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Documents Reveal the Stories of Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

The Nation

March 04, 2006|Greg Miller, Mark Mazzetti and Josh Meyer | Times Staff Writers

Because they contain hundreds of names, the documents are also likely to be scrutinized by families in the Middle East and elsewhere seeking information on relatives in custody at Guantanamo. The Pentagon posted the documents at www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/detainees/csrt/index.html.

Most of the detainees apparently were captured during the 2001 U.S.-led attack that deposed the Taliban and forced Bin Laden and his followers into hiding along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan. Many of the detainees are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen and Algeria. Several said they were British citizens -- including Moazzam Begg and Feroz Ali Abbasi, who were released in Britain in 2005 -- and at least one identified himself as French.

The transcripts describe the circumstances of their capture, and offer a glimpse of the sort of evidence that U.S. military officials consider incriminating.

One detainee, for instance, was challenged to explain why he was found in possession of a certain model Casio wristwatch. That model watch "has been used in bombings that have been linked to Al Qaeda," a tribunal official said.

"I didn't know that watch was for the terrorists," the detainee, a Yemeni, replied. "I saw a lot of American people wearing the same watch. Does that mean we're all terrorists?"

Some prisoners apparently were in dire medical condition. One detainee caught fighting in Afghanistan tried to commit suicide by hanging himself in early 2003. The prisoner suffered "significant brain injury due to lack of oxygen," according to the records, which noted that he was unlikely to recover his mental abilities but he might be able to follow "simple, concrete directions."

Military officials determined that he remained a threat to the United States.

One detainee, Haji Ghalib, said he did not understand why he had been detained, because he had risked his life fighting against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and had captured many of them before he was captured himself.

He was accused in one proceeding of having been a Taliban commander in Shinwar, Afghanistan, and of having run a bomb-making facility. He described himself as a police chief and a staunch ally of the United States.

"For the last eight years I have fought the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and I also fought them at Tora Bora. It was a shock to me" to be accused of being an enemy of the United States, he said.

"I captured a lot of Al Qaeda and Arabs that were turned over to the Americans. I even went with U.S. forces to destroy the house of Osama bin Laden. All you have to do is check the record."

The tribunal allowed a villager who had worked as a police officer for Ghalib to appear briefly as a witness for him at the proceeding. But the tribunal president said the Afghan government had not responded to Ghalib's request that it provide two witnesses and documentary evidence that he said would exonerate him.

"We have allowed adequate time," the unidentified tribunal official said.

In March 2003, the Daily Times of Pakistan reported on Ghalib's arrest, saying authorities had received intelligence that he had "links" to Al Qaeda.

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