Terror suspect claims CIA tortured him
Houston Chronicle
By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press Writer
© 2007 The Associated Press
May 15, 2007

WASHINGTON — A Pakistani terrorism suspect denied any connection to al-Qaida and said he was tortured and his family was hounded by U.S. authorities, according to a transcript released Tuesday by the Pentagon.

Majid Khan, in a lengthy written statement, said the CIA and the Defense Department tortured him after his capture in Pakistan as well as when he was transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

"I swear to God this place in some sense worst than CIA jails. I am being mentally torture here," said Khan in a statement read by his personal representative about his time in Guantanamo. "There is extensive torture even for the smallest of infractions."

Khan, who grew up in Maryland and is the only U.S. resident among 15 detainees the government considers most dangerous, also described suicide attempts where he "chewed my artery which goes through my elbow." And he said he went on hunger strikes to pressure authorities to either charge him or send him back to Pakistan.

The CIA and Pentagon have said their interrogation practices are legal and that they do not use torture.

"He has been treated humanely while in Department of Defense custody," said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

U.S. government authorities have said that Khan was linked to al-Qaida and involved in plots to blow up American gas stations, poison U.S. reservoirs and kill the president of Pakistan.

In the 39-page transcript, Khan, his father and a Ohio truck driver convicted of supporting terrorism — all denied that Khan is a terrorist. Khan's father provided the most graphic descriptions of his son's treatment at the hands U.S. authorities, in a written statement that was also included in the hearing record.

Ali Shoukat Khan said his son was kidnapped in Pakistan and that there, Americans tortured his son "for eight hours at a time, tying him tightly in stressful positions in a small chair until his hands, feet and mind went numb ... He was often hooded and had difficulty breathing. They also beat him repeatedly, slapping him in the face, and deprived him of sleep."

The elder Khan, a retired gas station owner, said his son is not a terrorist and demanded that the government present its evidence, "charge him with a crime and give him a fair trial in a real court." He also said he and his family were pressured by the FBI to speculate about his son's activities.

The FBI, he said, "followed us everywhere we went for a long time, requiring us to tell them in advance where we were going and what we were going to do there."

During the hearing, the government said Majid Khan told others that he wanted to "martyr himself" in a plot to assassinate Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. They quoted his father and brother saying that Khan was involved with "a group he believed to be al-Qaida" and was involved in transporting people across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

U.S. intelligence also says Khan's cousin and uncle, who were both members of al-Qaida, introduced Khan to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, who in a similar hearing at Guantanamo Bay depicted himself as al-Qaida's most prolific planner.

Together, the government says, Kahn and Mohammed plotted terrorist attacks in the United States. Khan also is said to have helped pick possible operatives, including Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver who is now serving 20 years in prison for supporting terrorism. Faris was studying how to destroy New York City suspension bridges.

Faris submitted a statement for the hearing, and said he was coerced and tricked by the FBI into make statements about Khan. "If I don't tell them what they wanted to hear, they were gong to take me to Gitmo (Guantanamo)."

At times struggling to piece sentences together in broken English, Majid Khan told the hearing that it is difficult to prove he is not associated with al-Qaida, and challenged the tribunal members to say how they would prove it if such charges were made against them.

"It is very difficult to prove that someone is not al-Qaida," he said. "If you were in my shoes, I would like to know that how can you prove it, that you yourself are not al-Qaida? And if you can't, then I can't either."

The hearing was held on April 15. Chunks of the transcript were removed, including what appears to be additional discussion of torture, including during his detention by the CIA.

"The redaction of Majid Khan's testimony regarding his treatment in the CIA secret program strengthens the view that the administration has something to hide," said Priti Patel, an associate attorney at Human Rights First. "Covering up abuses in this way is a strategy guaranteed to backfire."

The transcript, however, includes detailed descriptions of what Khan said was abuse at Guantanamo. He said he has been unable to see his daughter, was denied communal recreation for 11 weeks, went four weeks without sunlight and fresh air, was deprived of basic or comfort items for three weeks, had his beard shaved twice and was forced to wear a protective suicide prevention smock.

And he complained that he was only given cheap unscented soap and shampoo, and that in the recreation room there is "no weight lifting machine, no toilet, no sink, ho hoops, and even balls them self have little air in them; they hardly bounce."

"They know my weaknesses — what drive me crazy and what doesn't," he said.

Khan is the last of the 14 original high-value detainees to complete his hearing, called a Combatant Status Review Tribunal. The hearings are to determine whether the detainees are correctly classified as enemy combatants eligible to be tried for war crimes by a military commission. Reporters were not allowed access to any of the hearings, but censored transcripts of all 14 have been released by the Pentagon.

Late last month the Pentagon announced that a 15th high-value detainee — Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, captured late last year and formerly held by the CIA — had arrived at Guantanamo. He has not yet had his hearing.

Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this story.

On the Net:

Defense Department transcript: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/transcript_ISN10020.pdf

Original Text