New Claims Of Gitmo Abuse

Three Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay claim they suffered systematic brutality and sexual humiliation during their detention at the U.S. military base.

A report released by their lawyers Wednesday claims prisoners at Guantanamo were stripped naked and forced to watch videotapes of other prisoners who had been ordered to sodomize each other. It also says one of the men was questioned with a gun to his head.

Asif Iqbal, Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, friends from Tipton in central England, were released without charge from Guantanamo in March after being held for more than two years.

The men claim that scorpions and snakes roamed the open cages where they were held in the sweltering Cuban heat, and that guards would throw the prisoners' Qurans into the toilet and forcibly shave them to try to force prisoners to abandon their Muslim faith.

Pentagon officials were examining the report and had no immediate comment.

The men were detained in Northern Afghanistan on Nov. 28, 2001, by forces loyal to warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum and held for 30 days, then turned over to U.S. Special Forces, according to the 155-page report compiled by the men and their lawyers.

The report also alleges that a British officer who said he was a member of the SAS special forces interviewed Ahmed in Afghanistan.

During questioning, "one of the U.S. guards had a gun to his head and he was told if he moved he would shoot him," the report said.

The British Ministry of Defense said it would investigate any official complaint but was not aware it had received one concerning the alleged interrogation incident. It wouldn't comment on whether SAS officers had helped question British detainees.

At the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the men said that prisoners were subjected to brutal treatment similar to the abuse later uncovered at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

The report was released in New York on Wednesday by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the law firm that represented Rasul and Iqbal in Rasul v. Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court case that successfully challenged the Bush administrations policy of indefinitely holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay without judicial review.

In its ruling the Court held that foreign terrorism suspects may use the American legal system to challenge their detention.

Meanwhile, four Guantanamo Bay prisoners have refused to take part in U.S. military review hearings — set up review panels after the Supreme Court's ruling — leaving a panel of officers to examine the cases without testimony from the detainees, military officials said Wednesday.

That news was confirmed as Navy Secretary Gordon England was to visit the naval base to observe the review hearings, called to examine the status of hundreds of terror suspects held at the prison and to determine if they should remain in detention.

Four detainees whose cases came up Monday and Tuesday "chose not to participate in the process," said Cmdr. Beci Brenton, a Navy spokeswoman.

"These are just four detainees who have historically not cooperated," Brenton said. "They've not interacted with interrogators." It wasn't clear whether the men attended their hearings.

Two other detainees went before the review panel Friday and Saturday, and the second one summoned a fellow detainee as a witness, Brenton said.

Recommendations by the three-member military panel have yet to be announced. Reporters are to be allowed inside hearings starting Thursday, but the military says it will close portions deemed classified. Reporters are not allowed to name any of the prisoners.

Human rights groups criticize the process as a sham, saying the three officers assigned to hear cases can't be considered impartial and that each detainee should be allowed a lawyer.

"What you have is a process that would be suitable for resolving a dispute over a parking ticket. It's not an acceptable process," said Alistair Hodgett, of Amnesty International. "It's really an after-the-fact justification for detaining people without charge or fair trial."

Some of the 585 detainees have been held for two and a half years at this U.S. base, and all have been deemed "enemy combatants" suspected of ties to al Qaeda or the ousted Taliban regime of Afghanistan.

Though a federal judge in Washington refused a request Tuesday to halt hearings for two Algerians, defense lawyers said they were pleased that Judge Richard Leon nevertheless said statements detainees make during reviews can be excluded from court proceedings.

The review panels are separate from a military tribunal being set up to try at least four detainees, starting with pretrial hearings planned in late August.

In Paris, a French court on Wednesday rejected a request by four one-time Guantanamo prisoners who had sought to be freed from jail while pending trial in France, judicial officials said.

The men, who were released from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on July 27, have been placed in various Paris-area prisons while authorities here investigate them.
By Gina Holland