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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Guantanamo inmate 'wants to stay'
A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at  in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Russians prefer Guantanamo Bay to a Russian prison
A Russian citizen held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has said he is afraid to return home because prison conditions there are far worse.

"I don't think there is even a sanatorium in Russia that would compare to this," Ayrat Vakhitov said in a letter to his mother published by Russia's Gazeta newspaper.

"Nobody is being beaten or humiliated," he wrote.

I fear the Russian prisons and the Russian courts
Ayrat Vakhitov's mother

The mothers of Mr Vakhitov from Tatarstan and Rasul Kudayev from Kabarda-Balkaria strongly oppose the extradition of their sons to Russia, reports Itar-Tass news agency.

"I fear the Russian prisons and the Russian courts," Mr Vakhitov's mother Amina said.

She added that her son - a Chechen - went to his native republic after serving a year in prison in Russia "just to check things out".

Then he went on to Afghanistan, where he was detained by the Taleban, and later arrested by US troops.

Prison sentence

The US ambassador in Moscow, Alexander Vershbow, said Washington was prepared to hand over Russian citizens captured in Afghanistan on condition that they be put on trial.

Captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, some 680 people from 42 countries are being held without trial at the US base in Cuba.

But while the Russians say they are happy with their conditions, human rights groups have denounced them as unacceptable.

Last year, a series of suicide attempts among detainees led the US military to express concern about the mental health of the al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects detained there.

If extradited, the eight Russians are likely to be charged with participation in illegal armed formations and the illegal crossing of the state border and could face up to five years in jail.


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