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German-born ex-prisoner describes torture at Guantanamo Bay


Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, German-born Turk Murat Kurnaz told a parliamentary committee he faced torture and other abuse during his four years spent at the US prison in Cuba.

A German-born Turk who was held at the US prison camp Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for four years told German politicians on Thursday he was tortured during his detention as lawmakers demanded to know why the previous government had failed to intervene in his case.

"'They tortured us with cold in solitary confinement or airlessness often to the point where I fell unconscious," the now 24-year-old Kurnaz told a German parliamentary committee investigating his case.

"Sometimes, for example we would be punished with a month of cold or the air conditioners would be turned completely off for several weeks."

Unhygienic conditions, sleep deprivation and lack of food were also common, he added.

"They would hit you, tie you up and then leave you laying there for about 12 hours," Kurnaz said, describing a punishment for talking between prisoners.

On Thursday, deputies from opposition parties and the conservative bloc of Chancellor Angela Merkel serving on the parliamentary committee investigating the case demanded to know why former chancellor Schröder's government apparently failed to take action on Murat Kurnaz's behalf.

Kurnaz, who was taken prisoner in Pakistan in 2001, was handed over to American troops and held as an enemy combatant until August 2006. He has also testified that he was abused by German intelligence agents while being held in Guantanamo in 2002.

Shown pictures of three men, Bremen-born Kurnaz was able to identify one of the Germans who allegedly interrogated him in Cuba and said it was "highly likely" he had seen a second and was unsure about the identity of the third.

Kurnaz' lawyer Bernhard Docke, who also spoke in front of the parliamentary committee Thursday, said the former coalition of Social Democrats and Greens was complicit in the crime committed against Kurnaz because it did not work to free him from American custody.

"If Kurnaz was German, he would have been freed in autumn 2002," Docke said, adding that at the beginning of 2002, former Foreign Minster Joschka Fischer told Kurnaz' mother Germany could not help her son because of his Turkish citizenship.

Siegfried Kauder, head of the parliamentary investigation into the matter, said the way Kurnaz was treated in Guantanamo was "unfathomable" and added that the committee would continue looking into whether such an offer was actually made.

Members of the then-governing coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, however, said Fischer, a Green party member, did try to make the case for Kurnaz' release to then US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Two ongoing investigations

Docke said there was no reason for Germany to refuse an alleged American offer to release Kurnaz into German custody in 2002 as German and US officials were at that time aware he did not pose a terror threat.

Wolfgang Neskovic, a committee member from the opposition Left Party, said if the government turned down a US release offer it would have been a "deeply inhumane decision that should have criminal, not just political consequences."

The German Defense Ministry is also investigating Kurnaz' claims of abuse at a Kandahar prison after admitting that German special forces had been "in contact" with him.

DW staff (sms)

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