Three Uighurs Talk About Chinese Interrogation At Guantánamo

21.7.09

These accounts, from three Uighur prisoners released from Guantánamo, were submitted to a hearing last Thursday of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight. For a report on the hearing, see “House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo.”

Statement of Abu Bakker Qassim

Abu Bakker QassimI would like to provide you with a detailed story of how the Chinese Communists went to Guantánamo.

Sometime in October 2002, Chinese security personnel came to Guantánamo. A few months before their arrival, the US military had informed us that the Chinese would come. When we said that the US had promised us to keep our identity confidential and asked how come the Chinese were coming, they responded that everything about us would be kept confidential. Chinese would be there only to have a discussion with their citizens in accordance to the international law, we could choose to speak or not to speak, they would observe the meeting from distance and we should not be worried about it.

Those Uighurs who were brought to the Chinese before me did not speak a word even after eight or nine hours of Chinese interrogation. The Chinese did not give them food or water; they kept the Uighurs sitting in a cold room for a long time; they used certain tactics and forcefully took photos of them. After learning this, I decided to openly talk to them because I had a bladder control problem and I could not stand sitting in a cold room for a long period.

They brought me out around evening time and started their interrogation. When I told them my full name and that I was from East Turkestan [the Uighurs’ name for their homeland before it was taken over by China in 1949], two Chinese policemen stood up from their seats and said that there was no such country. I said to them I fully knew an existence of such a country though they did not know it well. I further expressed to them how they had been oppressing Uighurs for the last 60 years. I also told them that I would not go back to China.

They tactically said that they were there to bring me back to China; and they would force me to confess after arriving in Urumqi [the capital of Xinjiang province, formerly East Turkestan] if I refused to confess about my terrorist activities.

I said that I would rather talk after they brought me to Urumqi. They started an ideological work. They spoke good Uighur. There were two Uighurs and three Chinese.

I spoke up frankly. I told them I applied for a political asylum according to the international law and I would never go back. I stopped the conversation by saying that they could do whatever they want to bring me back.

Those Chinese told some Uighur detainees that the Americans had asked them to bring us back because they could not afford us due to their declining economy. They also told some other Uighurs that the Americans were hard to understand and how naïve to allow praying and fasting while fighting terrorism.

When some Uighur detainees refused to give their names, the Chinese interrogators said that the Americans they trusted had already provided them with their photos, full names and addresses. They also showed the Uighurs the materials that were given by Americans.

When we were first interrogated at the Kandahar prison, we told the Americans that we would tell them everything if they would keep our materials confidential. They promised not to give our materials to the Chinese, or to hand us over to Chinese.

After I refused to answer any more questions, the Chinese interrogators failed to proceed further. They brought out their camera to take a picture. I refused to be photographed. One Chinese interrogator went outside and brought in two American soldiers. These two soldiers held me tight and the Chinese forcefully took a picture of me.

I had never thought that American soldiers would work with Chinese and treat us like this. Then I was locked up in a cold dark steel prison cell for five days. I was released to a regular prison cell after the Chinese left. During the five days when I was in the cold dark cell, while thinking about the Chinese’s harsh treatments towards us in a US prison, I felt sick with the American soldiers.

After the Chinese had left, during an interrogation, I asked the interrogators why they released all of our materials to the Chinese even though they promised to keep our information confidential; the Chinese could now randomly oppress our family members.

The interrogators did not feel a bit ashamed about it. They apologized by saying that someone in Washington gave our materials to the Chinese.

Since then, I started suspecting my trust with the American soldiers in Guantánamo because of their awful images that belong to a nation claiming to spread democracy around the world. According to what I know, soldiers of a nation represent their nation’s reputation. Looking at its soldiers, anyone should be able to make a judgment about a country.

Through an interpreter, I told some soldiers that we were not America’s enemies; they were America’s enemies instead since they broke the law and oppressed us randomly.

This is one part of the stories regarding the Chinese oppression while they were in Guantánamo. You may contact me if there is anything that is not clear.

Abu Bakker Qassim currently lives in Tirana, Albania. In March 2005, a Combatant Status Review Tribunal determined that he was not an enemy combatant. The US government nevertheless continued to imprison him for another 14 months, until May 2006, when, with four others, he was sent to Albania one day before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit was to hear oral argument in his case.

Statement of Khalil Mamut

I was taken to Cuba in 2002, on 10th June. I stayed in Kilo Block, cell number 28. In the beginning of autumn 2002, a delegation from China representing the Chinese government arrived. It was afternoon when I was informed by one of the MPs that I was to get ready for an appointment. I was later escorted by two military soldiers to the interrogation room. Once I arrived there, two men came in. One was from the American government, and the other was from the Chinese Communist government. The American spoke in Chinese, saying I am from the American government, and we have an agreement with the Chinese government, therefore we have allowed them to come here to interrogate you. The Uighur man translated the American man’s instructions into our language. After the introduction, they departed. Following their departure, two different men arrived. One looked Uighur, and the other Chinese.

