Tuesday, September 11, 2007
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico —For some men trying to get out of Guantanamo, the biggest obstacle can be another detainee.
Prisoners often confront allegations leveled by other detainees as they appear before U.S. military panels that review their cases and decide whether they can be released, according to transcripts obtained by The Associated Press.
Detainees have accused each other of storing anti-tank mines for the Taliban, plotting a bomb attack on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and guiding Arab fighters into Afghanistan through Iran.
Such allegations often provoked frustrated outbursts at the review hearings, where classified material is withheld from detainees. Attorneys for detainees, and even a military officer who participated in a review panel at Guantanamo, have said that the United States has relied on vague or incomplete evidence that would not hold up in a civilian courtroom.
Some prisoners say that enemies within the prison have lied to gain favor with interrogators or settle scores.
"Because of him, I am here today," a 37-year-old Afghan, Aminullah Baryalai Tukhi said at one hearing. "Who he is, I don't know. Which organization he belongs to, I don't know."
The accusations, contained in transcripts obtained by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act, illustrate the difficulty detainees face in refuting cases against them at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
Afghan detainee Bostan Karim was told by a board member that his former business partner, also held at Guantanamo, accused him of storing mines and plotting attacks against U.S. forces. Karim said the man incriminated him out of anger related to a long-running feud over money.
"I asked the interrogators to have him face me," said Karim, who added that man hid from him at Guantanamo and asked to be transferred to another camp. "Even if we go back home, I will not let it go."
Most of the roughly 340 prisoners at Guantanamo occupy modern, maximum-security prisons where they communicate mainly by shouting through slots in their cell doors. But some in an older section can speak easily through a steel mesh wall and several dozen live in a communal area for the most "compliant" detainees.
One man insisted that another detainee had disavowed any claims against him when they crossed paths inside the detention center on a U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.
"I told him 'I did not have any connection with you' and he told me no he did not," said Chaman Gul, accused of planning to bomb a ceremony to open a radio station in Afghanistan. "If he has an allegation he should tell me straight. He came here and he was shy."
Gul attributed any claims against him to political rivalries in Afghanistan. But a board member expressed skepticism, telling Gul "there are many of your own people who have told stories about you."
Several others have found familiar faces at Guantanamo _ some bitter enemies, others friends or even brothers _ among the hundreds of men scooped up in the war on terrorism and taken to Cuba on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
Abdul Matin, a teacher from Afghanistan accused of spying for the Taliban, recognized a man he said had beaten him for five consecutive days inside a Taliban prison years earlier.
"As soon as I heard about him being here, I called the interrogators and told them that I was a witness against him," said Matin, who encouraged the military to focus on other, guilty detainees.
"I am challenging you to look at the other prisoners, and my case is very clean," he said.
Among those reunited with family members was Abd Al Razzaq Abdallah Ibrahim Al Tamini, a 23-year-old Saudi who told his military review panel that he had spoken with his brother, who was imprisoned with him in Cuba after they both traveled to Afghanistan on a holy war.
Moazamm Begg, a British citizen who was held at Guantanamo for more than two years, has said that a guard helped him communicate with at least one British resident at the camp by carrying a greeting between them.
Another inmate said he developed enemies among Taliban supporters as word spread that he had worked in the government of Karzai's Western-backed government.
"Three times (they) have broken my head, they have beaten me and nobody talks to me because most of them are Talibans here and they know that I am against them," said Ahktiar Mohammad.
Mohammad, who is suspected of helping to plan an attack on a government official, said he wanted to move to another section of the prison camp.
"In Camp Four I have some friends," he said.
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