In October 2001, an Algerian relief worker, employed by the Red Crescent Society, was arrested in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where he lived with his wife and two young daughters. He was accused of being involved in plots to blow up the U.S. and British embassies in Sarajevo. Despite his consistent, repeated, and forceful assertions that he knew nothing about the conspiracy and had done nothing illegal, the Bosnian police arrested him, but even after an extensive search of his car, his home, his office, and his personal belongings, they could find nothing incriminating, and a Bosnian judge ordered him to be released.
But “no evidence” wasn’t good enough for the U.S. authorities. The Algerian relief worker was transferred into U.S. custody and taken to Guantanamo, where he stayed for the next seven and a half years. He was interrogated repeatedly about connections to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, of which he knew nothing. He was also subjected to torture. Curiously enough, though, the one thing he was never asked about was his supposed involvement with the bombing plot that got him arrested in the first place.
The Algerian relief worker, of course, is Lakhdar Boumediene, and last month a federal judge ordered the government to release him, which they did. Today, there is a lengthy article about Boumediene based on an exclusive interview he gave to ABC News.
About torture, Boumediene told ABC, “I don’t think. I’m sure.”
Boumediene said the interrogations began within one week of his arrival at the facility in Cuba. But he thought that his cooperation, and trust in the United States, would serve him well and quicken his release.
“I thought America, the big country, they have CIA, FBI. Maybe one week, two weeks, they know I am innocent. I can go back to my home, to my home,” he said.
But instead, Boumediene said he endured harsh treatment for more than seven years. He said he was kept awake for 16 days straight, and physically abused repeatedly.
Asked if he thought he was tortured, Boumediene was unequivocal.
“I don’t think. I’m sure,” he said.
Boumediene described being pulled up from under his arms while sitting in a chair with his legs shackled, stretching him. He said that he was forced to run with the camp’s guards and if he could not keep up, he was dragged, bloody and bruised.
He described what he called the “games” the guards would play after he began a hunger strike, putting his food IV up his nose and poking the hypodermic needle in the wrong part of his arm.
“You think that’s not torture? What’s this? What can you call this? Torture or what?” he said, indicating the scars he bears from tight shackles. “I’m an animal? I’m not a human?”
Vice President Dick Cheney has been adamant in his defense of the Guantanamo detention center and the treatment of those held there.
Last week Cheney said, “The facility down there is a fine facility. These people are very well treated.”
Boumediene said it was in his interest to lie to the interrogators, who would reward the detainees if they admitted guilt.
“If I tell my interrogator, I am from Al Qaeda, I saw Osama bin Laden, he was my boss, I help him, they will tell me, ‘Oh you are a good man,'” he said. “But if I refuse ? I tell them I’m innocent, never was I terrorist, never never, they tell me. ‘You are, you are not cooperating, I have to punch you.'”
After nearly four years locked up, Boumediene went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment.
Boumediene’s personal effects were taken from him at Guantanamo, including his wedding ring. He now has a stack of letters, that his wife wrote to him that never arrived, a “return to sender” stamp on the envelope.
“Over there you lose all the hopes, you lose all hope,” he said. “Any good news, they don’t want you to be happy.”
It took more than six years before Boumediene started to receive good news.
Emphasis is mine. Do yourself a favor and read the whole article.