"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Adnkrons International (Rome)
November 16, 2006

Rome, 16 Nov. (AKI) - British citizen Ruhal Ahmed - who together with two friends was detained for two and a half years at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has given a dramatic account of their experience to journalists in the Italian capital. The story of Ruhal, and his friends Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul - all in their twenties and from Tipton in Britain's Midlands - known as 'The Tipton Three' - has been made into an award-winning film, 'The Road to Guantanamo' by British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom. Ruhal was speaking at the presentation of an Amnesty report on the alleged illegal abduction of terror suspects in Europe by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and their interrogation and detention in secret jails in Europe and elsewhere.

In his testimonial, Ahmed, 24, described his arrest, along with two friends, in Afghanistan in October, 2001, their imprisonment there in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, transfer to and detention at Guantanamo, return to Britain, their arrest by British anti-terror police and release 24 hours later - without ever being charged or told why he was detained. "I have received no compensation to this day, although the Birtish government promised to help us," he said.

"I believe I was released due to public pressure in Britain against our illegal detention, brought principally by my father and relatives of other detainees as well as Amnesty," he added.

Ahmed described the shocking treatment he, Iqbal and Rasul received in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo; beatings, shackling, sleep deprivation, inadequate food and water, exposure to extremes of temperature, and terrorising by dogs. "The physical abuse included slapping, kicking, punching and beating unconscious of prisoners, and some detainees were sodomised and sexually abused by female interrogators," he said.

The ordeal of the 'Tipton three' began when Ahmed, Iqbal, Rasul and another friend went to Pakistan in October, 2001, for a wedding ,combining this with a two-week trip to Afghanistan, where he said they were attached to a Pakistani non-governmental organisation (NGO). "Unfortunately, on 7 October, the day we entered Afghanistan, the United States started its bombing campaign. "We wanted to leave, but were told that Pakistan had already closed its borders," Ahmed said.

The three found themselves further and further north, as they made repeated attempts to get out of Afghanistan, ending up in late October in Khandaz, the only province other than Khandahar that was still under the control of the hardline Taliban. The Taliban had negotiated with the Northern Alliance led by warlord Gen. Abul Rashid Dostum, to be given safe passage to Khandahar for its and for foreign fighters, in exchange for arms.

On the advice of the Pakistani NGO Ahmed and his friends were attached to, they surrendered to Dostum's forces and were transferred to the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Together with 35,000 others, they were jam-packed into containers in a hellish two-day journey which only 5,000 people survived, according to Ahmed. The rest perished, either in US bombardments or due to suffocation.

Of the survivors of the journey to Mazar-e-Sharif, around 4,000 were Afghans, some 700 Pakistanis, three were British (Ahmed, Iqbal and Rasul), an American and an Australian, and around 60 Arabs. "One of our friends got lost - we still don't know what happened to him," said Ahmed, who alleges those who died in the containers were hastily tipped into pits and buried in Mazar-e-Sharif. "Some weren't dead when they were thrown in - they had become unconscious and were buried alive," Ahmed claimed, adding: "US troops were there."

He described how in their tent-prison in Mazar-e-Sharif, where they were detained for a month, they were kept in incomunicado detention and on short rations - one meal per day - beaten, handcuffed, and deprived of sleep by headcounts carried out every half an hour throughout the night."We were not allowed to walk, or to take any form of exercise," he said.

Ahmed described how for their transfer to Guantanamo - where the worst of their ordeal awaited them - their heads and beards were shaved, they were dressed in the characteristic orange overalls of Guantanamo detainees, goggles, and a woollen hat covering their ears. A three piece chain connecting the shackles around their feet and hancuffs on their wrists was fastened around their waists.

During the 24-hour flight from Afghanistan to Cuba, Ahmed, Iqbal and Rasul were shackled tightly to the the plane's metal walls and floor, restricting their blood supply and giving them cramps. They were forced to wet and soil themselves and were not allowed to move. If they did so, guards hit them with rifle butts, Ahmed said.

The three were held for the first four months at Guantanamo's Camp X-Ray in 2 x 2 metre cells containing no bed or even a mattress: just a blanket and two buckets - one for slops and one to drink out of, Ahmed said. "The cells were open-topped cages actually. We were made to sit on the floor in the middle of the cell, locked up for 8 hours a day," he stated.

"We were not allowed to talk to anyone for the first month. There wasn't much food, were weren't allowed to exercise, and were only allowed one five-minute shower per week. We had to sleeep on the floor, and there were snakes, rats, tarantula spiders and scorpions," he said.

Although their cells in the newly constructed Camp Delta were slightly more comfortable - containing a camp bed, sheets, blankets and towels and a WC, Ahmed said he and fellow detainees often feared for their lives. "Inmates only needed to look at a soldier and they would spray pepper into their cells and restrain them until they fainted," he said, adding that they had to have injections of unknown substances every three months, which were forcibly administered if they resisted.

Many punishments existed for 'uncooperative' detainees or those who infringed the prison's rules, including shouting news to other cells or cell-blocs. "We had no news of the outside world, only what was happening to inmates," he said, explaining the grapevine was the only way to pass on or receive any news.

Punishments included sleep deprivation by forcing inmates to move cells every fifteen minutes, shutting off the drinking water to entire 48-cell blocs, being kept stark naked for days at a time, and turning off the air conditioning all day in sweltering temperatures and switching it on full-blast at night. (continues)


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