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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006, 18:32 GMT
Guantanamo: Anatomy of a hearing
By Paul Reynolds
BBC News website world affairs correspondent

Feroz Abbasi
Ugandan-born Londoner Feroz Abbasi converted to Islam
Among the newly-released transcripts from the Guantanamo Bay tribunals is one involving the former British prisoner Feroz Abbasi.

He was accused of being an "enemy combatant" after being captured in Afghanistan, and was released without charge in January 2005.

The transcript shows a brief but combative encounter between a defiant Feroz Ali Abbasi and an exasperated tribunal president, an unnamed US Air Force colonel. It ends with Feroz Abbasi being removed from the room.

It demonstrates the limited nature of these hearings - the evidence is mainly kept secret.

What is more revealing is a long document attached to the transcript which was hand-written by Feroz Abbasi. It is revealing about his motives, actions and complaints.

The document contains not just accusations of ill treatment by his interrogators and guards but also a request that he should be treated as a "prisoner of war", a declaration that he would be "humbled" to be regarded as a combatant, an admission that he went to fight for the Taleban or in Kashmir and an expression of deep anger against the US.

'Mistreatment'

Written in August 2004, the document states: "I, Feroz Ali Abbasi, in accordance with the Geneva Convention... hereby officially claim the status of prisoner of war..."

It goes on to list his accusations of mistreatment and names several FBI agents who interrogated him under "duress" in Afghanistan and who, he says, gave "erroneous reports" about him.

Do not be fooled into thinking I am in any way perturbed by you classifying me as a 'enemy combatant'... I am humbled that Allah would honour me so
Feroz Abbas

At Guantanamo Bay, he says, he had been told to pray in the wrong direction (north towards the US), had been offered a "hot plate" of pork, and had been denied exercise and light.

He also said two guards had sex either in his presence or in his hearing (it is not quite clear which) while they thought he was "sound asleep".

He called for numerous guards to be produced to answer his claims.

Feroz Abbasi also goes into considerable detail about why he went to Afghanistan and something of what he did there.

This is a fascinating account of how a young British Muslim was motivated.

He says: "I actually left Britain to either join the Taleban or fight for the sake of Allah in Kashmir."

He emphasises his commitment. "Do not be fooled into thinking I am in any way perturbed by you classifying me as a (nonsensical) 'enemy combatant'. In fact quite to the contrary I am humbled that Allah would honour me so."

'American terror'

He admits to having been present at a training camp in Afghanistan when al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden gave a talk.

"Yes, I was present at the very speech when with his own mouth and tongue he told Basic Training that he had received a fax from the Americans!"

This is not Islamic law - it has no authority here
Tribunal president
This fax had apparently been either a threat or an offer, "or both". He says he did not hear the whole speech as he went off to "snack on some cold honey in my tent".

In his handwritten statement, his anger towards the US (and Israel) is apparent. He accuses the US of committing the "greatest terrorist acts known to history", the "atom bombings of the CIVILIAN POPULATION of Nagasaki and Hiroshima".

This produces his angriest passage: "Pure hate wells up in my veins to think the US could get away with such a thing. My eyes light up aflame and I yearn for justice, sweet justice against the tyrant that hurts INNOCENT CIVILIANS."

He says: "The US did not have any legitimate cause whatsoever [in Afghanistan] except that of a, quoting Bush, 'Crusade' to attack the Islamic Emirate, tear down Allah's law and replace it with oppressive democracy."

He defends himself against an accusation that he had said he wanted to fight "against Americans and Jews".

He had actually said "the Americans and the Jews", he says, giving a small lecture on the role of the definite article, and says he meant by that "the militarily aggressive Americans and Jews".

Impatience

He declares that al-Qaeda has not been found guilty of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and that the US has no evidence: "Not only does [it] not have a leg to stand on, it does not even have buttocks to sit on, nor a back or sides to lie on..."

When Feroz Abbasi read out that part of his statement to the tribunal, the president intervened again and said: "This is your last warning... this is not a matter of al-Qaeda... it is a matter of what you did in Afghanistan."

The hearing itself was almost wholly confrontational. Feroz Abbasi asks: "May I have my legal representative present please?"

To which the president replies: "No you may not. This is not a legal proceeding. It is a military tribunal."

Feroz Abbasi argues: "On the basis that the tribunal can actually hold me here in incarceration or release me, I would consider this a criminal proceeding."

He reads from his statement, asks for witnesses, including his mother whom he wants to talk about his frame of mind when he left home for Afghanistan.

After further exchanges in which Feroz Abbasi refers to Islamic and international law, the president says he "appreciates your concern for our souls" but concludes: "This is not Islamic law. It has no authority here" and "I don't care about international law. I don't want to hear the word International Law again."

The prisoner is finally ejected, stating as he goes: "All your actions will come before Allah... and Allah may forgive you and Allah may punish you."

Paul.Reynolds-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk

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