Detainees provide chilling account of conditions in Guantanamo prison
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Three British-Pakistanis have provided ABC News with a chilling account of their detention at Guantanamo.
The three men - Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Ruhel Ahmed - have provided the most detailed description to date of life inside the prison, including allegations of abuse. The three who were released from Guantanamo in March this year and flown home to England, where police freed them without charge, describe an experience of isolation and brutality at the US base.
Their account alleges that they were “kept in cages infested with rats.” One said he was put in a “cell smeared with excrement.” All say they were subjected to beatings.
Ruhel Ahmed claims a guard “kicked me about 20 times to my left thigh and punched me as well. I had a large bruise on my leg and couldn’t walk for nearly one month.” Asif Iqbal said guards “would kick the holy book, throw it into the toilet, and generally disrespect it.” The men declined to talk to ABC News directly about their account, but their lawyer Gareth Peirce said they hope it illuminates the plight of the 586 detainees still held at Guantanamo. “It’s to try to break through that wall of silence, to make a judgment about the legitimacy and legality of what is going on in Guantanamo Bay,” he added.
Unlike the abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, there are no photographs showing the alleged beatings at Guantanamo and no way to independently verify the claims. US military officials said this week there is simply no foundation to the men’s stories of abuse. They said that while a guard did once kick a Quran, guards are now given extensive training in religious sensitivity and added that conditions in general have greatly improved at Guantanamo. However, the three former prisoners say that after a year and a half of confinement, the harsh treatment led them to make false confessions during interrogations. All three admitted to appearing in a video with Osama Bin Laden, despite the fact that all three were in England at the time the video was taped, a fact later confirmed by British intelligence.
Shafiq Rasul said, “I was going out of my mind and did not know what was going on. I was desperate for it to end and therefore, eventually, I just gave in and admitted to being in the video.” The three men’s lawyer said, “There is absolutely no doubt that there wasn’t a single method that wasn’t used to break their will, to make them confess to something they were not guilty of - and all three did.” The Pentagon has said it will not comment about what is said in interrogations.