February 19, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Grigory Tinsky


The US special services must answer for keeping and torturing knowingly innocent man for six years, trying to get confessions about relations with bin Laden

The US special services captured Muhammad Saad Iqbal in 2002. When he came back home seven years later, he became absolutely different person: now he has moving difficulties, his left ear is damaged with inflammatory process, his mind is influenced by psychoactive drugs. These all are the results of sojourn in the US prisons, and in particular four years spent in Guantanamo. In November, a Pakistani surgeon operated on his ear, physical therapists tried to return sensitiveness to his back, and a psychiatrist tried to wean him off the drugs Muhammad always carried with him. All these diseases are the result of six years of captivity and interrogations under torture. That's what a Washington lawyer intends to sue the US government for.

Iqbal is one of many other captives, who were kept imprisoned for years with no evidences of guilt, who were taken from one prison to another and not even let know where they were, who were tortured and humiliated. Iqbal was never convicted of any crime; there were even no official charges against him. He was silently released from famous Guantanamo prison with an explanation he wasn't anymore thought to be enemy combatant.

"I feel ashamed what the Americans did to me in this period" – said Iqbal in the interview for The New York Times, lying on the hospital bed in Lahore. Iqbal was arrested in Jakarta (Indonesia). The reason for the arrest was a report of an Indonesian police informer about Iqbal boasting he could make a bomb which could be hidden in a shoe. Iqbal himself affirmed he had never said anything like that. And still two days later he was arrested and carried to Egypt by plain. And from there he was taken to American Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and then to Guantanamo Bay.

The Pentagon and the CIA deny any tortures being used against Iqbal; American diplomatic, military and intelligence officials only agree to comment on this anonymously, as the case is classified. According to unofficial commentaries, already after two-day interrogations it was quite clear to the CIA that Iqbal was a simple boaster who wanted to improve his authority among listeners. But in the atmosphere of fear and panic after the September 11, 2001 this didn't prevent the CIA from secret transferring Iqbal to Egypt for further interrogations.

Iqbal says he had been beaten, shackled, injected drugs and tortured with electric shock in Egypt. He was almost deprived of sleep for 6 months because he said he wasn't acquainted to Osama bin Laden.

Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, commented on that: "The agency's terrorist detention program has used lawful means of interrogation, reviewed and approved by the Department of Justice and briefed to the Congress. This individual, from what I have heard of his account, appears to be describing something utterly different. I have no idea what he's talking about. The United States does not conduct or condone torture".

Iqbal says he came to Jakarta from Pakistan for some family reasons on November 2001. In his statement at tribunal at Guantanamo he admitted that he had contacts with members of Islamic Defenders Front. This organization functions absolutely legally in Indonesia. There he also admitted he told his new friends he could create a shoe bomb. Now he says another man from the company boasted with that. But irrespective of who said what, this conversation caught the attention of Indonesian police. The information was passed to the Jakarta station of the CIA, and on January 9, 2002 Iqbal was seized at the room he rented. According to his affirmation, he was violated already in Jakarta airport. Then he was pushed into the plane, put into chains and someone covered his eyes with bandage. According to his words, this was done by Egyptian intelligence officers – he recognized them from Arabic accent. The captive was transferred from Jakarta to Cairo on a special CIA aircraft. During the flight Iqbal was bleeding from nose, ears and mouth, but he couldn't move, as he was tightly shackled. After the plane landed he was told he was in Cairo. He was put into a grave-like cellar, which was about 6 feet by 4 feet and, as transcript of his tribunal hearing says, was kept there for 92 days. In the interview to The New York Times Iqbal says that in January 11, 12 and 20 he was under interrogation for 12 to 15 hours. The "investigation" was held by Egyptians. There were some other men in the room, but their faces were hidden. They kept silence and only passed notes with questions to those who held the interrogation. And the questions were like: when had he been to Afghanistan and how he got acquainted with bin Laden. After he said he had never been in the country and had never met the terrorist №1 Egyptians began to torture him with electric shock.

"I cried and I yelled," he said. "They gave me brain electric shocks. They made me consume liquids that were laced with drugs, so you don't know what you are talking about". In the beginning of April the Americans took him to their own base in Bagram, not far from Kabul. There he was held more than a year, shackled and all the time interrogated. A person from the CIA told: "We forgive you; just accept you met Osama bin Laden".

Though polygraph tests showed he was telling the truth all the time, we was taken from one room to another every two hours and wasn't allowed to sleep normally for half a year. Mamdouh Habib, Iqbal's cellmate, told Iqbal wasn't really respected by other prisoners, as he had never been trained in Afghan camps and in general had no relations with Muslim fundamentalists community. The pressure from one side and the lack of support from jail mates led Iqbal to the deep depression. As the result he tried to hang himself twice and three times went on hunger strike.

Dr. Ronald L. Sollock, the commander of the Naval Hospital in Guantanamo Bay, presented a certificate to the Court of Appeals in Washington, according to which Iqbal suffered from the perforated left eardrum and the inflammation of the left ear external canal and left middle ear. That diagnosis can only be the result of investigators' violence: it's really hard to explain the rupture of tympanic membrane with any natural reasons. Various meds, which Iqbal were was forced to take, neither made a good influence on his health. Professor Mohammad Mujeeb, who examined Iqbal after his return to Pakistan, affirms he was addicted to "a long list of drugs", and a part of his problems, in particular difficulties with moving, has psychological reasons.

After six years of imprisonment Iqbal was let go from Guantanamo and transferred to an airport in Islamabad on military aircraft. There Brian Strait and Keith Easter, two American Embassy officers, passed him to the representatives of Pakistani powers, who, in their turn, investigated the former Guantanamo prisoner for three weeks. Iqbal himself called these investigations friendly sessions. At the end of these friendly talks Pakistani security service officers drove Iqbal back to Lahore to his relatives.

Richard Cys, an American lawyer, filed a lawsuit in the federal courts hoping to get medical documentation from Guantanamo camp to find proofs of cruel treatment and tortures. But whatever the US court will decide, no one can give seven years, spent in prisons and being inhumanly treated by American powers, back to Muhammad Saad Iqbal.

We can only welcome the decision of the new US President about closing Guantanamo prison. But if highest officials from the US administration aren't made responsible for lawless deprivation of liberty of hundreds Muslims, who are suspected in terrorism, and inhuman treatment of them, hardly can we talk about justice triumph.

(The author used The New York Times reports in this commentary)

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