Pakistani relives Guantanamo ordeal

BBC, May 20, 2003
By Haroon Rashid, BBC correspondent in Peshawar

A Pakistani man recently freed from US custody at Islamic militants.

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Another Pakistani, Jehan Wali, and an Afghan, Sahibzada Usman Ali, were freed with him.

Fifty-four Pakistanis are among some 650 prisoners from 40 countries still in detention at the maximum security military base.

Mr Shah alleged that the Americans had given him injections and tablets prior to interrogations.

“They used to tell me I was mad,” the 23-year-old told the BBC in his native village in Dir district near the Afghan border.

“I was given injections at least four or five times as well as different tablets.

“I don’t know what they were meant for.”

Crossing the border

Shah Mohammad, a baker, says he went to Afghanistan in search of a better job.

“I was employed by the Taleban to bake bread for them and they paid me a monthly stipend for these services.

“I had nothing to do with the military side of things in Afghanistan,” he says.

He said he was captured in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif by the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance in November 2001.

They handed him over to US troops who flew him and others to Guantanamo Bay.

“Before boarding the plane our hands and feet were tied and duct tape was stuck across our mouths, blindfolds were placed on our eyes and devices were shoved into our ears.

“Our hair and beards were shaved off,” he said.

Tough conditions

Mr Shah said conditions at Guantanamo were appalling to begin with.

“We were not allowed to pray and little food was served. But later things improved,” he said.

Denied prisoner of war status by US authorities, none of the detainees have been officially charged and they have been prevented from meeting lawyers or even receiving visitors.

Most have spent the majority of their detention in complete isolation, punctuated only by routine interrogations.

“Jehan Wali has not talked to anyone for the past eight months,” Mr Shah said of his fellow former detainee.

The US authorities had promised him some money but at the end gave him a black bag containing just a pair of jeans, a shirt and a pack of tissues.

“I don’t know whether I can ask for any compensation,” he said.

But he said he would never go back to Afghanistan.

“My family will not let me do it again and apart from that the Americans have made me sign an oath saying I will never go there.”

Shah Mohammad now wishes to get a decent job and restart his life.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday May 24, 2003.
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