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February, 2004

Guantanamo Victim Sues US And Pakistan
By Leuren Moret

[email protected]

December 31, 2003

Mohammad Sagheer is the only Pakistani prisoner to return home from Camp Delta (formerly Camp X-ray), the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, and one of the few direct witnesses to talk about this dark time in US history. He was invited to testify in December 2003 about his detention and mistreatment at an International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan (ICTA) convened in Tokyo, Japan.

Because his request for a passport was delayed in Pakistan, he was prevented from getting the required visa in time to attend the Tribunal. His attorney, Mr. Mohammad Ikram Chaudhry, attended and presented testimony about his case at the Tribunal held December 13-14, 2003, attended by 1700 people. Based on eight investigative trips to Afghanistan and testimony by many witnesses and experts, the ICTA has held 16 public hearings in Japan and the Philippines and three Tribunals in Tokyo in 20031. The purpose of the Tribunal has been, not only to try President Bush for war crimes in Afghanistan, but to be a public voice for, and to publish a truthful history of this period, documenting the experiences and suffering of the Afghan people. It has also been a process to inform citizens, not only in Japan, but other countries about the US military aggression against Afghanistan in 2001 which the US justified as retaliation for 9/11.

Magic Carpet Ride: Afghanistan to Guantanamo to Pakistan

In November 2001, during the Holy Month of Ramadan, a contingent of ten missionary members from Pakistan made a Tableegy Dora, routine preaching visit to the Northern Afghanistan Province of Kunduz. Among them was Mr. Sagheer, 54, a religious man from Phattan, a town in Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan, who had traveled as a preacher on other Tableegh (preaching missions). During this visit he was swept up and arrested with thousands of others by Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, the area Northern Alliance commander, "on the instructions and orders of the US Government/Army, in a hunt against Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin-Laden, the Taliban and [Taliban leader] Mullah Umer."

Mr. Sagheer was transported from Kunduz by truck with other prisoners in containers where many died, some who were injured were buried alive, others held in jails in Afghanistan, and finally he was transported by the US. military to Guantanamo Bay.

There he was held like other prisoners in small cages, subjected to torture, humiliation, violation of religious prohibitions, denied legal rights, beaten, and interrogated at Camp Delta. After ten months, he was told by a senior US military officer at Camp Delta that he was found to be innocent and would be released. He was transported from Guantanamo back to Pakistan on a US military plane and released with compensation of $100 from the US Government for his ordeal of nearly one year.

Northern Alliance Sweep for Al-Qaeda/Taliban

Mr. Chaudhry testified that at the time his client, Mr. Sagheer, was arrested by the Northern Alliance, more than 30,000 detainees were also swept up in an indiscriminate arrest of civilians, but many died in Kunduz due to ground fire or bombardment by the US Air Force. Mr. Sagheer witnessed wounded and injured men buried alive with the dead. He was in a group of 250 who were blindfolded, handcuffed, chained and put into trucks and taken to Mazar-e-Sharif by the Dostum Forces. At Mazar-e-Sharif they were held as prisoners and guarded for nearly six weeks by fifteen to twenty armed US military assisted by local Northern Alliance commanders.

Later at Mazar-e-Sharif, they were crowded into airtight containers by US Forces and local soldiers for transport to the Shabargan Jail 75 miles west of Mazar-e-Sharif. He was one of about 250 crowded into one airtight container which had a capacity of 50-60 people. Mr. Sagheer said that more than 50 died in the container he was in from suffocation, lack of food, water and medical aid. In other containers people died or were wounded when soldiers were ordered by US commanders to shoot holes for air into containers full of prisoners. Thousands more died in containers and were dumped in the desert by Afghan drivers under US military forces. Massacre in Mazar, a disturbing documentary film by Irish director Jamie Doran, documents the torture and mass killings of POWs and civilians in Mazar-I-Sharif by US forces.

During detainment at Mazar-e-Sharif and the Shabargan Jail, the Red Cross visited with food, medicine and other items for the prisoners. The prisoners received almost nothing because Dostum and the Northern Alliance kept the Red Cross donations for themselves. While in jail, more than 70 people shared as little as six loaves of bread and a few glasses of water per day. One prisoner died of starvation and many were sick and had no medical care. They were herded like cattle, mistreated, and forced to drink urine.

At Shabargan Jail in Kandahar where they were detained two weeks, there were more than 3000 prisoners including Mr. Sagheer, accused of being Taliban. The FBI, with the US military, participated in the torture of prisoners there. Prisoners were thrashed, deprived of water, made to lie down on the dirt at midnight and not allowed to sleep.

