Guantánamo

Al Jazeera: Guantánamo captive called us to protest treatment

A Guantánamo detainee used his telephone privileges to ring up a reporter with the Middle Eastern news network al Jazeera and complain that he had been abused by prison camp guards, the U.S. military and network said Tuesday.

Mohammed el Gharani, whose attorneys say he was captured at age 14, in Pakistan, get weekly phone calls to family in Camp Iguana, a transitional holding site for detainees awaiting release from the detention center.

He is a citizen of Chad who reportedly grew up in Saudi Arabia and was in Pakistan studying at the time he was captured by security forces, and turned over to the United States for interrogation.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ordered Gharani's release on Jan. 14 in a ruling that found the Pentagon's ''mosaic of allegations'' did not justify his indefinite detention as an al Qaeda suspect. He has been held at Guantánamo without charge since 2002.

Two weeks ago, the young Gharani could be plainly seen living inside Camp Iguana, a razor-wire-ringed compound where he and 17 citizens of China, called Uighurs, await resettlement. Guards say that Iguana has greater privileges, including fast-food deliveries, group prayer, sports and videos.

But Gharani told al Jazeera, according to a posting on the website Tuesday, that he had been beaten and tear-gassed in a prison camp cell, an apparent reference to his earlier captivity at Guantánamo in a compound where detainees are held in steel and concrete cells.

A prison camps spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, said there was ``no evidence to substantiate these claims and all credible allegations are fully investigated.''

Moreover, the commander said, used his weekly family phone calls to ring a relative's ''vetted number,'' and spoke to an al Jazeera reporter instead.

''We can't actually control who is on the other end of the line,'' he said.

President Barack Obama has ordered the prison camps emptied of the 240 or so war on terror detainees by Jan. 22. But the young man was quoted by the TV news channel's English-language website as saying the circumstances of confinement had worsened.

''This treatment started about 20 days before Obama came into power, and since then I've been subjected to it almost every day,'' he was quoted as saying. ``Since Obama took charge he has not shown us that anything will change.''

No detainee has been allowed to speak to the media under ground rules reporters must sign before being given tours of the sprawling prison camps complex.

DeWalt said this was the first known prison camps news media interview, even remotely, ``because we do not subject the detainees to direct media access, interviews and all that.''

He said interviews are banned under an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions.

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