17 ex-Guantanamo prisoners released
* Prisoners allege American troops abused Holy Quran
By Anjum Herald Gill
LAHORE: Al Qaeda suspect Hafiz Ehsan Saeed’s father died during Ehsan’s detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but Ehsan said that although he mourned the loss, he would go for Jihad again if given the chance.
“I was quite upset when I heard the news (of my father’s death) but I will sacrifice anything for Islam,” Saeed told Daily Times on Monday. Saeed is one of the 17 jihadis released by the Punjab government after keeping them imprisoned for nine months after their return from Guantanamo Bay.
Talking to Daily Times, most of the freed men reiterated Saeed’s resolve to “go for Jihad again.” They said they would sacrifice anything for Islam even though they were tortured at Guantanamo. Their relatives rejoiced that their kindred had been released, but added that the men remain committed to their faith. The men were between the ages of 25 to 30 years and seemed to be in good health. They were released after their relatives submitted affidavits and sureties that they would not be involved in anti-state activities.
United States authorities arrested the men from Afghanistan on suspicion of being linked to Al Qaeda and kept them in Guantanamo prison for three years. Nine months ago, they were found innocent of these charges and given to Pakistani authorities. Authorities here detained these men while intelligence agencies investigated them further. The men were found not involved in any crime in Pakistan.
Asked why the men were kept in Pakistani prisons after being cleared by US authorities, Maulana Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, the Punjab chief minister’s adviser on religious affairs, said local authorities wanted to investigate whether the men had been brainwashed and were still involved in any terrorist activity.
The released men are: Khalilur Rehman (Gujrat), Salahuddin Ayubi (Rajinpur), Mohammed Irfan (RY Khan), Hafiz Khalil (Gujrat), Abdul Sattar Nafeesi (Mian Channu), Mohammed Irfan (Bahawalpur), Bashir Ahmed (Jhang), Abdul Sattar (Bhakkar), Hafiz Ehasan Saeed (Lahore), Zafar Iqbal (Jhang), Haseeb Ayub (Rawalpindi), Munir Ahmed (Sheikhupura), Mohammed Arshad (Bahawalnagar), Mohammed Hanif (Lodhran), Mohammed Asharf and Ijaz Ahmed (Khoshab), Sultan Ahmed (Sargodha) and Dr Sarfraz Ahmed (Lahore).
The men told Daily Times that Guantanamo Bay authorities desecrated the Holy Quran. Hafiz Ahsan Saeed said, “The authorities at Guantanamo Bay desecrated our holy book to humiliate us.” Salahuddin Ayubi and Mohammed Hanif joined Saeed in saying that that they had no religious freedom during their first year in the prison. “However we were given some religious freedom after the Red Cross’s intervention,” said Ayubi. Hanif added that the prisoners went on a hunger strike against the Quran’s desecration.