10/18/2006

BBC : Regret and resentment at Guantanamo

As President Bush signs a new law allowing Guantanamo detainees to be tried in military tribunals using evidence obtained through coercion, the BBC's Omar Razek reflects on a recent visit to the notorious prison complex.

I could hear the midday call to prayer coming from different camps.

I could also see the sweating face of a young man on a small carriage, his hands and legs shackled, driven by two military guards under the burning sun.

He was Abdel-Razzaq, a Saudi detainee caught in Afghanistan after the fall of Taleban and he was going before an Administrative Review Board (ARB).

In these annual hearings, military officers review the status of each detainee, deciding if they are still an "enemy combatant" or not.

Abdel-Razzaq was one of more than 450 people - most with Arab and Muslim names - held by the US authorities in five (soon to be six) camps in the notorious Guantanamo detention complex.

Before his ARB, he expressed his regret for being in Afghanistan.

"I was 17-years-old and full of enthusiasm for jihad, but now after five years in Guantanamo I have changed. I need to go back to my country, lead a simple life care for my old parents and have a wife and kids."

He says two of his brothers were killed in jihad, one in Chechnya and one in Afghanistan. He was arrested with a third brother fleeing Afghanistan after the war, and transferred later to Guantanamo.the main plea Abdel-Razzaq made to the board through his interpreter was a solemn one: "What I want really know is simple: Will you release me or not?"

The ARB don't have an answer for that question. They merely raise their recommendation to the deputy secretary of defence, who decides about release or transfer.

The board has reviewed 91 cases so far this year. None of the prisoners was released, 33 were transferred and 58 are still in detention.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Regret and resentment at Guantanamo

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