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From Prison To Kabul's Presidential Palace

  • RFE/RL

Haji Nahim Kuchi: "When I arrived back in Afghanistan, I felt as though I had begun a new life."

Haji Nahim Kuchi: "When I arrived back in Afghanistan, I felt as though I had begun a new life."

KABUL -- In the spring of 2003, Haji Nahim Kuchi was a number -- US9AF-000931DP -- in a Guantanamo detainment cell.

This week, Kuchi was at the Presidential Palace in Kabul for his regular consultations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Kuchi -- whose son is a member of parliament, or Wolesi Jirga -- is the tribal leader of Afghanistan's ethnic Pashtun Kuchi nomads.

Kuchi was detained by U.S. forces near his native Logar Province on January 1, 2003. U.S. military records show he was suspected of having ties to the Taliban and thought to have information on the movement of Arab Al-Qaeda fighters and Taliban officials who had fled to Pakistan.

After 11 weeks at the Bagram detention center, he arrived at Guantanamo by plane -- blindfolded and in chains -- on March 22, 2003.

"Our biggest problem was the mounting mental pressure on us. We had no news from our families, our country, our community. We didn't know what was happening in the outside world," Kuchi says.

"Every letter we received from our families through the Red Cross was tampered with. Anything that told you how your family was doing or had any happy message was erased from the letter. You didn't feel as though it was a letter from your family."

It wasn't until early 2005 that a military review board determined Kuchi did not pose a security risk and could be transferred back to Afghanistan.

"When I arrived back in Afghanistan, I felt as though I had begun a new life," he says. "The past two years had felt like a lifetime."

Kuchi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan he did not hold a grudge against the United States.

"The first day I arrived back, I said I don’t want any compensation," he says. "I joked with the Americans and told them that being free from their clutches was enough for me. I wasn't looking for anything and they didn’t offer me anything."

compiled by Frud Bezhan and Ron Synovitz, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul

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