Saskatoon StarPhoenix

‘Nothing changed’ at Guantanamo Bay

Detainee disputes claims that life has improved


DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — A detainee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay said he was beaten almost daily and that nothing has changedsin­ceBarackOb­amatookove­rasU.S. president, Al-Jazeera reported on Wednesday.

Mohammad al-Qurani from Chad said in a telephone call to the Doha, Qatar-based television that tear gas was used on him for refusing to leave his cell and he had a front tooth broken, according to remarks carried on AlJazeera’s website.

The alleged ill-treatment “started about 20 days” before Obama was elected president in November and “since then I’ve been subjected to it almost every day,” he said.

“Since Obama took charge he has not shown us that anything will change,” Qurani said.

The channel said that after being transferre­d to a different part of the prison in southern Cuba for those awaiting release, Qurani was allowed to make phone calls and called Sami al-Hajj, an Al-Jazeera photograph­er who spent six years in Guantanamo.

Qurani described how he had refused to leave his cell because he was not being granted such rights as being able to walk around or have “normal food.”

A group of six soldiers wearing protective gear and helmets entered his cell, along with a soldier carrying a camera and another with tear gas, Al-Jazeera quoted him as saying.

“They had a thick rubber or plastic baton they beat me with. They emptied out about two canisters of tear gas on me,” he said.

“After I stopped talking, and tears were flowing from my eyes, I could hardly see or breathe,” Qurani said. “They then beat me again to the ground, one of them held my head and beat it against the ground.”

Joint Task Force Guantanamo spokespers­on Brook Dewalt said he couldn’t say whether the “alleged phone transcript” was authentic, adding there was “no evidence to substantia­te those claims” of mistreatme­nt.

Qurani said one of his front teeth was broken in the incident. “I started screaming to his senior ‘See what he’s doing, see what he’s doing.’ His senior started laughing and said, ‘He’s doing his job.’ ”

According to a U.S. government official, since the arrival of the Obama administra­tion, “efforts have been made to increase the quality of life of detainees.”

Pentagon spokespers­on Bryan Whitman said the prisoner should not have been allowed to talk to the press on the phone.

“It was a mistake,” he said. “It shouldn’t have occurred.”

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