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 An Ariana Media Publication 04/18/2014
 Terror prisoners' "brutal treatment"

The Australian
03/25/2003
By

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"At 2am at night Americans came to our house and asked me to show them where the Taliban are. Since I am deaf, I couldn't understand what they said so they arrested me. It took them more than a year to realise I am innocent."

Kabul - A GROUP of 18 Afghans released from a US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, today told how they were kept in tiny cages and subjected to interrogations for more than a year to prove their innocence.

In an impromptu press conference in Kabul, some of the 18 described how they suffered brutal treatment at the hands of Afghan jailers before being transferred to Guantanamo as suspected al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters.

The men, who returned to Afghanistan last week, were only the second batch of prisoners released from the controversial US detention centre, which holds hundreds captured during an international coalition campaign in Afghanistan.

Dressed in traditional Afghan shalwar kameez baggy trousers and overshirt, topped with US-issue blue sweatshirts, the heavily-bearded men said they were unfairly arrested and forced to suffer an arduous journey to regain freedom.

"I am innocent, I had nothing to do with the Taliban," said Salaiman Shah, who said he was working as a used car trader when he was seized by troops who accused him of fighting alongside the hardline militia.

He said he was initially detained in the notorious Sherberghan prison in northern Afghanistan by troops loyal to US-allied warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostam.

"At Sherberghan life was inhuman, all the prisoners had diarrhoea, some had tuberculosis, there was no food for days at a time and we were subjected to beatings and torture."

Shah said he and the others were transferred to US control at Kandahar air base in southern Afghanistan before being taken to Guantanamo, where he said treatment was harsh but better.

Fellow prisoner Murtaza, who like many Afghans has only one name, described being cooped up in cages in Guantanamo, sometimes hooded and handcuffed, during a seemingly interminable detention.

"Initially they told us it would take one month for the investigation and we would be released immediately if we were proven innocent.

"We spent two months in Sherberghan, five months in Kandahar, and more than one year in Guantanamo and finally now they release us because we are innocent.

"In Guantanamo we were in two-metre long cages. Some of us were interrogated 20 times, others 50 times, others 60. But the food was good and they did not beat us."

Murtaza, 30, admitted he was fighting with the Taliban when he was arrested in northern Kunduz province, but said he had been forced to join the militia.

A third prisoner, Bismillah, of central Uruzgan province, claimed he was mistakenly arrested because he is hard of hearing.

"At 2am at night Americans came to our house and asked me to show them where the Taliban are. Since I am deaf, I couldn't understand what they said so they arrested me. It took them more than a year to realise I am innocent."

A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier this week said the 18 men had been cleared of links to the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, and were free to return to their homes.

He said he was not aware of any complaints regarding their treatment or the duration of their captivity.

US authorities says Guantanamo Bay currently holds 660 detainees, many arrested in Afghanistan. It describes them as unlawful combatants who can be held indefinitely without trial.

The 18 prisoners were the first to be returned to Afghanistan since last October when three were sent home, two of them elderly.

Following their release the Afghan government said it was sending a delegation to Guantanamo to investigate conditions.



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