Sun, Mar 14, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Another Briton alleges torture at Guantanamo

`INHUMAN CONDITIONS' A second British man who spent two years at the US Navy's base in Cuba has made troubling allegations about his treatment there

AP , LONDON

One of the British men released from Guantanamo Bay said through his lawyer Friday that US authorities beat him, interrogated him at gunpoint and subjected him to "inhuman conditions" during his detention.

Louise Christian, Tarek Dergoul's attorney, said his family believed his experiences had damaged him psychologically.

He was among five Britons returned home from the US Navy base in Cuba and released this week.

He is the second of the group to publicly describe conditions at the camp, where former fellow detainee Jamal al-Harith said earlier he had suffered beatings, humiliation and interrogation for up to 12 hours at a time. Families of all the freed men, who were not charged, have said they were innocents caught up in the US war on terrorism.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell told a British television network it was "unlikely" abuses were taking place at Guantanamo. "Because we are Americans, we don't abuse people who are in our care," he said, according to a transcript released by ITV.

Christian said Dergoul had begun telling her and his family about "the horrific things which happened to him during detention at Bagram (US air base in Afghanistan), Kandahar and Guantanamo Bay." He alleged "gross breaches of human rights" and demanded that the 640 detainees still in Guantanamo be freed immediately, she said.

US authorities say prisoners at the camp are suspected of links to Afghanistan's fallen Taliban regime or the al-Qaeda terror network. The US military repeatedly has denied that Guantanamo prisoners have been mistreated.

Dergoul described "botched medical treatment, interrogation at gunpoint, beatings and inhuman conditions" and condemned the US and British governments, Christian said.

"Tarek finds it very difficult to talk about things and his family believe his mental health has been severely affected by the trauma he has suffered," she said.

She declined to give any further details and said Dergoul, 26, of east London, would not be speaking to journalists any time soon because of health problems.

He reportedly flew to Pakistan in 2001 to learn Arabic after giving up his job caring for the elderly and was allegedly captured in Afghanistan. His family has insisted he has no links to terrorism and said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Al-Harith told Britain's ITV network that interrogators at Guantanamo had applied intense psychological pressure, telling him that authorities in Britain would seize his family's home and all their money, turning them onto the street if he did not admit he was involved in terrorism.

"He was obviously trying some mind game but I said `I don't believe you,'" said al-Harith, 37.

Many detainees were given regular injections, after which "they would just sit there like in a daze and sometimes you would see them shaking," he said.

He said he was beaten and put in isolation because he refused injections and was sometimes forcibly given unidentified drugs.

Al-Harith said he had never had any ties to terrorism and would seek compensation from the US government for his two years at Guantanamo.

The five detainees were flown back to Britain on Tuesday. Al-Harith was freed after several hours of questioning and the others were released on Wednesday.

Powell told ITV that charges of abuse were unwarranted and that it was "not in the American tradition to treat people in that manner."

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