News Intelligence Analysis
From the New York Times
August 7, 2004
Guantánamo Inmate Complains of Threats and Long Isolation
By NEIL A. LEWIS
WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 - A brief unsealed in a Seattle courtroom this week contains an account by a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, alleging that he was mistreated in several ways that may have violated the Geneva Conventions, including having his life threatened, being beaten and being kept in prolonged isolation.
While the United States government has asserted that it has no obligation to give the Guantánamo prisoners the protections of the Geneva Conventions, officials have insisted that they have done so as a humanitarian gesture.
In a separate affidavit, the Navy lawyer for the detainee asserted that when he met the prisoner on several occasions he found him to exhibit symptoms, including sudden mood changes and suicidal tendencies, that medical experts said indicated a profound and worsening mental illness they attributed to his isolation.
The affidavit of the prisoner, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 34-year-old Yemeni, said he did not know how long he had been kept in isolation at Guantánamo, but suggested it was at least eight months. The prisoner, who has admitted to having been a driver for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, also said he was regularly beaten by American guards in Afghanistan after his capture there at the end of 2001.
Mr. Hamdan also said that the cell in which he is now being isolated had caused him to consider pleading guilty "in order to get out of here.''
A Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Michael Shavers, said on Friday that officials were aware of the documents but had no comment on their assertions. Mr. Hamdan was charged last month with conspiracy to attack and to commit terrorism.
The documents, including the affidavits of Mr. Hamdan and his lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, are part of the first lawsuit directly challenging the Bush administration's authority to try prisoners held as unlawful combatants before military tribunals.
Mr. Hamdan is one of a handful of prisoners who have been charged and face a preliminary hearing at Guantánamo before a tribunal on Aug. 23.
Commander Swift has argued that Mr. Hamdan was an agricultural worker for Mr. bin Laden and was not part of Al Qaeda.
The Supreme Court ruled in June that the naval base on the tip of Cuba was not, as the government had contended, beyond the reach of United States constitutional law.
The court said prisoners being held there could challenge their detentions in federal courts.
As a result, dozens of detainees have filed habeas corpus lawsuits in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to force the government to justify the detentions before a judge.
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