Records Give Voice to Guantanamo Detainees - LA Times, USA
- Records Give Voice to Guantanamo Detainees
By PETE YOST and MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON In a development the Bush administration
had hoped to avoid, the stories of about 60 detainees
imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base have spilled
out in court papers.
A U.S. college-educated detainee asks plaintively in
one: "Is it possible to see the evidence in order to
In another transcript, the unidentified president of a
U.S. military tribunal bursts out: "I don't care about
international law. I don't want to hear the words
'international law' again. We are not concerned with
Expressing defiance in some instances and stoic
acceptance of their fate in others, the once-nameless
and still-largely faceless detainees appeared last
year before tribunals that, after quick reviews,
declared they were unlawful enemy combatants who could
be held indefinitely.
The government is holding about 550 terrorism suspects
at the Navy base in Cuba. An additional 214 have been
released since the prison opened in January 2002 --
some into the custody of their home governments,
others freed outright.
Little information about them has been released
through official channels. But stories of 60 or more
are spelled out in detail in thousands of pages of
transcripts filed in U.S. District Court in
Washington, where lawsuits challenging their
detentions have been filed.
Omar Rajab Amin, a Kuwaiti who graduated from the
University of Nebraska in 1992, wanted to see the
evidence. The tribunal president -- the de facto judge
for the proceeding -- said he could review only
Some of the exchanges grew heated.
"You are not the master of the Earth, sir," Saifullah
Paracha, a Pakistani businessman, told a tribunal
Feroz Ali Abbasi was ejected from his September
hearing because he repeatedly challenged the legality
of his detention.
"I have the right to speak," Abbasi said.
"No, you don't," the tribunal president replied.
The tribunal found Abbasi to have been "deeply
involved" in the al-Qaida terror network. Yet four
months later, the government released him, saying his
home country of Britain would keep an eye on him.
The Guantanamo detainees come from about 40 countries
and were picked up mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan
following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The
administration designate them as enemy combatants.
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled last
June that the detainees may challenge their
imprisonment. The Pentagon responded nine days later
by creating the tribunals and pushing through reviews
of everyone at Guantanamo by year's end.
A military spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Beci Brenton, said
Friday the Pentagon believes the tribunals allow for
the review under the court ruling and that each
detainee received "a fair opportunity to contest their
Administration officials contend the prisoners are not
entitled to the internationally accepted legal
protections given prisoners of war.
In the filings, some detainees seemed stunned by the
speed of the process.
"How long will it take before you decide the results
of this tribunal?" one asked.
"We should have a decision today," the tribunal
The tribunals brought out previously unknown
information regarding the war on terror.
In one proceeding, the government identified detainee
Juma Mohammed Abdul Latif Al Dosari as an al-Qaida
recruiter who persuaded six Yemeni-Americans in
suburban Buffalo, N.Y., to join the terrorist group.
The tribunal also disclosed that Dosari had been
questioned by Saudi Arabian authorities about the
Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 that killed 19 members
of the U.S. Air Force.
Several detainees told the three-member tribunals they
had been mistreated or tortured. They complained about
the evidence, too.
"You believe anyone that gives you any information,"
said detainee Mohammed Mohammed Hassen, who was
arrested in Pakistan. "What if that person made a
mistake? Maybe that person looked at me and confused
me with someone else."
The unclassified evidence against Hassen, 24, was that
a senior al-Qaida lieutenant had identified his
picture as that of someone he might have seen in
The tribunals also had access to classified evidence
that the detainees were not allowed to see, a key
reason a federal judge said in January there were
constitutional problems with the tribunals. An appeals
court is considering that issue.
On the Net:
Documents from court proceedings for many of the
detainees are available at:
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