Other statements from Binyam Mohamed about life in Guantánamo

September 8, 2008

Image of a man standing outside of a prison gate with the sun setting behind him

Speaking of his ill-health, Binyam said, “I’m sick, and I don’t know it. We got so used to being sick that we scarcely notice. Like a person limping who stops noticing, my health problems are so chronic that I barely notice them anymore.”

• Describing his daily life at Guantánamo, Binyam said that his “recreation time” (the only time he is allowed outside), which is portrayed as taking place in a yard, actually takes place in a “small cage.”

• He explained that he “tries to run in this cage”, but asked how he is supposed to “run in circles in a cage that is a three metre by four metre cell?” He added, “I turn so much that the nerves on the outside of my foot have frayed.”

• He also spoke about the refusal of the authorities to provide adequate reading material. “I have asked for educational books from the library”, he said, “but there is nothing to read in the library.“ Explaining that he had already read the old National Geographic and sports magazines that were available, he added that he cannot read the books in Arabic, and desperately wants to read educational books in English – “maths, English, geography.”

• Referring to the Australian prisoner David Hicks (released in May 2007), who apparently had a large library of books to read, Binyam asked, “Where did the 200 books that Hicks had go? If he could get it, why don’t I have it? Australia is less powerful than the UK, so why do I not have the same access to reading materials as David Hicks had?”

• And speaking of conditions in general, he made the following observation: “I thought the US would at least say, ‘improve the conditions’, so they could take the pressure off from those pushing for the prisoners’ release.”

• Binyam also talked about the claim by “Agent B,” in his High Court judicial review, that he had no recollection of the following story, as related by Binyam in Guantánamo, during a visit from Clive Stafford Smith:

“They gave me a cup of tea with a lot of sugar in it. I initially only took one. ‘No, you need a lot more. Where you’re going, you need a lot of sugar.’ I didn’t know exactly what he meant by this, but I figured he meant some poor country in Arabia. One of them did tell me I was going to get tortured by the Arabs.”

“I had two interrogators in Pakistan,” Binyam said. “’B’ was interrogating, but it was the other unknown agent who made the threat about the tea. This person – we’ll call him ‘Agent X’ – walked in with ‘B’ at the start of the session. That was when he made the threat, and ‘B’ was there to hear it. A Pakistani had brought the tea. I told them, ‘one lump of sugar’, and then ‘Agent X’ made the threat. In fact, ‘Agent B’ sat down as ‘X’ made the comment, and said, ‘just ignore him.’”

“Why would he lie?” Binyam continued. “Why not do what the Americans do and just change the meaning? If the Americans can change the meaning of torture, and you’re going to defend them, you might as well copy their tricks. They could at least argue that saying ‘sugar in tea’ wasn’t a threat, but they can’t claim that they didn’t say it at all.”

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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