Ex-Guantanamo detainees to sue US

guantanamo-sue.jpgBy Akhtar Amin | Two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners from Sudan, who were picked up from Peshawar, are demanding an apology and planning to sue the United States after spending five years behind bars at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“We were detained for five years in Guantanamo. So many innocent prisoners were discharged over the past two years without giving any explanation after keeping them for years behind bars. But, we will sue the US for an apology and compensation,” said the two Sudanese nationals, Salim Mahmud Adam and Adel Hasan Hamad. Both were picked up in Peshawar on suspicion of having links with Al Qaeda. They were released from Guantanamo Bay five years later.

“We are planning to sue the US with the help of human rights groups,” said Adam. The Sudanese teacher told Daily Times that on May 27, 2002, when he opened the door of his house in the early morning hours, officials of “Pakistani intelligence agencies” handcuffed him immediately.

“At 1am they surrounded my house from all sides. My wife was pregnant at the time, but they showed no mercy,” said Adam, who was the principal of an orphanage school and residing in Hayatabad at the time. “I was blindfolded and taken into custody,” he said. He said he was interrogated before being shifted to Bagram, another notorious US detention camp and airbase in Afghanistan.

“My torture ordeal began early in Bagram and interrogations would sometimes last for three to four hours,” he said, adding that two months later, along with other Al Qaeda suspects, he was shifted to Guantanamo, “an inhuman place”.

He recalled the harsh interrogations, beating and screams of fellow detainees, and the loud music played at prayer times. Some interrogators, he said, would tell him they knew he was innocent, but this was a political game. Like Adam, compatriot Adel Hasan Hamad, 50, will always remember the day he was arrested in Pakistan, on July 18, 2002. He was working in a private hospital in Peshawar as an administrator.

Leaving his family back in his homeland, Hamad came to Pakistan on July 16, 2002. “I only wanted to help refugees in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. Two days after my arrival, I was arrested, he added. He said “Pakistani intelligence officers” accompanied by an American official woke him up, told him not to move and asked for his travel documents.

Hamad said he was taken to a Pakistani prison, where he was held for over six days and questioned by intelligence officials.

Along with three others, handcuffed and blindfolded, he was boarded onto an American military plane headed for Bagram, a stopover for most people headed to Guantanamo. “There they started beating us,” he said. US soldiers and officials subjected him to constant interrogation, often coupled with beatings, verbal abuse and threats. “They would not let us sleep,” he added. After two months of repeated interrogation and punishment, he was shipped to Guantanamo, he said.

In Guantanamo, Hamad was again subjected to daily interrogation. Sometimes, twice a day. “They accused me of helping the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” he said. “I asked how so? They said that they learnt it through secret information”. However, charges were not officially levelled against him, he added.

In 2004, Hamad and Adam said they appeared before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal that cleared them of charges of being enemy combatants. However, it was not until September 2007 that a military court finally cleared them of charges of posing a threat to the United States.

They said the US had declared all Guantanamo detainees “unlawful enemy combatants” to deny them legal rights under the American legal system. Only three of about 750 people sent to Guantanamo since 2002 have faced formal charges.

Around 400 prisoners have been discharged over the past two years, but without any explanations offered for why they were detained, they said. Hamad was told that his daughter Fida passed away while he was languishing in Guantanamo. His family, which lost its source of income after Hamad was picked up, could not afford treatment for her after she became unwell. Adam is back in Peshawar again and says he is trying to move his Pakistani wife and three children to Sudan.