Gitmo hearings reveal torture claim

A Pakistani man held at Guantanamo Bay denied belonging to al-Qaeda and accused US authorities of torturing him, according to a document released by the Pentagon May 15. Majid Khan, who lived in the US for several years, was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and held in a secret network of CIA-run prisons before he was transferred to Gitmo last year. “I am not an enemy combatant. I am not an extremist,” Khan told a panel of military officials on April 15, according to the edited transcript released by the Pentagon. The hearing was held to determine whether Khan, 27, meets the US definition of an enemy combatant but no decision has been reached. The hearing was closed to the public.

US authorities say Khan was an al-Qaeda operative selected to carry out attacks by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, including the assassination of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and poisoning United States water reservoirs. Khan moved with his family to Baltimore in 1996 before returning to Pakistan in 2002.

As well as denying any link to al-Qaeda, Khan submitted a “statement of torture” to the tribunal, which was heavily edited by military officials. The Pentagon says transcripts are edited to remove sensitive security information. “I swear to God this place (is) in some sense worst (worse) than CIA jails. I am being mentally torture(d) here,” Khan said of his treatment at Guantanamo, according to the transcript.

Khan said he had staged hunger and thirst strikes at Guantanamo and tried to chew through an artery on his elbow to kill himself. He complained he had not been allowed access to his family or lawyers. He also said a guard had confiscated a picture of his daughter, whom he has never seen in person as his wife was pregnant when he was detained, and that guards had also forcibly shaved his beard “to humiliate me and offend my religion.”

According to a statement from his father, Ali, read out at the hearing, Khan was detained by Pakistani soldiers and police at his brother Mohammed’s house in Karachi in March 2003. Both brothers were detained and interrogated by Pakistani and US agents, and Mohammed was allowed to see Majid after eight days, said Ali Khan, who still lives in Maryland. “According to Mohammed, Majid said that the Americans tortured him for eight hours at a time, tying him tightly in stressful positions in a small chair until his hands, feet, and mind went numb,” he said. “They re-tied him in the chair every hour, tightening the bonds on his feet each time so that it was more painful. He was often hooded and had difficulty breathing. They also beat him repeatedly, slapping him in the face, and deprived him of sleep.” (Reuters, May 16)

See our last posts on the torture scandal, Gitmo and Majid Khan.