Once they arrived, they began their interrogation process, asking, “where are you from, what is your address?” I refused to answer any of their questions, because I was informed by the Americans that I did not have to answer any of their questions, as they have not been provided with any information, and have not seen my file. They abused me by telling me that they would take me by force when I returned to China, and that I would be beaten, and eventually killed. I informed them that I do not wish to go back to China. Then they became angrier, and they attempted to take my picture. I refused to allow them to do this. However, they were eventually able to take some pictures as I was shackled and chained. Then the two men ordered the American soldiers to take me to another room. Once I arrived at this new location, the air conditioning unit was turned on to full blast, and I was left in this room for seven straight hours. In this room I once again had shackles on my feet, with my hand also chained. In the evening I was returned to my cell.

On the second day, two soldiers came and took me back to the interrogation room. When I arrived, there were again two men. One was a Uighur, and the other was Chinese. They once again started to interrogate me, asking for my address, and again I did not answer their questions. They informed me that they will take me back to China by force, and once I arrived I would be tortured, and beaten. If I was to return to China on my own, they would inform the general of my decision, and once I arrived there “I would be allowed to be free.” (Really, not so). If I refused to return to China, I would face a military court, which would mean that I would stay in prison for a very long time. I told them that I do not want to go back to China, and I do not want China. After this they called the MPs, and instructed them to tighten the chains and take me to another room. I was taken by the MPs to this other room where I found another Chinese man that I had not seen before. This man began to mentally abuse me by telling me that the uncomfortable position I was in was my punishment. In addition, he turned the air conditioner on to very high, and I remained in this room for seven hours. I almost collapsed because it was so very cold. My hands and feet were swollen, as a result of the chain being tightened earlier. In the late evening I was returned to my cell.

Khalil Mamut currently lives in Bermuda. The US military cleared him for release in 2005. It formally conceded that he was not an enemy combatant in September 2008. The following month, a US District Court judge found that his imprisonment — like that of every other Uighur man at Guantánamo — was illegal (“Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detention without just cause, this court rules that the government’s continued detention of the prisoners is unlawful”). This was overruled in February 2009, and at the time of writing a petition for certiorari was pending with the Supreme Court. Mr. Mamut was imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay until June 11, 2009, when he was released to Bermuda.

Khalil Mamut (right) and Ablikim Turahun (left) enjoy their freedom in Bermuda with Salahidin Abdulahad (center)

Khalil Mamut (right) and Ablikim Turahun (left) enjoy their freedom in Bermuda with Salahidin Abdulahad (center).

Statement of Ablikim Turahun

I was taken to Cuba on 3 May, 2002. Once I arrived, I was placed in Hotel Block. After a few months, a delegation arrived from the Chinese government, during the first part of October 2002. One day in the afternoon, one of the MPs arrived to inform me that I have an appointment right now, and that I should get ready. Two American soldiers arrived to take me to the interrogation room. Once I arrived in the room, two men entered. One was from the American government, and the other was from the Chinese government. The American man started to speak in Chinese language, saying, “I am from the American government. I have to inform you beforehand, that we have an agreement with the Chinese government to allow the Chinese to interrogate you.” The other man from China translated what the American said into the Uighur language. After a while, they departed, and two different men from China arrived. One of them was Uighur, and the other was Chinese. Both men attempted to interrogate me, but I refused to speak to them, as the Americans had informed us prior that we do not have to speak to the Chinese if we didn’t want to speak to them, as they have not been provided with any information on us. They attempted to take my picture; however, I did not agree to this. They called for American soldiers and ordered them to hold me, so that my picture could be taken. The soldiers grabbed me, pulling my beard, pressing on my throat, twisting my hands behind my back, and as a result my picture was taken by force.

The air conditioner in the room was placed on high, making the room very cold. I was left in this room for six hours. As a result of the room being so very cold, I felt somewhat frozen at times. After this six-hour period, I was placed in an isolation room that was made of metal, and measured 6’ x 8’. There I remained for 20 days in isolation. The room was so very cold, and dark. I was not able to see daylight, or any other person. During the 20 days, it was very difficult to sleep, because I was not given any blankets or sheets by which to cover myself in this isolation room. I spent those days suffering. I requested to speak to the Uighur interpreter so that he could translate to the guard commander. I wanted to speak to the commander asking him why have I been placed there. The commander replied that it was not his decision, but that of the Chinese delegation who instructed that I should be put in isolation. Following this, the interpreter and guard commander departed. I remained there for the remainder of my 20 days. During this time my ears became blocked, and I was unable to hear. This was a result of the extreme cold. I demanded to see a doctor, but no one honored my request. However, although I was refused the first time, I continued to ask if I could see a doctor. After two months, I was taken to see a doctor, after which I received medical attention, and there was some recovery of my hearing.

