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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 15:20 GMT
Afghans tell of Guantanamo ordeal
Former Afghan detainees Haji Faiz Mohammed, left, and Jan Mohammed
Life was tough, but the men say they were not beaten
Three Afghans who have just been freed from a US military base in Cuba have spoken of their ordeal during months in captivity.

The men, two of whom are believed to be in their 70s, are the first former detainees to describe the harsh conditions inside Guantanamo Bay.


I told them I was innocent. I'm just an old man

Haji Faiz Mohammed
Speaking from hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul, they told the BBC they had been locked in tiny cells in sweltering heat for long periods, but had not been beaten.

The men, released along with a Pakistani man, are the first to be set free from Camp Delta, where more than 600 suspected Islamic militants are being held.

On Monday, hours after the first inmates had been released, a fresh group thought to number about 30 men from Afghanistan was admitted to Guantanamo for interrogation.

Cut off

The four men were released after it was discovered they posed no security risk.

Prisoners at Guantanamo's Camp X-Ray - the precursor of today's Camp Delta
There are about 625 inmates at the base
US officials say they were not involved in al-Qaeda and could not provide any more useful information.

One of the Afghans, Jan Mohammed, told reporters he had been completely cut off from the outside world for 11 months. He did not receive a letter from his family until three days before his release.


I didn't commit a single crime. The Taleban forced me to join their ranks

Jan Mohammed
"I was handed over to the Americans after my arrest in Kunduz. We were taken first to Kandahar, and then, after interrogation, we were flown to Cuba," he said.

"They didn't beat us up, but they interrogated me intensively for 15 days."

Fellow former detainee Haji Faiz Mohammed said he still did not know why he had been arrested.

"I told them I was innocent. I'm just an old man."

But he added: "We had enough food to eat. We could pray and wash with water five times a day."

'Wrong place, wrong time'

The American policy of secretly detaining suspects without charge in Guantanamo Bay has been criticised by human rights groups.

In Afghanistan there are dozens of families who claim their sons have been wrongly arrested.


My father is not a warrior or terrorist, he is a simple Muslim

Son of Pakistani returnee
Jan Mohammed said he was conscripted by the Taleban and then falsely accused by a northern warlord of being a senior Taleban official.

The returned men say there are three kinds of people being held at Camp Delta - real fighters, those forced to fight and innocent Afghans who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Pakistan says it expects more of its nearly 60 citizens being held at Guantanamo Bay to be repatriated.

Officials are still questioning Mohammed Sagheer, a 60-year-old from North-West Frontier Province, following his return to Islamabad on Sunday night.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kylie Morris reports
"More than six hundred detainees remain inside the US military facility at Guantanamo Bay"

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See also:

28 Oct 02 | South Asia
23 Oct 02 | Americas
02 Sep 02 | South Asia
25 Jun 02 | Americas
30 Apr 02 | Americas
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