Former Guantánamo detainees speak: Murat Kurnaz, Mamdouh Habib and Abdur Rahim Muslim Dost


Murat Kurnaz

Murat Kurnaz

In a busy week for former Guantánamo detainees, Der Spiegel reports that the sole German ex-detainee, Murat Kurnaz –- born in Bremen but ignored by the German government until Angela Merkel came to power, because he was the son of Turkish immigrant workers (gastarbeiter) –- is making headway with his long-standing claim, which he made following his release from Guantánamo in August 2006, that, as well as being tortured and abused by US forces in Afghanistan and Guantánamo, he was also beaten by soldiers from Germany’s Special Forces Command (KSK) at the US base at Kandahar airport.

Kurnaz described in detail how the Americans called him to a fence one evening, where two German soldiers were waiting. One of the soldiers, he claims, called out to him, “It looks like you picked the wrong side.” He was then taken behind a truck and ordered to lie on the ground, he says. The two Germans were prepared –- and “were wearing camouflage uniforms.” One of them, Kurnaz claims, grabbed him by the hair and shouted at him, “Do you know who we are? We’re the German force, the KSK.” According to Kurnaz, the German soldier then pushed his face onto the dry desert floor and kicked him in the side before leaving. The soldiers laughed, says Kurnaz. “They thought it was funny.”

Although the KSK has persistently denied Kurnaz’s claims, Der Spiegel reports that three American witnesses –- including Major Matthew W. Donald of the 108th Military Police Company, who now teaches military history at the University of Ohio –- have corroborated his claims, adding that German investigators believe that his account is “credible.”

Mamdouh Habib

Mamdouh HabibOver in Australia, meanwhile, the Australian reports that “Holes have emerged in the evidence Australian intelligence agencies have relied on to paint former Guantánamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib as a national security threat.” Habib, an Egyptian-born citizen, was released from Guantánamo in January 2005, but only after he was rendered for torture in Egypt and was then treated with appalling brutality in Guantánamo. The case against him –- such as it was, before he was released lest details of his “extraordinary rendition” and torture emerged to shame the US administration –- hinged on his alleged connections, established during a visit to the United States, with followers of “the Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted and sentenced in the US for his part in terror plots including Ramzi Yousef’s 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Center. A key part of this “evidence” –- calls allegedly made to Habib “from a New Jersey phone number linked to another convicted terrorist, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny” –- have now been revealed as groundless, following the discovery that, at the time the calls were made, El-Gabrowny had already been in US custody for three weeks.

As the Australian described it, the latest revelations about the phone records came about after one of the men arrested with Habib in Pakistan –- Ibrahim Diab, who was “arrested but quickly released” –- came forward “to corroborate [Habib’s] claims that he was held in the Australian High Commission in the capital Islamabad and interrogated by an Australian diplomat.” Diab’s testimony also backs up claims made by Mr Habib that the calls from New Jersey were actually “faxes about fundraising activities sent to him by other members of the New Jersey Muslim community with access to the same phone.” Habib, who turned out on Saturday at a huge protest rally against President Bush’s visit to Australia, where he told reporters, “George Bush is a great evil –- he should get out of this country,” continues to maintain his innocence, in an attempt to clear his name, to retrieve his passport from the Australian authorities, and to secure damages from the federal government over his detention in Egypt and at Guantánamo.

Diab’s testimony will presumably bolster Habib’s case against his own government, which has persistently maintained that it had nothing to do with the activities of the Americans. Habib, on the other hand, has repeatedly insisted that “the Australian government was complicit in the treatment he received,” asserting that “Australia’s spy agency ASIO was aware at the time of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings that he knew many of the members of the Muslim community in New Jersey, including some of the men convicted over the bombings,” and that the agency had asked him to spy on the New Jersey Muslims, but he had refused. I wonder whether, as with Jamil El-Banna in the UK, that refusal to work as an informer may not have blighted the rest of his life.

Abdur Rahim Muslim Dost

Abdur Rahim Muslim DostAnd finally, to Pakistan, where Abdur Rahim Muslim Dost, an Afghan writer and businessman, who was sold to the Americans by Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, has been allowed to speak publicly for the first time in almost a year. Betrayed by the ISI because both he and his brother Badruzzaman Badr (also held in Guantánamo and then released) had published articles that were critical of the ISI, Muslim Dost was freed from Guantánamo in April 2005, but then proceeded to write a book about Guantánamo, with his brother, that was, again, critical of the ISI. Da Guantánamo Matay Zolanay (The Broken Shackles of Guantánamo) was published last July, and two months later, on 29 September, Muslim Dost was seized by Pakistani police as he left a mosque in Peshawar, his home since the 1970s. Ranking as one of Pakistan’s many “disappeared” for several months, he was eventually located in his adoptive country’s sprawling and unaccountable prison system, and was recently transferred to the Central Prison in Peshawar, where, farcically, he has been charged with “violating visa rules and illegal stay in Pakistan.”

Speaking to the Pakistan Daily Times this week, Muslim Dost ran through his recent history, explaining that, after his arrest, “agency personnel drove him handcuffed and blindfolded to their office near the Army Stadium. ‘I was already familiar with the detention centre, as I had spent some time there before I was shifted to Guantánamo Bay in 2001,’ he added. He said an intelligence official, in his mid-30s, questioned him about the book. ‘I explicitly told him that I had co-authored the book and would write another one once I was released.’”

Muslim Dost went on to explain that he was held for six months in a secret prison located somewhere between Gora Qabristan and Peshawar airport, which held between 35 and 40 people, and accused the authorities of running a prison that was even more vile than Guantánamo. “Detention cells at Guantánamo Bay are far better than those I witnessed in Peshawar, being run by the intelligence agencies,” he told the Daily Times, adding, “Most of the inmates were suffering from tuberculosis without any healthcare facilities available to them,” and explaining that he was not even allowed writing materials, as he had been in Guantánamo, where he wrote 25,000 lines of poetry, some of which appears in the recent book Poems From Guantánamo, even though it was almost all confiscated by the authorities and not returned to him on his release. He also explained that one of his fellow detainees had been “brutally tortured” at the prison.

While his transfer from this secret prison to Peshawar perhaps indicates that the much-wronged poet will soon be released outright, he will clearly never be cowed by threats and intimidation from powerful people whom he regards, implacably, as corrupt. “If the authorities consider publication of my book written on wrongdoings and injustices by the agencies with innocent detainees [to be a mistake],” he said, “then I will make this mistake time and again.”

Note: For more on Kurnaz, see here, and for more on the stories of all three men see my book 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.

3 Responses

  1. Revealed: Identity Of Guantánamo Torture Victim Rendered Through Diego Garcia by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] his arrival at Guantánamo, on March 23, 2003, Madni was so depressed that, according to Mamdouh Habib, an Australian prisoner, released in January 2005, who had also been rendered for torture in Egypt, […]

  2. Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni: Innocent Victim of US/UK Torture | America at War says...

    […] his arrival at Guantánamo, on March 23, 2003, Madni was so depressed that, according to Mamdouh Habib, an Australian prisoner, released in January 2005, who had also been rendered for torture in Egypt, […]

  3. Guantanamo Leadership System | ENOUGH! says...

    […] Former Guantánamo detainees speak: Murat Kurnaz, Mamdouh Habib and Abdur Rahim Muslim Dost […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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