Guantánamo ex-detainee tells Congress of abuse
Murat Kurnaz, who testified in a landmark hearing Tuesday, says he spent days chained to the ceiling of an airplane hanger. He was determined innocent in 2002, but held until 2006.
In a landmark congression-al hearing Tuesday, former Guantánamo detainee Murat Kurnaz described abuses he said he endured while in US custody – among them electric shock, simulated drowning, and days spent chained by his arms to the ceiling of an airplane hangar.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Lawmakers were also provided with recently declassified reports, which show that US and German intelligence agencies had determined as early as 2002 that Mr. Kurnaz had no known links to terrorism. Still, he was held for four more years.
Kurnaz's testimony to Congress, via videolink, as well as a report released Wednesday showing that FBI agents were troubled by the harsh interrogations at Guantánamo, are the latest signs of growing concerns in the United States about the prison camp, which has become emblematic of what many around the world see as American excess in the war on terrorism.
Nowhere was the disquiet more evident than in lawmakers' responses. Politicians on both sides of the aisle, who had once accepted Pentagon assurances that those held at Guantánamo were the "worst of the worst," reacted with outrage and regret to Kurnaz's statements, which were broadcast from his hometown of Bremen, Germany.
Even Dana Rohrabacher, a stalwart Republican and defender of the Guantánamo prison system, voiced concern, saying, "It could be after seeing those buildings go down and 3,000 of our people were slaughtered, we moved so quickly that some mistakes were made.... The documents seem to indicate mistakes were made in this case."
Among the documents given to lawmakers is a May 2003 report from Brittain Mallow, the commanding general at the time of the Criminal Investigation Task Force, a Pentagon intelligence unit that interrogates and collects information on detainees. It notes, "CITF is not aware of evidence that Kurnaz was or is a member of al-Qaida."
Another memo, from German intelligence agents who interrogated Kurnaz under CIA supervision in 2002, reads, "USA considers Murat Kurnaz's innocence to be proven."
'Innocent' but not set free
The papers are only the latest batch to surface in Kurnaz's case, where the record clearly shows that he was repeatedly designated an enemy combatant despite evidence of his innocence.
Much of the testimony given by Kurnaz, the first former Guantánamo detainee to appear before Congress, focused on his treatment at Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan, where he was taken after being arrested in Pakistan in December 2001. While there, he said was subjected to "water treatment," which involved having his head dunked in a water-filled bucket. "They stick my head in the water and at the same time they punched me in the stomach so I had to inhale the water," he said, using English he picked up in detention.
Kurnaz, dressed in a black satin pinstriped suit and seated next to his lawyer, also claimed he was routinely beaten, subjected to extreme temperatures, and chained by his arms to a ceiling, adding that "the pain from this treatment was beyond belief."
Having grown up in Germany, which was schooled in the rule of law by the US, he said he "couldn't believe Americans would do these kinds of things."
Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, refused to comment on his treatment, but said in a written statement, "The abuses Mr. Kurnaz alleges are not only unsubstantiated and implausible, they are simply outlandish."