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Sunday, 3 February, 2002, 15:20 GMT
US defends X-Ray interrogation
At least one prisoner is taken for questioning on a stretcher
The United States military has said that it is interrogating captured Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters held in Cuba, in compliance with US law and without drugs or torture.

Brigadier General Michael Lehnert, who heads the task force running the operation, gave few details of the interrogation - but said that the future of each individual would depend on their involvement in and support of terrorist acts.


There is no torture, there are no whips, there are no bright lights, there is no drugging

Brigadier General Lehnert
He added that while more cells had been built and 320 inmates could be now accommodated at Camp X-Ray - at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay - there were no plans to bring any more prisoners to the camp.

Camp X-Ray currently holds 158 prisoners from 25 countries, but the US has refused to identify the detainees.

Washington has been under pressure from some of its allies whose citizens have been captured with the Taleban or al-Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia, which says that more than 100 of its nationals were among the 158 being held at Guantanamo, has called on the US to send them back for interrogation at home.

Repatriation question

General Lehnert said that prisoners would be treated on a case-by-case basis, and some of them might be sent to their home countries if they were found to what he called "incidental terrorists".

General Lehnert with Geneva Convention handbook
The US says it will abide by the "core principles" of the Geneva Convention
"I cannot speculate on what actions the civilised nations of the world are going to take regarding these individuals.

"I have stated previously that we plan to move them out of X-Ray as soon as other facilities can be constructed, and that's still the case."

POW status - which would normally rule out interrogation - has not been given to the detainees, in the face of criticism from some countries and human rights groups.

But US officials have said they would abide by the "core principles" of the Geneva Convention at Camp X-Ray.

Air-conditioned

General Lehnert confirmed the US was committed to humane treatment of the prisoners, including during interrogation.

"There is no torture, there are no whips, there are no bright lights, there is no drugging," he said. "We are a nation of laws."

Television pictures on Saturday showed the detainees praying, walking under guard and being escorted to their interrogation.

The camp includes three air-conditioned, wooden huts where the prisoners are questioned.

Intelligence officers and representatives of other US agencies interrogate prisoners one at a time in shifts of about one hour.

At least one prisoner has been seen being carried to the sessions on a stretcher. About one-third of the inmates are said to have been wounded before their capture.

See also:

29 Jan 02 | Americas
Bush reconsiders prisoners' rights
29 Jan 02 | Americas
Rift in Bush's team over detainees
28 Jan 02 | Americas
Who is a prisoner of war?
27 Jan 02 | Americas
No POW rights for Cuba prisoners
22 Jan 02 | Americas
Judge's 'doubts' over Cuba prisoners
22 Jan 02 | Americas
Geneva Convention to cover Taleban
20 Jan 02 | Americas
In pictures: Camp X-Ray prisoners
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