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Guantánamo Leaks Lift Lid on Most Controversial Prison

April 28, 2011 by  


Innocent people interrogated for years on slimmest pretexts

Children, elderly and mentally ill among those wrongfully held

172 prisoners remain, some with no prospect of trial or release

By David Leigh, James Ball, Ian Cobain and Jason Burke

More than 700 leaked secret files on the Guantánamo detainees lay bare the inner workings of America’s controversial prison camp in Cuba.

The US military dossiers, obtained by the New York Times and the Guardian, reveal how, alongside the so-called “worst of the worst”, many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment.

The 759 Guantánamo files, classified “secret”, cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there.

The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim.

The old man was transported to Cuba to interrogate him about “suspicious phone numbers” found in his compound. The 14-year-old was shipped out merely because of “his possible knowledge of Taliban…local leaders”

The documents also reveal:

US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation alongside groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence.

Interrogators were told to regard links to any of these as an indication of terrorist or insurgent activity.

Almost 100 of the inmates who passed through Guantánamo are listed by their captors as having had depressive or psychotic illnesses. Many went on hunger strike or attempted suicide.

A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members.

One Briton, Jamal al-Harith, was rendered to Guantánamo simply because he had been held in a Taliban prison and was thought to have knowledge of their interrogation techniques. The US military tried to hang on to another Briton, Binyam Mohamed, even after charges had been dropped and evidence emerged he had been tortured.

US authorities relied heavily on information obtained from a small number of detainees under torture. They continued to maintain this testimony was reliable even after admitting that the prisoners who provided it had been mistreated.

The files also show that a large number of the detainees who have left Guantanamo were designated “high risk” by the camp authorities before their release or transfer to other countries. . . .

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