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From Guantánamo to Pakistan: One man shares his story

Human rights activists say that 10 years after 9/11, cases of extraordinary rendition such as Islamic scholar Saad Iqbal Madni's remain common because Guantánamo Bay has not been shut down.

By Issam AhmedCorrespondent / September 12, 2011

In this Dec. 4, 2006 file photo reviewed by the US Military, a detainee peers out from his cell inside the Camp Delta detention facility at the Guantánamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba.

Brennan Linsley/AP/File

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Lahore, Pakistan

Three years after his release from Guantánamo Bay, Islamic scholar Saad Iqbal Madni says he still feels like a prisoner – but now, it's by his own country.

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The 33-year old, looks far older in person than the ID card photo he brought with him from his six and a half years in detention. He is closely monitored by Pakistani authorities, labeled a high risk to Pakistan, and unable to find steady work because of the stigma attached to his detention. Despite never formally being charged for any crime, “People still call me a terrorist, they are afraid to have contact with me,” he says.

Using a mix of Urdu and English with a slight-American accent – a product of his contact with the guards at Guantánamo Bay – Mr. Madni speaks passionately of the alleged torture he faced during his ordeal, which began in September 2002 with him being rendered from Jakarta to Egypt, Bagram prison in Afghanistan, and finally to the infamous Delta Block where he went on hunger strike for a year and half before his release.

Human rights activists say that 10 years after the 9/11 attacks experiences such as Madni's, cases they describe as “unlawful” detention, remain common partly because Guantánamo Bay has not been shut down.

“Our biggest problem with the whole phenomenon [of extraordinary rendition] is that it removes people from the protection from the law,” says Sarah Bilal, head of the Justice Project Pakistan, a legal aid cell which works in partnership with British charity, Reprieve, which represents abused prisoners around the world.

As for the 500 prisoners who have now been released from Guantánamo Bay because of lack of evidence against them, she adds: “They [the US authorities] get it wrong all the time – it’s just a very dangerous precedent for a powerful government like the US to be setting.”

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Madni's journey

Today, Madni walks with difficulty and is addicted to a cocktail of painkillers he was put on during his detention. Still, he says he doesn’t hate Americans, but he doesn’t understand why the US government continues to keep Guantánamo Bay and Bagram prison open.

“After 10 years the American people aren’t ready to admit what was happening on Guantánamo bay was wrong and some still think torture works. That really hurts me,” he says.

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