Inside Guantanamo: Concentration Camp

Mr. Sagheer and other prisoners were airlifted by helicopter from Shabargan Jail to US-occupied Bagram airbase in Kandahar, where a secret CIA interrogation center is located which uses "stress and duress" techniques for interrogation. There they were shackled and put on a US military plane for transport to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During the flight their lips were sealed, eyes covered, hands and feet and backs were chained. They were each given nothing but an apple and a piece of bread during the 24 hour flight.

At Guantanamo he was identified with an ID bracelet labeled "Delta" for Guantanamo which he still retains. The prisoners were put like animals in chain-link cages with roofs on cement pads out in the open-6 ft. by 6 ft. by 7 ft.-where they were fully chained and locked inside the cages. They were subjected to physical and mental torture, starved, forced to drink urine, and not allowed to speak. Mr. Sagheer said they were forced by guards to take pills which drugged him and made him senseless. At times alcohol was added to drinks given to the prisoners, a violation of Islamic religious law. He also complained that meat forbidden by religious law was sometimes added to their food. They were denied the ability to pray. Blood was drawn from the prisoners every two or three days. Mr. Sagheer complained to his lawyer that sometimes as much as 1,000 c.c.s of his blood was taken with no explanation or purpose.

Prisoners were detained on "suspicion of terrorism" without charges and provided with no legal mechanism for appeal, condemning them to long-term imprisonment. Even their names were withheld from release. The Bush administration has claimed they are "enemy combatants" rather than prisoners of war. Hair, mustaches and beards were shaved off of all prisoners in violation of religious practices. Prisoners were not allowed to pray despite the religious need for Moslems to pray five times a day. Prisoners were forced to stand outside in the cold where they were interrogated for long periods of time about Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Osama Bin-Laden. Mr. Sagheer was interrogated about his purpose for visiting Afghanistan. He reported his feelings of being horribly frightened during his time in jail, and the constant fear that he would die at any time. He described it as a terrifying experience, a feeling that other prisoners shared.

In reality, prisoners were kept in solitary confinement and prohibited from speaking to each other. Guards patrolled the prisoners constantly, coordinated so that their eyes were on each prisoner every 30 seconds. If prisoners did speak they were beaten. After a hunger strike for a month for denial of religious rights, some relief occurred and prisoners were allowed to pray.

There were also constant investigations by a team of four commandos who supervised interrogations. US military sources at Guantanamo admitted that 32 prisoners attempted suicide in 18 months, but that number is likely to be higher.

Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

Twice Mr. Sagheer was detained in solitary confinement, first for eight and then sixteen days, in a special darkened cell where cold air was blown through the cell, chilling the prisoner as punishment for not facilitating the investigation of Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin-Laden. He was interrogated more than 19 times but continued to deny any knowledge of either group, the World Trade Center disaster, or terrorist activities. After nearly a year, a US General informed him and a few other prisoners that they had been found to be innocent and would soon be released.

He and other prisoners were then taken into separate rooms, fingerprinted, photographed and informed that they would be compensated for their detention. After 12 days in shackles and chains, Mr. Sagheer and three other prisoners were taken to an airport and loaded on a US military plane for transport to Pakistan. Again, during the 24 hour flight he was given just a sandwich and an apple. The day before Ramadan 2002, he arrived at Bagram airport in Afghanistan and was then flown to Islamabad arriving in Pakistan on October 27, 2002. He was turned over to the CIA and intelligence agencies who held him for five days and promised $2,000 compensation. He was taken by the CIA and Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) to Peshawar where he was held two days longer and given $100 as compensation for illegally being detained by the US Government for nearly one year. On November 4, 2002, he was released in Peshawar to local authorities who returned him to his family in the town of Phattan in the mountains of Kohistan.

Lawsuit Against US and Pakistan Governments for $10.4 million

His wife, six sons, three daughters, and 20 dependents were traumatized and also suffered mentally, financially and economically. He was denied legal rights under both US and Pakistan laws, international laws related to human rights and POWs, and was found innocent ultimately by his accusers. The lawsuit has received extensive international media coverage. It is noticeably absent from the US media and unknown to most Americans.

