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Guantanamo interview of POW
March 3, 2006

A Kuwaiti detainee at Guantanamo Bay has given a rare interview to the BBC. The interview was conducted through a legal representative as journalists are not permitted to speak directly to detainees. The BBC Today programme's Jon Manel submitted questions for Fawzi al-Odah to his lawyer, Tom Wilner. The BBC was unable to challenge or question any of Mr Odah's responses.

No-one from the outside world can see you. So describe your physical appearance now.

I am much lighter than I was. I am now about 120 pounds, down from about 150 pounds when I came here. I have become an old man here. I'm only 29, but I have been here four years in isolation and have got old and much weaker.

How's your health?

I'm always tired. I have pain in my kidneys. I have trouble breathing. I have pain in my heart and am short of breath. I have trouble urinating and having bowel movements.

How would you describe your mental health?

I have given up. I am hopeless. I don't care about anything any more. I just want to be released. My health doesn't matter. Death in this situation is better than being alive and staying here without hope. Death would be better if it helped end this situation.

They told me: if you continue the hunger strike, you will be punished. First, they took my comfort items away from me one by one. You know, my blanket, my towel, my long pants, then my shoes. I was put in isolation for 10 days. Then, an officer came in and read me an order from General Hood [commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay].

It said if you refuse to eat, we will put you on the chair - these are special, new metal chairs they have brought to Guantanamo - that you will be strapped up and down very tightly in the chair and that liquid food would be forced into me using a thicker tube with a metal edge. The tube would no longer be left in all the time, but would be forced in and pulled out at each feeding, and that this would happen three times a day. I told him: "This is torture."

He said to me: "Call it whatever you like - this is the way it's going to be: we're going to break this hunger strike."

One guy, a Saudi, told me that he had once been tortured in Saudi Arabia and that this metal chair treatment was worse than any torture he had ever endured or could imagine. They gave these formulas on purpose to make them defecate and urinate and throw up on themselves.

I would still be on this strike if I had any choice. Death is better than continuing life like this.

Did those in charge at Guantanamo agree to negotiate with detainees or hold any discussions in any way?

For a while they did. And there were some changes in conditions, but then it went back.

You must understand that the real problem here is not the horrible conditions - the lousy food, no reading materials, bad medical care, being in isolation.

The real problem is being here without reason, without hope, without a hearing. I am an innocent person who has done nothing wrong and I have had no opportunity to show that. That is the real problem.

General Hood sent messengers to me and asked to talk to me himself about ending my hunger strike. I refused. I told the messengers to tell him that the problem was not you - you are irrelevant. My issue is with the people in Washington. They are making the decisions. We need to be released or have the opportunity to show that we are innocent.

The American authorities say that you are being held because you are a dangerous enemy combatant. What do you say to that?

It is rubbish. Why don't they charge me then if they really think this is true? It's absolutely untrue. And I have never had a fair hearing. I left my home to teach and work for needy people on my official leave. I was caught out of the country and couldn't get back. I have never supported terrorism. I hate it. I have never done anything against the United States. I was simply sold by a Pakistani for money to the United States. Why are they afraid of giving me a hearing? I was simply unlucky. I was out of the country and couldn't get back home. Everything else is simply rubbish.

What do you say to their allegations against you? They allege that you admitted travelling through Afghanistan with Taleban members, that you admitted firing an AK-47 rifle at a training camp near Kandahar, that you admitted staying at a guest house with fighters armed with AK-47s, that you engaged in hostilities against the US or its coalition partners, that you carried an AK-47 through the Tora Bora mountains for 10 to 11 days during the US air campaign in that region and that you were captured with five other men by the Pakistani border. How do you react to those allegations?

I don't think it is right to discuss these details on radio; I should discuss them at a hearing in court. As you know, they are stupid.

I was out of my country and couldn't get back. I found myself in an area that suddenly became incredibly dangerous, with everyone carrying guns around and hunting Arabs. I was in this place at the wrong time and couldn't get home. And I still can't get home.

The guards will beat you up quickly if you give any problem at all. They are very young people. They think we are terrorists and they treat us that way. They hate us. If anything bad happens to the United States anywhere in the world, they immediately react to us and treat us badly, like animals. It's understandable they would treat us that way. And maybe if we were terrorists they should treat us that way. But we're not.

Have you been tortured?

I don't want to repeat it again. No details here. But I was tortured badly in Kandahar. I was tortured here, too. I was beaten up badly at first when I was brought here. Also, when I first started on this last hunger strike, they abused us badly. They pulled the tubes in and out. If I resisted or tried to take the tubes out, they would strap me down, hold my head back and force the tubes in and out causing a lot more pain. It was useless to resist.

A fair court with fair procedures is what I have been asking for. That is all I have asked for from the beginning so that the truth can be known.

Before all this happened, what was your view of America?

I loved America. It freed my country from Saddam Hussein. My father fought with America against Saddam. I respected America. It stood for human rights and fairness around the world. America was the country we all looked up to.

What is your view now?

It has abandoned all of its own traditions and beliefs which were the cause of my respect for it. As someone who lived in the US, I cannot believe the American people know what is happening down here. This is wrong.

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