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Guantánamo Detainee Phones Al Jazeera From Prison
By Robert Mackey

Given the opportunity to make a phone call from the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a detainee awaiting release reportedly phoned Al Jazeera to complain about his treatment.

In a video report (embedded above) posted on the Arab broadcaster’s English-language Web site on Tuesday, Mohammed El Gharani (whose name is transliterated differently by Al Jazeera) told a journalist for Al Jazeera, Sami al-Hajj, who was himself detained for six years in Guantánamo, that he had recently suffered abuse from guards at the prison.

According to Al Jazeera, Mr. Gharani said that guards had used tear gas on him when he refused to leave his cell and he had been beaten. The text of a written report on Al Jazeera’s Web site says that the detainee “said in a phone call to Al Jazeera that the alleged ill-treatment ’started about 20 days’ before Barack Obama became U.S. president and ’since then I’ve been subjected to it almost every day.’”

Mr. Gharani’s claim that he was abused at the detention facility in recent months echoes a statement by a detainee who was released to British authorities. In an interview with a British newspaper, Binyam Mohamed, who was released from Guantánamo in February, said that the election of President Obama did not immediately mark a change for the better for detainees. Mr. Mohamed told The Mail:

Since the election it’s got harsher. The guards would say, yes, this place is going to close down, but it was like they wanted to take their last revenge.

As reported in The Times in January, Judge Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court ordered the military to release Mr. Gharani after reviewing his case. According to that report:

The military accused the man, Mohammed el Gharani, of being part of Al Qaeda, working for the Taliban and fighting American forces in Afghanistan. Mr. Gharani is a Chadian who has lived in Saudi Arabia. Judge Leon said the accusations were based on testimony from other Guantánamo Bay detainees, which he found unreliable.

The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reported that Judge Leon “found the Pentagon’s ‘mosaic of allegations’ did not justify his indefinite detention as an al Qaeda suspect.” Ms. Rosenberg also reported on Tuesday that she had seen Mr. Gharani during a recent visit to Guantánamo in a part of the prison where detainees awaiting release are held:

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.

There is some uncertainty about how old Mr. Gharani is — Reuters and The A.P. both report that he is 21, but a British legal aid charity, Reprieve, which visited his family in Chad, says that he was 14 when he was arrested in October, 2001, in Pakistan. A database created by The Times on the detainees, which includes copies of documents used in proceedings against Mr. Gharani by military lawyers, says that he is now “a 22- or 23-year-old citizen of Chad.”

The Miami Herald’s Ms. Rosenberg wrote that a spokesman for the U.S. military, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt had responded to the allegations made by Mr. Gharani to Al Jazeera by saying that there is “no evidence to substantiate these claims and all credible allegations are fully investigated.”

Moreover, the commander said, Camp Iguana captives are entitled to weekly family phone calls. Gharani called a relative’s ”vetted number,” and an Al Jazeera reporter apparently answered. ”We can’t actually control who is on the other end of the line,” he said.

Guantánamo inmate interviewed
Detainee at Guantánamo Bay prison camp uses weekly telephone call to family to speak to al-Jazeera reporter

San Juan A detainee at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp telephoned the al-Jazeera television network to claim that he was beaten for refusing to leave his cell. It was the first media interview with an inmate of the Cuban prison.

Mohammed el Gharani, 21, from Chad, said that two of his teeth were broken and he was sprayed with teargas.

Journalists have not been allowed to interview detainees. A spokesman for the prison told The Miami Herald that the man, who was arrested in 2001, must have taken advantage of a weekly telephone call to his family to speak to the reporter. (AP)

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