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Freed Guantanamo Inmate Speaks Out

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Freed Guantanamo inmate speaks out

Pakistani prisoner was determined innocent after a year in detention

By Kathy Gannon


PATTAN, Pakistan, Nov. 5 — This week, the first Pakistani released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, returned home after U.S. interrogators determined he was not guilty of aiding terrorists. On Tuesday, Mohammed Sanghir, 51, talked with reporters and neighbors in his home village, giving the first public glimpse of life in the detention center where nearly 600 detainees from 43 countries have been held, some for more than a year.

FAMILY AND DOZENS of friends by his side, Sanghir said his captors never apologized for whisking him out of Afghanistan.

“They told me I could go home. They said, ’You are innocent.’ They didn’t say sorry. They just said, ‘You can go home,”’ said Sanghir, who still wears a green plastic wristband with his picture, name, age and prison number: US9PK000143DP.

He said his U.S. interrogators always asked the same questions: “Do you know Osama bin Laden? Do you know where he is? Have you seen him? When?”

Then they would show him pictures of bearded men. “Do you know these men? Have you seen these men?”

His answer was always the same: “No.”

Sanghir espouses the same strict interpretation of Islam as the Taliban. Every year he goes off for two or three months to preach to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Usually his assignments have been in Pakistan. But last year he went to Afghanistan.

“It was just his bad luck,” said Dost Mohammed, a teacher in Sanghir’s home village of Pattan, a wretchedly poor place in an achingly beautiful corner of northern Pakistan. Homes, mostly made of wood and stone, cling to the mountains of the Hindu Kush range. Below, the emerald green Indus River roars past, whitecaps swirling over the rocky bottom.

Sanghir is pretty much a hero in Pattan, a deeply conservative place. The anti-American Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Party of Islamic clerics won big in the district.

Mohammed Saeed, a Jamiat follower, was among dozens of men who came to greet Sanghir, drinking green tea and chewing tobacco while seated crossed-legged on the carpeted floor.

Saeed’s party dominates the six-party religious bloc that seems set to form a government along with a coalition of democratic parties. And Saeed said one of the first orders of business for the new Parliament will be to ask President Pervez Musharraf to end Pakistan’s support for the war on terror and order American military personnel to leave the country.

“We will ask the Americans politely to go, but if they don’t, then we will kill them,” he said.

“We gave a lot of sacrifices for Afghanistan and we are prepared to do the same here,” Saeed said, referring to the thousands of Pakistanis who fought in Afghanistan after the U.S. and British bombing began Oct. 7.

But Sanghir lashed out at Saeed, angry at the interruption and afraid of being associated with Saeed’s anti-American threats.

Sanghir said he was not a fighter in Afghanistan, but got caught in the northern city of Kunduz after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. When the bombing began the next month, he said he tried to flee, but his vehicle was attacked by fighters loyal to warlord Rashid Dostum.

Sanghir was imprisoned in a railway container packed with 250 men — 50 of whom suffocated, he said. “They screamed for water, they banged their head against the walls and then right next to me they died,” he said.

For 45 days, Sanghir was held in a prison in northern Afghanistan, he said, along with hundreds of Taliban, Pakistanis, Arabs, Chechens, Bosnians and others.

They had all been on the front lines with the Taliban.

He was eventually transferred to the U.S. military base in Kandahar, identified as a possible al-Qaida man or sympathizer by Dostum.

In Kandahar, he was questioned about bin Laden and al-Qaida.

“I don’t remember many things. I was so upset. My mind wasn’t right,” Sanghir said.

After 18 days, he was taken away and his head and beard were shaved.

“I physically tried to stop them. This is my Islamic belief I told them. But they wouldn’t listen. I was humiliated.”

The trip to Guantanamo was 22 hours on an aircraft, with his hands bound, his eyes blindfolded and his mouth covered with a mask. Bathroom breaks were given, as well as water and a small meal.

When he reached Guantanamo, his eyes still covered, “some men dragged me from the plane, kicked me and slapped me.” He pointed to his cheek, saying, “they hit me here.”

At Guantanamo he was held in a cage. “We were animals. We weren’t like humans at all. Even to go to the bathroom they watched us.”

Initially, Sanghir and the other captives were not allowed to pray or talk to each other. They went on a two-day hunger strike. The rules were changed. They spent their days praying, reading the Quran, talking among themselves.

The questioning continued throughout his captivity. Then one day two weeks ago, a “new general said to me ’you are going to get some good news next week.”’ He would go home, along with three Afghans.

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Originally posted by sassa

this poor man lost a year of his life thanks to the incompitence of the US armed forces....

of course no one gives a damn about that. he's just a poor pakistani bastard...right?

Geees Sassa it was a mistake......

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