Terrorism suspect says he lied to stop torture

 

lclark@miamiherald.com

A suspected Saudi terrorist told a military panel he was so routinely tortured by his American captors that he falsely confessed to being involved in the USS Cole bombing in 2000. He also said he claimed that Osama bin Laden had a nuclear bomb only to please his captors.

Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, whom the U.S. government accuses of being one of the ''main suspects'' behind the attacks on the Cole and a French oil tanker, is the second so-called high-value detainee to allege he was tortured by the United States while in CIA custody at secret detention centers, according to a transcript of a closed March 14 hearing released Friday by the Pentagon.

But unlike reputed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed -- who alleged torture and claimed to have plotted 31 worldwide terror operations, most never completed -- Nashiri told a military panel that he made up the stories to stop the torture.

His transcript was one of two released Friday; the second suspect would not participate in the Pentagon's review to determine if detainees are enemy combatants.

The transcripts were the eighth and ninth involving 14 formerly CIA-held detainees who came to Guantánamo Bay Navy Base, Cuba, in September.

''From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me,'' Nashiri said in remarks that were heavily redacted by the Pentagon. ``It happened during interviews.''

Nashiri was asked to describe the methods of torture, but some of his responses were deleted by the Pentagon.

''They were very happy when I told them those things,'' he said of his confessions to acts of terrorism. 'But when they freed me I told them all `I only told you these things to make you happy.' ''

He said he's no enemy of the United States and was never a member of al Qaeda, and suggested that if the U.S. term ''enemy combatant'' includes anyone who wants the United States out of the Persian Gulf, then 10 million people qualify.

The United States contends al Nashiri was a key member of al Qaeda and paid for the bombing of the Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 40 others. He told the panel he gave money to people in Saudi Arabia, ``but I'm not responsible if they take the money and they go and fight or do something else.''

One of the military officers at the hearing asked him to explain why he had ``so many relationships with business associates in Yemen, Dubai and Saudi Arabia who have been involved in some form of terrorism.''

''It's a common thing,'' al Nashiri replied. ``We are young men. I travel a lot.''

Another suspected terrorist, Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, a Malaysian also known as Lillie, declined to participate in the tribunal. But he asked that a statement be read, denying that he helped transfer money to carry out the 2003 bombing of a Jakarta hotel.

''It is true I facilitated the movement of money . . . but I did not know what it was going to be used for,'' said the statement. ``I do not know anything about a hotel bombing.''

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Accused USS Cole bomber Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi, shown at left in a photo before his capture by the CIA in 2002 and by sketch artist Janet Hamlin during a 2011 arraignment at Guántanamo.

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