Ablikim Turahun currently lives in Bermuda. Under the name Huzaifa Parhat, he was the petitioner in the lead Detainee Treatment Action case, Parhat v. Gates. At a time when his and every other habeas case was stayed, Mr. Turahun moved for a summary determination under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 that he had not been properly classified as an “enemy combatant,” even under the US Department of Defense’s overbroad definition of that term. After extensive briefing and oral argument, the DC Circuit unanimously held for Mr. Turahun. The court vacated his classification as an enemy combatant because it was neither supported by reliable evidence, nor consistent with DoD regulations governing the Combatant Status Review Tribunal process. The Court ordered the government to “release him, to transfer him, or to expeditiously convene a new CSRT.” Although the government subsequently waived its re-CSRT option, and conceded that Mr. Turahun was not an enemy combatant, it imprisoned him for another year, until releasing him to Bermuda on June 11, 2009.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Uighurs in Guantánamo, see: The Guantánamo whistleblower, a Libyan shopkeeper, some Chinese Muslims and a desperate government (July 2007), Guantánamo’s Uyghurs: Stranded in Albania (October 2007), Former Guantánamo detainee seeks asylum in Sweden (November 2007), A transcript of Sabin Willett’s speech in Stockholm (November 2007), Support for ex-Guantánamo detainee’s Swedish asylum claim (January 2008), A Chinese Muslim’s desperate plea from Guantánamo (March 2008), Former Guantánamo prisoner denied asylum in Sweden (June 2008), Six Years Late, Court Throws Out Guantánamo Case (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (July 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), A Pastor’s Plea for the Guantánamo Uyghurs (October 2008), Guantánamo: Justice Delayed or Justice Denied? (October 2008), Sabin Willett’s letter to the Justice Department (November 2008), Will Europe Take The Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), Guantanamo’s refugees (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), A Letter To Barack Obama From A Guantánamo Uighur (March 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Real Uyghur Slams Newt Gingrich’s Racist Stupidity (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Who Are The Four Guantánamo Uighurs Sent To Bermuda? (June 2009), Guantánamo’s Uighurs In Bermuda: Interviews And New Photos (June 2009), Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo on Democracy Now! (June 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Is The World Ignoring A Massacre of Uighurs In China? (July 2009), Chair Of The American Conservative Union Supports The Guantánamo Uighurs (July 2009), and the stories in the additional chapters of The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras 1, Website Extras 6 and Website Extras 9.

7 Responses

  1. Get your News » Andy Worthington: House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantanamo says...

    [...] a separate article, I reproduce in full the testimony of three of the Uighur prisoners, describing their interrogations by the Chinese agents, but what is particularly disturbing about [...]

  2. Andy Worthington: House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantanamo » A Couple Things » A couple things about politics, sports, travel, and other stuff. says...

    [...] a separate article, I reproduce in full the testimony of three of the Uighur prisoners, describing their interrogations by the Chinese agents, but what is particularly disturbing about [...]

  3. mui says...

    A thought occurred to me. In all these statements, the Mainland interrogators seem most interested in names, addresses and pictures. It almost seems like the interrogators were not interested in gathering intelligence on “terrorist” activity. In fact it seems like the intention of the interrogators was to intimidate, i.e. “if you make trouble for us in the West, we have the names and addresses of your family members,” or “we can drag you back to China and the Americans will let us.”

  4. Uighur News says...

    In 2004 The USA has allowed for Chinese Intelligence Services to talk with these people(Guantanamo Uighurs).

    The USA must keep the Justice..

  5. Uighur prisoner asks what is the difference between the US constitution and the Communist constitution? by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] connection to either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but how, nevertheless, they flew them to Guantánamo, allowed Chinese interrogators to visit them, and tried, in their tribunals at Guantánamo, to make out that they were connected [...]

  6. Palau President Asks Australia to Offer Homes to Guantánamo Uighurs « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] (July 2009), Chair Of The American Conservative Union Supports The Guantánamo Uighurs (July 2009), Three Uighurs Talk About Chinese Interrogation At Guantánamo (July 2009), House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo (July [...]

  7. Andy Worthington: House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantanamo | BlackNewsTribune.com says...

    [...] a separate article, I reproduce in full the testimony of three of the Uighur prisoners, describing their interrogations by the Chinese agents, but what is particularly disturbing about [...]

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