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Britons held at gitmo offer detailed allegations of abuse

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Abuse at Gitmo?
Detainees' Account Offers Most Detailed Allegations of Abuse

By John Berman

Aug. 3, 2004 Three Britons who were held for more than two years at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay are alleging, in a written account obtained by ABC News, that they were humiliated and brutally beaten while they were in U.S. custody.

The three men Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed have provided an account that is the most detailed description to date of life inside the prison and issues the first detailed allegations of abuse.

The men who were released from Guantanamo in March and flown home to England, where police freed them without charge describe an experience of isolation and brutality at the U.S. base.

Their account alleges that they were "kept in cages infested with rats." One said he was put in a "cell smeared with excrement." All say they were subjected to beatings.

Ahmed claims a guard "kicked me about 20 times to my left thigh and punched me as well. I had a large bruise on my leg and couldn't walk for nearly one month."

Iqbal said guards "would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet, and generally disrespect it."

The men declined to talk to ABC News directly about their account, but their attorney Gareth Peirce said they hope it illuminates the plight of the 586 detainees still held at Guantanamo.

"It's to try to break through that wall of silence, to make a judgment about the legitimacy and legality of what is going on in Guantanamo Bay," Peirce said.

Unlike the abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, there are no photographs showing the alleged beatings at Guantanamo and no way to independently verify the claims.

U.S. military officials today said there is simply no foundation to the men's stories of abuse. They said that while a guard did once kick a Koran, guards are now given extensive training in religious sensitivity and added that conditions in general have greatly improved at Guantanamo.

Abuse Yields False Confessions?

But the former prisoners say that after a year and a half of confinement, the harsh treatment led them to make false confessions during interrogations.

All three admitted to appearing in a video with Osama bin Laden, despite the fact that all three were in England at the time the video was taped, a fact later confirmed by British intelligence.

Rasul said, "I was going out of my mind and did not know what was going on. I was desperate for it to end and therefore, eventually, I just gave in and admitted to being in the video."

"There is absolutely no doubt that there wasn't a single method that wasn't used to break their will, to make them confess to something they were not guilty of and all three did," Peirce said.

The Pentagon said today it will not comment about what is said in interrogations.

After British intelligence confirmed the men were not in the video, all three were flown from Guantanamo Bay to London in March.

Within 29 hours, the men were released; the British government said they had no evidence to hold them.

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