Lakhdar Boumediene Says He Was Tortured at Gitmo
In an interview with Jake Tapper of ABC News, Lakhdar Boumediene said he was “tortured” while wrongly imprisoned for seven and a half years at Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial, deprived of sleep for 16 days at a time and physically abused. He eventually went on a hunger strike and was physically force-fed.
While former Bush administration lawyers might argue his treatment wasn’t actually torture, Boumediene — an Algerian working for the Red Crescent in Bosnia where he lived with his wife and two daughters when he was arrested in 2001 — was unequivocal. “I don’t think,” he said when asked if it was torture. “I’m sure.”
The United States responded to ABC that it’s not U.S. policy to torture prisoners. But the Boumediene case cries out for not just an investigation, but prosecution and accountability for those responsible — as well ascompensation for the victims of U.S. abuse.
Boumediene is just one of about 700 men swept up by the U.S. military after Sept. 11, 2001 based on little or no evidence. Originally arrested by Bosnian police in October 2001, he was charged with conspiracy to blow up the U.S. and British embassies in that country. When the Bosnians found no evidence to support the charges — charges Boumediene consistently vehemently denied — the charges were dropped.
But the Bush administration pressured the Bosnian government not to release him, and instead to turn him over to the U.S. military, which sent him to Guantanamo Bay.
As ABC News recounts, two weeks later, President Bush boasted Boumediene’s arrest as a victory in his “war on terror.”
“Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy,” Bush said in his address.
In fact, as ABC notes, officials of the Bush administration have never provided any credible evidence to support that charge.
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, contrary to the Bush administration’s claims, Boumediene and his fellow Gitmo prisoners had the right to challenge their indefinite detention by the government. In November, a federal judge ordered Boumediene’s release. Still, the U.S. government insisted he could not be released within the United States, and it wasn’t until France agreed to accept Boumediene in April that he was able to be freed.
Despite Boumediene’s seven and half year ordeal, he is, in a sense, one of the lucky ones. Another 240 men remain at Guantanamo Bay, most of whom have not yet had the same opportunity to defend themselves. About 60 have already been cleared of wrongdoing and approved for release, yet the United States refuses to accept them and can’t seem to negotiate their transfer anywhere else, either, given that the United States has branded them terrorists.
Not surprisingly, Boumediene told ABC News that he’s considering bringing a lawsuit against former Bush administration officials seeking compensation for his wrongful imprisonment and abuse.
“I cry, just I cry,” he told ABC News, because after seven years in the Guantanamo prison, “I don’t know my daughters.”
Update: Kudos to reader json, who points out that Dan Rather interviewed Boumediene last week — which would appear to undermine ABC’s claim of exclusivity…