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‘Everybody in Guantanamo has been tortured or abused’ - former detainee

Published time: July 06, 2013 02:58
AFP Photo / Roberto Schmidt

“I was subjected to the sounds of a woman screaming, I was led to believe that my wife was being tortured,” Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee has shared with RT.

The former inmate has shed light on some of the torturous detention techniques at Guantanamo.  They include, being cavity searched and given directions on how to commit suicide.

Despite being physically and psychologically tortured by the guards in the US prison, Begg says prisoners find it in themselves to forgive the soldiers.

RT: What was your own stay like at the prison?

Moazzam Begg: Most of my time was spent in solitary confinement which meant being in a a cell that measured 6 foot by 8 foot which was windowless at that time, I did not have access to any meaningful communication with my family, I had no knowledge whether I was ever going to get charged or not, which I was not. At that time no lawyers were allowed. So for two and a half years there was no concept of facing any legal proceedings. But now the situation has changed a lot.

RT: During that time would you claim that you were tortured or abused?

MB: I say that everybody who’s been held in Guantanamo has been tortured or abused in one way. When I was first taken into custody, it was the most torturous process I think that any person can imagine. It meant being stripped naked, it meant your body being searched, cavity searched as they called it. Having your hair shaved off, being punched and kicked and being spat upon.  On one occasion it was in background facility before I went to Guantanamo, I was subjected to the sounds of a woman screaming, I was led to believe that my wife was being tortured.  So everybody in a sense is being tortured and the worst sort of torture is the psychological of course sort in which you are in solitary confinement torture unable to know what you have done for which you’re paying the ultimate price which is your freedom. 

AFP Photo / Getty Images / John Moore

RT: One prisoner claims that he and others have been sexually assaulted during searches. Have you ever witnessed anything like that?

MB: Certainly, every prisoner will say that he has had invasive cavity searches.  Across the board 779 men if you were to ask them, did this happen to them, they would say yes it happened to us at various junctures of detention. The particular prisoner, his name is Younous Chekkouri , he is from Morocco, is saying precisely this, but of course it is a violation of his dignity. I believe that the term rape has been used in a broader sense, meaning that objects have been inserted into a person which are extremely painful and degrading too.

RT: We've heard an ex-military official say the prison's a recruiting ground for al-Qaeda. Would you agree?

MB: It is bizarre, President Obama has recently visited Robben Island and he actually was in a cell where Nelson Mandela was. He actually wrote in the visitor’s book that nothing could break the strength of the human spirit, not even shackles or chains. But he forgot to add - unless you happened to be in our shackles and chains and in our cells.  Of course, this is the sort of thing that will make people angry. But if you look at over 600 prisoners that have been released from Guantanamo, almost everybody has returned not to begin a life of terrorism or recidivism, as they call it, but actually stretch out their hands toward former Guantanamo soldiers, guards and interrogators. I had former Guantanamo guards coming to my house and meet the children that they prevented me from seeing when they were born. This is the sort of nature of the Guantanamo prisoners, we are extremely forgiving.

RT: It seems that hunger strikers in Guantanamo are prepared to die. Did you think you'd die there?

MB: I think many times that the administration there suggested to us, I was just once told that I had a thought about committing a suicide and they told me how I could commit suicide if I felt so down. Clearly the prisoners have moved along since that point, but clearly prisoners have died, nine people have died in Guantanamo. If the hunger strikes continue in the way that they are, then force-feeding is not the solution. The solution is to give them justice and that is the reason why they are doing it. They are not doing it because of all the abuses, those are peripheral, they are doing it because they have been held for almost 12 years now without charge or trial in any legal, normative system.

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