Khadr Tells of Torture by U.S. Soldiers
By Andrew Mills
August 19, 2004
Detained in an Afghan prison, Abdurahman Khadr says U.S. soldiers stripped him naked and repeatedly photographed his genitals. On the 17-hour flight to Guantanamo Bay, he was in such pain - shackled to the floor of a plane - he just wanted the soldiers to shoot him dead.
And at the military prison, he stood by as prisoners were compelled to talk by depriving them of sleep, placing them in smoke-filled rooms or smothering their faces with feces.
Khadr's testimony in a federal court hearing last month reveals, in detail, the conditions that he and other prisoners faced after their capture in Afghanistan and upon transfer to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He also spoke of the close contact he had with Canadians who had been at the Al Qaeda training camps where Khadr, 21, had spent part of his teenage years before he was captured and turned over to U.S. intelligence officials.
"I had a lot of friends that were Canadians and that came to Afghanistan and went into training," Khadr said, according to transcripts of his testimony obtained this week. "Some of them are dead now and some of them are back in Canada and some of them are under arrest."
He testified on July 13 as part of the defence for Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan-born Montrealer who was appealing being detained as a security threat, an appeal that was denied. Though Khadr has given varying accounts of his connection to Al Qaeda in the past, the testimony was made under oath.
Things had fallen apart for Khadr in March 2003 when, staying out of U.S. custody by working as an informant in Kabul, he attempted a cellphone call to his family in Scarborough. The U.S. intelligence agents, he said, "thought in some way I was trying to get away or, you know, divulge information to my family." Since they couldn't trust him anymore, he was to be sent to Guantanamo to continue as an informant within the prison.
He was taken prisoner at Bagram Air Force Base. "They got me naked and they were taking pictures of my face and then my private parts, just constantly taking pictures of my private parts," he said. They dressed him in an orange suit, he said, and forced him to lie on a cold concrete slab for two days. Soldiers stepped on his shackles, which cut through his skin "to the bone," he said. They checked his anus, he testified, "three times in eight days." A guard dragged him up a flight of stairs, he said, after he smiled at her.
He saw other prisoners hung from a wall by their shackles for as long as four days, he testified. When he asked why he, as an informant, had to suffer, soldiers told him it was to make the prisoners think he was one of them, he said.
And then he was bound at the hands, legs and stomach and loaded on the flight to Cuba, with his head covered, he said.
The fresh paint on the blackout goggles he was forced to wear mixed with his tears, burning his eyes. The flight was a "whole torture on its own."
"There were people screaming around me and there was people begging for water and nobody was getting anything," he said.
"And at that point I just wished in my heart that one of these (military police) would just go crazy and come in and shoot me because I was in so much pain."
At Guantanamo, he was placed on an isolation block for 30 days, in a dark cell with just a hole for food and was allowed out for just 15 minutes every three days. "They use this room to torture us," he testified.
"They put the heat up or they put it too low so we are freezing or we are suffering because there is no air. They put the music on so you can't sleep. They throw rocks at the block so you can't sleep."
Later, in the general population, prisoners were interrogated at all hours. And when they returned, they told Khadr stories of being locked in a room that was filled with smoke or having a mixture of feces and blood wiped on their faces, Khadr said.
As an informant, Khadr said he would tap fellow inmates for information and then report to CIA agents at the prison once a week. This, he said, was key to his release.
In October 2003, Khadr was flown back to Afghanistan and released, eventually making his way back to Canada. But his younger brother, Omar, remains in Guantanamo.
Khadr's parents came to Canada in 1975, but often travelled to the Middle East and Asia.
In 1996, Khadr's Egyptian-born father, Ahmed Said Khadr, moved the family from Pakistan to the Afghan city of Jalalabad where they lived part of the time in a nearby Al Qaeda compound along with Osama bin Laden and 250 or so of his supporters. "This is where my father went and I went with him," he said.
His father was an Al Qaeda financier and is believed to have been killed in a battle with security forces last fall, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
From the age of 11, Khadr would spend two to four months each summer in the Khost Mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border at the Khaldan camp, which he described as a military basic training camp where he learned how to use a weapon and defend himself.
"I know a lot of people that are living in the West and are living in Canada and that live their everyday life now and are not under arrest or anything that have been to Khaldan," he said, adding that the only person from Khaldan who attempted to attack the United States was Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested before he could act.
Khadr attended Khaldan each summer until 1998, when he said he started training at the more dogmatic Al Qaeda camp called Jihad Wel. "They insisted that a person do something with his training, so kill an American or trying to go into suicide bombing," he testified, describing the distinction between Al Qaeda camps and the Khaldan camp. When Canadians came to the Afghan camps Khadr's family would know about them. "A lot of people that came from Canada, they came because of my father or because of our family," he testified, without being more specific about the number of Canadians in the camps. "Once they got to Pakistan, they were sure to come and see my father, to come and meet him."
Khadr encountered four people he said he "knew came from Canada" in Afghanistan.
He also said that after U.S. intelligence agents captured him, members of the RCMP paid a visit in a Kabul safe house. They asked him about Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, two suspected terrorists currently held in Toronto's Metro West Detention Centre. He said he had seen neither man at the camps.
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