The Pakistan Government was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit for failing to protect a citizen from the illegal actions of the US Government. When Mr. Chaudhry was questioned by the Tribunal Judges, he revealed that the FBI and CIA freely operate in Pakistan, sanctioned by President General Musharrif. He said the citizens of Pakistan do not support the close relationship successive Pakistan governments have had with the US Government. He described how the US Government utilized the Pakistan Government and its agents against Afghanistan exchanging intelligence, data, airbases, and allowing the FBI to arrest people in Pakistan.

Pakistan's military intelligence agency (ISI) supported and financed the 911 terrorists, Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. General Mahmoud Ahmad, head of ISI, spent the week before 911 and several days after in high level talks in Washington DC, and had ties and provided funds to 911 ringleader Mohamed Atta just months before 911. The ISI-Osama-Taliban axis and the ISI links to US Government agencies such as the CIA are all matters of public record. Michel Chossudovsky, one of the strongest voices exposing the truth and lies of 911, writes "this is not a 'campaign against international terrorism.' It is a war of conquest with devastating consequences for the future of humanity."

Mr. Chaudhry said the Northern Alliance has received millions of dollars from the US Government, and motivated the arrest of thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan on the pretext they were terrorists, to help the US Government justify the "war on terror."

Some Guantanamo prisoners "were grabbed by Pakistani soldiers patrolling the Afghan border who collected bounties for prisoners."

Other prisoners were caught by Afghan warlords and sold for bounty offered by the US for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Many of the prisoners are described in classified intelligence reports as "farmers, taxi drivers, cobblers, and laborers. Some were low-level fighters conscripted by the Taliban, who couldn't afford payments to the Taliban to avoid service, often amounting to six month's wages."

Some of the prisoners were mentally disabled. One had a "combat lobotomy" from a battle injury and could barely say his name. Every intelligence report from Afghanistan recommended not sending him to Guantanamo. Another questionable prisoner, "Wild Bill," was so mentally unstable that he ate his own feces, dumped fresh water out of his canteen and urinated in it, then drank it. "CIA, FBI and psychiatric experts concluded he was insane." More than 10% of the prisoners at Guantanamo now were determined not to be of intelligence value BEFORE they left Afghanistan and were recommended for repatriation. "Major General Michael E. Dunlavey, the operational commander at Guantanamo Bay until October, traveled to Afghanistan in the spring to complain that too many 'Mickey Mouse' detainees were being sent to the already crowded facility."

Mr. Chaudhry, Judge Advocate, Vice President of the Supreme Court Bar Association in Pakistan and a leading advocate for democratic government reform, said "Citizens of Pakistan do not support US military aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, which they believe is intended to gain wealth, profits, hidden reserves of oil and minerals in the Afghanistan region. We believe citizens in countries around the world should work together to stop the US violation of the sovereignty of States in order to carry out the plan for US global hegemony." He added, "Their apprehensions after 911 have come true."

Leuren Moret is an independent scientist and international expert on radiation and public health. She testified on the health and environmental impact of depleted uranium weapons at two ICTA public hearings and the 3rd Tribunal held in Tokyo December 13, 2003. She is an Environmental Commissioner in the City of Berkeley, California.

Legal jurisdiction was established in the Supreme Court of Pakistan by his attorney, Mr. Chaudhry, based on the fact that Mr. Sagheer was illegally detained by the US military in Afghanistan, illegally transported to Guantanamo in a US military plane, and after being illegally detained at Camp Delta by US forces, he was returned to Pakistan by a US military plane which landed on Pakistan soil. This established a partial cause of action and jurisdiction in Pakistan. On November 3, 2003, the lawsuit was filed in Islamabad civil court under the law of damages and compensation against the US Government for illegal arrest and unlawful detention of Mr. Sagheer charging mental shock, financial loss, physical victimization, estrangement and religious victimization for nearly one year.

Attorney M. I. Chaudhry (L) believes Mr. Sagheer (R) is an innocent victim entitled to compensation and damages for illegal detention, torture and suffering caused by the US.

The 45 square mile base at Guantanamo Bay is under US control but is not on US soil. It has been leased since 1903 from Cuba for 2,000 gold coins a year, or $4085 in perpetuity. Castro insists the area is illegally occupied by the US which leases it under a pre-revolution agreement. The Cuban president refuses to cash US checks for use of the base, which he keeps in a desk drawer to show visitors and reporters.

Initially Cuba supported the detention of terrorists there but that has changed. A broadcast by the state-run media on December 26, 2003, reported that the Cuban Parliament passed a statement calling Guantanamo a "concentration camp" where "hundreds of foreign prisoners are subjected to indescribable humiliations."

 

 

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