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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 16:08 GMT
Indian terror suspects 'to sue US'
Gul Mohammed Shah with his mother (Picture: SnapsIndia)
Gul Mohammed Shah (R) appears traumatised

Two Indian men who were detained in the US after the September 2001 attacks are planning to sue the US Government for alleged physical and mental torture.

I was made to stand in freezing temperatures in the open for four to five hours a day to force me to confess to a crime I had not committed

Mohammed Azmath

Gul Mohammed Shah and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath were deported to India after spending 16 months in prison.

Known as the "box-cutter detainees", they were cleared by the FBI of having any connection with the World Trade Centre attacks.

The two childhood friends from the Indian city of Hyderabad say they have been deeply scarred by their experience.

Mr Azmath, who lost a lot of weight and appeared weak, said he wanted to file a lawsuit against the US Government so that other innocent people did not suffer his fate.

Painful detention

"I was made to stand in freezing temperatures in the open for four to five hours a day to force me to confess to a crime I had not committed", he alleged.

Mohammed Jaweed Azmath (R) greeting a friend (Picture: SnapsIndia)
Mohammed Azmath (R) lost weight in detention

Both men were kept in solitary confinement for the first 12 months of their detention.

Mr Azmath claims he was treated "worse than an animal".

"When I was shackled, they (prison guards) would bang my chest against the wall. They would step on my shackles and it would hurt my ankles," he said.

Faith and hope

His friend Mr Shah said he suffered a similar fate.

Every time he was brought to court, he said he was thrown against the wall while shackled and manhandled, according to his American lawyer.

I want to wipe off everything and make a new beginning this year

Gul Mohammed Shah

Their ordeal began when they were picked up from a train while travelling to Texas on 11 September.

The US authorities become suspicious when they found a box-cutter and $7,000 in cash in their belongings.

"We tried to explain that we used box-cutters to cut open the newspaper bundles at a news-stand where we worked," says Mr Azmath.

"We told them we were carrying so much money because we were moving to Texas to set up a fruit shop."

But even after the FBI cleared them, they were later charged with credit card fraud.

Looking ahead

"I pleaded guilty on the advice of my lawyer because that was the best way to get deported at the earliest," Mr Shah said.

"Otherwise, the case would have dragged on for a long time."

Even after returning home both men face fresh problems.

The Indian police have charged them with passport violation.

Mr Azmath faces the additional problem of securing Indian citizenship for his Pakistani-born wife.

But for the moment, he is content to play with his son, Bilal, who was born while he was in jail.

See also:

24 Jan 03 | South Asia
26 Dec 02 | South Asia
23 Sep 02 | South Asia
20 Aug 02 | South Asia
18 Jan 02 | South Asian Debates
24 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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