The Pentagon is reportedly holding an unidentified number of videotapes capturing the actions of a US military squad assigned to subdue disobedient prisoners at a US base in Guantanamo Bay.

"We have known about videotapes now for about a week," said Stephen Kenny, a lawyer for David Hicks, who has been held without charge for two years at Guantanamo Bay.

Kenny said there also were tapes of Hicks being beaten while being held in Afghanistan by US forces after he was captured fighting with the Taliban. If the Australian government is seriously interested in protecting the rights of an Australian citizen, they will immediately demand copies of those videotapes and make them available publicly," Hicks said.

The US military has denied any major instances of abuse at Guantanamo. A spokesman at the base, Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert Mulac, said on Friday that "there are no beatings on the tapes" and that the squad actually was known as the "Initial Response Force".
 
Mulac said the squad was dispatched in rare circumstances to deal with misbehaving inmates.

Prime Minister John Howard, a close ally of US President George Bush, said on Friday his government was seeking a response from the Pentagon to claims that Hicks and a fellow Australian detainee, Mamduh Habib, had been abused while in US custody.

Testimony

Two former British detainees released from Guantanomo Bay have told Australian television about Habib's treatment.

Rights groups have condemned
treatment of Camp X-Ray inmates

Jamal al-Harith told the Seven Network that Habib had been subjected to beatings and four days of sleep depravation.

"Blood was coming out of his nose and out of his ears," al-Harith said.

"They were moving him out back and forth, cell to cell every two hours and he wasn't allowed to sleep. He was very tired and sometimes he complained he couldn't walk, but they'd drag him."

Al-Harith, who said he was held in a cell near Habib in Guantanamo Bay, claimed that prostitutes were used to humiliate prisoners during interrogations.

Another British former Guantanamo Bay detainee said Habib was abused by his captors.

"I could see him being dragged by chains that were attached to his feet and him screaming in agony," Tariq Dergul told Channel Seven.

Australian media reported on Thursday that Hicks was beaten by US soldiers when he was first arrested in Afghanistan in late 2001, allegedly fighting alongside the Taliban.