|Posted on Tue, May. 15, 2007|
Detainee says he was tortured at Guantanamo
WASHINGTON - A Pakistani citizen who grew up in suburban Baltimore, where his father still lives, told a U.S. military hearing last month that he was tortured at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after he was transferred there from secret CIA custody, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon Tuesday.
Majid Khan, who denied he had ever been a member of al-Qaida, said he was so upset by his treatment at Guantanamo that he twice tried to commit suicide by gnawing through arteries in his arm, according to the transcript.
Khan's April 15 hearing to determine whether he should be held as an enemy combatant - the last for 14 so-called high-value detainees who were transferred to Guantanamo last September - provided the most detailed allegations yet of mistreatment at Guantanamo.
Pentagon officials delayed the release of the transcript for a month, saying that Khan's testimony was lengthier than other detainees' and had to be reviewed by several agencies, including the CIA and the State Department. Previously, the longest delay between a hearing and a transcript's publication had been 20 days.
An attorney who has been trying unsuccessfully to visit Khan since he was transferred to Guantanamo, Gitanjali Gutierrez of the Center of Constitutional Rights, said that Khan gave a detailed statement because his time in the United States exposed him to the importance of court procedures.
"There was no reliable evidence against him showing that he was with al-Qaida," Gutierrez said.
Before his arrest, Khan, who is a legal U.S. resident, had applied for permanent residency. That application is still pending "as far as we know," Gutierrez said.
During the hearing, U.S. officials accused Khan, who graduated in 1999 from Owings Mills High School outside Baltimore, of belonging to al-Qaida. They cited testimony from a witness who said Khan had discussed fighting in Afghanistan during a dinner at his family's home and had told him he wanted to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in a suicide attack.
During the 2 1/2 hour hearing, Khan denied those allegations and presented written statements from the witness denying that the conversations had ever taken place.
He also said he'd begun several hunger strikes after he was transferred to Guantanamo in an effort to push U.S. authorities to either release him or send him back to Pakistan. He said prison officials shaved his head twice, confiscated a photo of his daughter and engaged in a variety of forms of "mental torture" by limiting his exposure to sunlight and providing sub-par soap and deodorant.
Several sections of the transcript were redacted, apparently when Khan was offering detailed accounts of his treatment. While there have been redactions in the other hearing transcripts, the deletions in Khan's transcript appeared to be the most extensive.
The CIA and Pentagon have said their interrogations do not involve torture.
Among the allegations leveled against Khan was that he worked with al-Qaida operatives to transport people across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and had plans to attack U.S. water reservoirs and gas stations.
Officials also charged that he planned to use his U.S. travel documents to help an al-Qaida operative enter the United States. Khan denied that was his plan, but he was vague about what he intended to do with the documents and denied al-Qaida membership.
"To be al-Qaida, a person needs to be trained in Afghanistan and needs to take an oath in front of Osama bin Laden," Khan said, according to the transcript. "I have never been to Afghanistan and I have never met (bin Laden). I cannot possibly be a member of al-Qaida. I admit I can't prove that I am not al-Qaida. It is very difficult to prove that someone is not al-Qaida."
The transcript also included a letter from Khan's father in Baltimore written on Khan's behalf. In it, Ali Khan wrote that Khan's family had no idea what had happened to him after he was taken from his brother's home in Pakistan in March 2003 until last Sept. 6, when President Bush announced that the 14 were being transferred from CIA custody to Guantanamo.
Ali Khan accused the FBI of harassing his family. He said that the family has been followed so closely by the FBI that they sometimes asked agents for directions when they were lost.
"If you think that he did something wrong, show me the evidence," Ali Khan wrote. "Charge him with a crime and give him a fair trial in a real court. This tribunal is not a real court. It is not a legitimate proceeding. It is only for show and the outcome has probably already been decided."