremely bitter.

The taxi driver from Thana village in Malakand does not even want to talk about it.

"What purpose will it serve? You are all infidels," he tells me.

And 24-year-old returnee Shah Mohammed says the experience has left him mentally disturbed.

He says he tried to commit suicide four times in Camp Delta.

"The mental distress along with worries about home made me try to take my life," he says.

And he says the mental wounds have not healed.

"I wake up in the middle of the night scared to death. I find it difficult to forget my recent past."

'A lost man'

Shah Mohammed's neighbours in his village say that he does not talk much since his return.

"He is a lost man now," a neighbour told me.

Shah Mohammed wants the US to compensate him.

"They need to pay me for my mental miseries and lost time," he says.

He is not the only Pakistani returnee from Guantanamo Bay to demand compensation from the US.

Mohammed Sagheer, the first Pakistani to be released last year, has filed a case in a Pakistani court seeking $10.4m from the US.

The 53-year-old man from Kohistan district says that he is living in penury.

"My sons took loans to survive during my absence. Now the lenders are after them for their money," says Mohammed Sagheer.

"I am in deep trouble."

He is echoing the sentiments of many of the returnees from the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The treatment of the prisoners has become the subject of international controversy with several human rights groups complaining about torture and open-ended detentions.

US officials have denied torturing detainees, saying they are allowed to practise their religion and given good medical care.

At least 40 prisoners have been returned to their home countries so far.


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