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Page last updated at 13:01 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 14:01 UK

Afghan ex-prisoner speaks of fear

Mohammad Nasim spent months in custody at the US-run military base at Bagram in Afghanistan. BBC Kabul reporter Bilal Sarwary spoke to him.

Mohammad Nasim
Mohammad Nasim says he was asked if he knew Osama Bin laden

It was a cloudy summer's night. Mohammad Nasim, 30, had just sat down to enjoy the cooler weather when suddenly there was a commotion - shouts, thuds and banging. The door of the old house finally gave way - Nasim's home was being raided by US troops.

"Do you know Osama Bin Laden?" someone in the raiding party shouted.

"Yes. I've heard of him on the radio," Nasim replied.

The American troops accused him of belonging to the Taliban - something he denied. The Americans did not believe him. Nasim was arrested and taken to Bagram detention centre, outside Kabul. He was to spend the next five months there.

Life was hard, he says. "They kicked us and also kicked the chairs we sat on. We had to take showers with no wall around to protect our privacy."

'Electric machine'

When the American interrogators did not get the answers they wanted to hear, says Nasim, the prisoners were made to shave their beards.

I was scared and thought I was going to be electrocuted
Mohammad Nasim, former detainee

Although Nasim's detention in Bagram ended after five months, freedom was still four years away, because he was taken to the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Nasim is one of thousands of Afghans who were detained by the Americans after the invasion which overthrew the Taliban in late 2001. He says four years at Guantanamo Bay ruined his life. When he came out of the prison, he says, he was a physical and mental wreck. "They used an electric machine to figure out whether we were lying or telling the truth. I was scared and thought I was going to be electrocuted - the Americans never told us."

Like many Afghans, Nasim had no formal education - he says he did not have the time or the opportunity.

Instead, his life was spent trying to survive from one war to the next - a story typical of many Afghans.

Referring again to his time at Bagram, he says:"When we arrived at Bagram, I did not know what my number was in English. The Americans punished me and forced me to learn it."

Children 'scared'

Asked if his perception of America has changed since his time in Bagram, he replies: "I like their people but not their soldiers."

In a country famous for its sumptuous recipes, where people love to host feasts whenever possible, Nasim had to be content with dry bread, boiled beans, carrots and spinach.

"I don't know how they survive without meat and oil, but I was fed up with their food," he says.

As Nasim spoke by telephone to the BBC from eastern Afghanistan, the shouts of his children could be heard in the background.

"My children are scared because I mentioned Bagram and Guantanamo," he says.

"When they can't fall asleep, their mother warns them that if they don't go back to bed, the Americans will take them to Bagram or Guantanamo."



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