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Tajikistan: Released Guantanamo Detainee Says He Was Abused

Abdulrahmon Rajabov at home in Tajikistan (RFE/RL) By Abduqayum Qayumov and Golnaz Esfandiari.

A Tajik citizen released last spring from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay has complained of psychological pressure and ill treatment during detention. Abdulrahmon Rajabov, who denies having ties to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that he was accidentally arrested in Afghanistan in late 2001 and turned over to the U.S. military.

Prague, 13 January 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Abdulrahmon Rajabov says he was held at the U.S. naval base in Guanatanamo Bay, Cuba for more than two years without being informed of charges against him.

The 40-year-old Tajik tells RFE/RL that U.S. military interrogators used psychological pressure to force him to falsely confess to fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"They told me you have ties to the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. I said I don't know Al-Qaeda; the Taliban I know were in control of most of Afghanistan. I didn't think the Afghans would hand me over to the Americans and that the Americans would take me to Guantanamo. I [still] don't know why. I didn't understand what the Americans wanted from me," Rajabov says.
"They had arrested 10 individuals. We waited for a long time, they searched us so that we couldn't harm them and then they handcuffed us and chained our legs together; they blindfolded us and put some headphones on our ears and respiratory masks on our faces."

He says he went to Afghanistan to search for his brother who had disappeared there.

Rajabov, who is Uzbek by origin, says that supporters of Juma Namangani, the former military leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, often helped him in Afghanistan.

Abdurahmon was transferred from Kandahar to Guantanamo in late 2001.

"They had arrested 10 individuals. We waited for a long time, they searched us so that we couldn't harm them and then they handcuffed us and chained our legs together; they blindfolded us and put some headphones on our ears and respiratory masks on our faces. We had to put on some clothing, and then they took us by plane to Guantanamo," Rajabov says.

Rajabov says he was often kept in solitary confinement. He also says that whenever a detainee would clash with the authorities, the other prisoners would be punished for it.

Rajabov, who suffered from a liver ailment during his detention, says he was denied consistent medical care. He has been reportedly diagnosed with hepatitis C.

"I was sick and I asked to see a doctor. The soldier told me tomorrow; the next day I told another soldier that I'm feeling worse, he also said: tomorrow. After three days I couldn't stand it anymore, so I told the soldier three days has passed why are you lying to me but he told me: no more talk. So I threw some water on his face. After that, several persons came, chained and stripped me but they didn't beat me. They left me only in my underwear in a [cold] cell with iron walls," Rajabov says.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has faced international criticism for alleged abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Bush himself has apologized for a scandal at Baghdad's Abu Ghurayb prison, but the administration has defended its actions at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Last week, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales generally backed U.S. detention procedures. Gonzales, who is set to become attorney-general, played a key role in a Bush administration decision not to apply Geneva Convention rights to "enemy combatants" -- a term Washington uses for terrorist suspects.

Gonzales addressed the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 7 January.

"[Applying Geneva Conventions to Al-Qaeda] would require us to keep detainees housed together where they could share information, they could coordinate their stories, they could plan attacks against guards. It would mean that they would enjoy combat immunity from prosecution of certain war crimes," Gonzales said.

In a statement to RFE/RL, the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan said it does not comment on individual cases of "enemy combatants." The embassy said the U.S. is treating "enemy combatants" humanely and providing detainees "excellent medical and dental care." The U.S. says once detainees are released, their home countries are responsible for their welfare.

Rajabov is now receiving medical care in Tajikistan. He says that 28 months in the Guantanamo military prison, he lost hope that he would ever be free again.

"I didn't think that I would be freed and see life again. I thought they would jail me for life or they would execute me. The Americans wouldn't tell us anything," Rajabov says.

Rajabov and three other Tajik Guantanamo detainees were freed last April. Upon their release, the U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan reportedly said that they were freed because they were no longer "a danger to society."

In all, 11 Tajik citizens were detained at Guantanamo. All were seized in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Tajik officials say only three of the Tajik detainees at Guantanamo had ties to terrorist groups.

Some 550 detainees from 20 countries are still held in Guantanamo.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the U.S. for ignoring international law in its treatment of Guantanamo detainees. According to Amnesty International, Guantanamo sets a dangerous example, as it has become "an icon of lawlessness."

(Tahor Safarov from RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to this report.)

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