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Afghans describe conditions in U.S. care

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 20, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghans released after nearly two years in a U.S. military jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Saturday described conditions as cramped and recounted months of repeated U.S. interrogations and physical discomfort.

The men, mostly between 20 and 30 years old, looked outwardly healthy, but some said they were beaten - an allegation the U.S. military disputed.

"Physical coercion is simply not an option. We don't do it. There's no beating," Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said.

The 16 Afghans arrived Thursday but their presence in Afghanistan was not announced until Saturday.

"Who says we were not punished? It's not true," said Abdul Rehman, 29, from Faryab province in northeastern Afghanistan. "They pushed us all over, treated us very badly. They put 24 of us in a small congested room. They also put us into cold rooms."

Rehman said he had been "badly punished 107 times."

He alleged that during his 20 months at Guantanamo, his captors chained his hands and feet and beat him with a metal rod on his legs and back, but he refused to show scars that might have resulted from abuse.

"There was very bad treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo. It was against the human rights of the Geneva Conventions," said Zabet Ullah, 32, of Kandahar.

Nate Gul, 24, from Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, spent 18 months at Guantanamo, and said he was treated well.

"They didn't beat us during the interrogation," Gul said. "They wrote down anything we said. They interrogated me about 30 to 40 times."

Gul said he was held in a small room that looked like a cage, but he said he had towels, shampoo, a toothbrush, blankets, three meals a day and time for prayer.

The Afghans were among 27 detainees released in the past week because they were not considered a threat and had no further information to offer through interrogation. Eleven Pakistanis also returned home Thursday.

Pakistan has been pressing the United States to free its nationals. It is not known how many of the detainees in Guantanamo are Pakistanis.

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