Al-Qaeda suspect 'tortured until he bit artery in arm'
16 May 2007
A PAKISTANI terrorism suspect claimed he was tortured by the US to the point where he tried to kill himself by biting an artery in his arm, according to a transcript released yesterday by the Pentagon.
Majid Khan, in a written statement, said he had no connection to al-Qaeda and that the CIA and US defence department tortured him after his capture in Pakistan and again when he was transferred to the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
"I swear to God this place is in some sense worse than CIA jails. I am being mentally tortured here," said Khan in a statement read out about his time in Guantanamo. "There is extensive torture for the smallest infractions."
Khan, who is the only US resident among 15 detainees the government considers most dangerous, also described suicide attempts where he "chewed my artery which goes through my elbow", during a hearing.
The CIA and Pentagon have said their interrogations are legal and they use no torture.
Khan's father, however, provided the most graphic descriptions of his son's treatment at the hands of US authorities. In a written statement Ali Shoukat Khan said his son was kidnapped in Pakistan and that there 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 was often hooded and had difficulty breathing. They also beat him repeatedly, slapping him in the face, and deprived him of sleep," he said.
The elder Mr Khan, a retired petrol station owner, said his son was not a terrorist and demanded the government "give him a fair trial in a real court".
The government said Majid Khan told others that he wanted to "martyr himself" in a plot to assassinate Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf.
They quoted his father and brother saying Khan was involved with "a group he believed to be al-Qaeda" and was involved in moving people across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The US government says Kahn and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, plotted to blow up petrol stations and poison reservoirs.
a) The US government makes a number of charges against him; but there is much reason to be sceptical about its assertions. Remember what happened with all those charges made against Jose Padilla? About him planning to create a "dirty bomb"?
b) As long as he is not given a fair court case we'll never know for sure.
c) Torturing the suspect just made any potential confession he could have made dubious of value, and reduces the chance that the actual truth comes out. As John McCain, who knows about what torture does from personal experience, said in the last Republican presidential primary debate: "The more physical pain you inflict on someone, the more they're going to tell you what they think you want to know."
d) If you are doubtful about whether hooding and beating a suspect, depriving him of sleep and "tying him tightly in stressful positions in a small chair for eight hours at a time, until his hands, feet and mind went numb", amounts to torture, please read the following:
In the cellar it was cold. I stretched out on the hard planks. I closed my eyes but the lamp glared down on my face. With closed eyes one looked through blood-red light. I turned towards the wall, away from the light. Bang! A face in the spy-hole, a harsh voice: "Lie on your back. We must see your face."
I turned into the required position, putting my heads under my head. Bang! A face in the spy-hole and the same harsh voice: "Put your hands palm upwards on the plank. We must see your wrists."
It was just midnight. He rang the bell on his desk. A guard appeared. "[T]ake him to the cellar, but he is not to sleep." [..]
Bang. Five steps to the wall, five steps to the door, glaring light, bang [..]. I staggered up and down and looked longingly at the wooden plank. [..] Only to stretch out, only to get a second of oblivion. [..]
During those first sleepless weeks everything was vague and blurred. Even suffering. [..] Everywhere in the building one could hear screams, groaning, whimpering, sudden shrill shouts. [..]
I was taken to a whitewashed room. I was ordered to turn to the wall.
"Stand closer. Still closer... All right now, stand at attention. Don't move, if you don't want to get kicked."
There I stood, my nose an inch from the whitewashed wall. They changed the guards every four hours. The guards had only one duty, to kick me or hit my back with their rifle-butt in case I moved. I stood in that position till the evening. [..]
After the first twenty-four hours I had to take off my shoes because my feet were enormously swollen. Standing there I learned about the famous "cinema" of prisoners. By the first evening the unevenly white-washed wall had started to vibrate. The little particles, the slight cracks, the dust on the wall took on various shapes. There were mirages on the wall. My dazzled eyes played tricks on me. Soon I saw snarling, squinting and grinning faces, eyes burning with hatred and loathing. There were hallucinations too. [..] The wall became full of spy-holes and through each a miniature SP thug glared at me.
Next dawn I became quite faint. I hoped I should pass out soon. [..] On the third day I fainted twice in the morning. [..]
It was again nine P.M. [..] As I staggered in he turned the reflector into my face but did not tell me to sit down. I stood there. Every inch of my body was hurting me, my skin, my bones, my insides. Everything in my body seemed to be terribly heavy. I stood there reeling. [..]
This was the beginning. [..] There is no point in describing pain. [..] All of us prison graduates had days when we were tossed about on a stormy ocean of pain. We were alone with our agony, alone like a small abandoned star in the vortex of a hostile universe.
Torture alone did not make us "confess." Sleeplessness, hunger, utter degradation, filthy insults to human dignity, the knowledge that we were utterly at the mercy of the SP - all this was not enough.
[..] we were sent back to our solitary cublicles to "rot away for a while." Now we were tormented by the intense cold, by the glaring bulb and the four walls which threatened to collapse on us.
[..] Now our fear was insanity. Our heads were whirling, we imagined sounds and colours. Some of us had a nightmarish feeling of being drowned. Our [..] feverish brains produced eerie visions and hallucinations. Is it any wonder that many of us had no sound judgment, no will power to resist our tormenters?
Who is this, talking? George Paloczi-Horvath. In 1949, he was arrested by the Stalinist regime of Hungary. In his memoirs, he reports his travails in vivid detail. The above is from pp. 141-150 of The Undefeated
I quoted this before, in another thread, in more detail
. I'll repeat what I concluded. It is maddening to think that there are prisoners now, held in US captivity, transported across Europe as well, who are going through these exact things. At our hands - those of the free West. Enough to make you sink through the ground in shame.
Expect these words above to be repeated, in different memoirs, in ten or fifteen years from now. In Arabic.