Extracts from prisoners’ hearings

Here are some details from transcripts of “enemy combatant” hearings involving Guantanamo detainees:

Most of the detainees are yet to be put on trial
Most of the detainees are yet to be put on trial

Feroz Ali Abassi, a British detainee, submitted written complaints that military police had sex in front of him while he was trying to pray and tried repeatedly in his “enemy combatant” hearing to explain why he should be considered a prisoner of war and thus entitled to better treatment.

An Air Force colonel, whose identity remains blacked out, would not agree.

“Mr Abassi your conduct is unacceptable and this is your absolute final warning. I do not care about International Law. I do not want to hear the words International Law again. We are not concerned about International Law,” the colonel said.

Saifullah A Paracha, a multimillionaire businessman from Karachi, Pakistan, was arrested on arrival in Bangkok, Thailand, in July 2003, held in isolation for 14 months in Afghanistan and then sent to Guantanamo.

A computer science graduate of the New York Institute of Technology, he acknowledged meeting Osama bin Laden twice during visits of prominent Pakistani groups to Afghanistan.

He denied all high-level offences he has been accused of, including making investments for al-Qaida members, translating statements from bin Laden into Urdu, joining in a plot to smuggle explosives into the US and recommending that nuclear weapons should be used against US soldiers.

Told that he eventually would be given a chance to pursue his case in US courts, he asked: “I’ve been here 17 months – would that be before I expire?”

He was told: “I would certainly hope so, especially since you are under the care of the US government.”

Abdul Gappher, an ethnic Uighur from western China, was accused of travelling to Afghanistan to join the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Gappher denied that, saying that he was in Afghanistan to “get some training to fight back against the Chinese government” and that had no grudge against the United States. He testified that his “people and my own family are being tortured under the Chinese government”.

He was captured by in Pakistan, where he said the police “sold us to the US government.”

Mohammed Sharif, a native of Sherberghan, Afghanistan, was accused of serving as a guard at a Taliban camp.

He denied being a guard and said he had been captured by the Taliban and put to work.

He said he feared punishment and retribution against his family if he had fled.

Sharif denied any knowledge of al-Qaida and asked the tribunal repeatedly to produce the (classified) evidence against him so that he might respond.

“What could you have possibly done, that we might discover some of those facts?” Sharif was asked.

“That’s my point,” he responded. “There are no facts … this is ridiculous. I know for a fact there is no proof.”

Mesh Arsad Al Rashid said he went to Afghanistan to help Muslims fight against former northern regional commander Abdul Rashid Dostum, now the Afghan army chief of staff, and Ahmed Shah Massoud, an anti-Taliban Afghan military commander slain on 9 September 2001.

“I did not know my training would be considered al-Qaida training. I was trying to help Muslims,” said Rashid, who gave no country of origin.

“I am not from the Taliban, I’m just a person, a helper. I was going to fight against Dostum.”

Abdul Hakim Bukhary, from Saudi Arabia, denied joining al-Qaida but said he met bin Laden 14 or 15 years ago while on jihad in Russia.

He travelled to Afghanistan to participate in jihad against the United States after 11 September 2001 but was jailed by the Taliban before he could fight any Americans. The Taliban suspected him of being a spy after he said he liked Northern Alliance leader Massoud.

After the US invaded, he was sent to Guantanamo, where he said conditions were much improved.

“Prisoners here are in paradise. American people are very good. Really. They give us three meals. Fruit juice and everything!” Still, he said, he wanted to be freed and returned to his family.

Habib Rasool, of Pakistan, says he settled in Afghanistan in 2001 shortly before the Taliban took him from his house to a compound at Konduz.

Held against their will, people at the compound were selected by lottery to fight for the Taliban.

Rasool said his number never came up before the Taliban surrendered to the Northern Alliance. He has been a prisoner since, in Afghanistan and then Cuba.

Awal Gul, an alleged Taliban member, turned himself in to the Northern Alliance in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 10 February 2002.

He is accused not only of being a member of the Taliban but of associating with bin Laden on three occasions.

Gul, who says he only shook hands with bin Laden, testified that he ran a Taliban camp in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

“I don’t have anything against the United States, and I don’t want the United States to have anything against me,” he said. 

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