|Ahmed al-Darbi said US troops subjected him to beatings and isolation. (Associated Press)|
Afghan jail conditions hamper prosecutions
Terrorist suspects allege torture
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - US military prosecutors allege that Ahmed al-Darbi has met with Osama bin Laden, trained at an Al Qaeda terrorist camp, and plotted to blow up a ship in the Strait of Hormuz or off Yemen.
But the government may never be able to bring those allegations to court because of the torture the prisoner said he suffered in US custody in Afghanistan. Darbi said American troops subjected him to beatings, excruciating shackling, painfully loud music, isolation, and threats of rape, according to a new affidavit obtained by the Associated Press. If Darbi’s statements to interrogators were obtained under such circumstances, they will probably be thrown out.
“I was frightened and there were times I wished I would die,’’ the 33-year-old prisoner from Saudi Arabia said in the statement taken in July at Guantanamo, which was provided to the AP by his lawyer. “I felt that anything could happen to me and that everything was out of control.’’
Darbi’s is a test case of sorts for what will happen under the Obama administration to prisoners who allege their testimony was forced out of them under torture.
His affidavit illustrates one of the greatest challenges facing President Obama as he tries to determine what to do with the 229 prisoners left at Guantanamo, the military prison at the US base in Cuba. Obama has vowed to close the prison by early next year.
Under President George W. Bush, the special war crimes tribunals known as Military Commissions allowed “coerced’’ statements from defendants at a judge’s discretion.
But the rules are changing for the 60 or so prisoners whom authorities had planned to prosecute: The Obama administration has prohibited the use of confessions obtained under “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.’’ A Justice Department official has told Congress, which is drafting new rules for Military Commissions, that only “voluntary’’ statements are likely to withstand court challenges.
But legal experts believe a number of cases can’t be prosecuted because conditions were so harsh in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and secret CIA “black sites’’ elsewhere.
The number of cases involved isn’t known publicly since most of the background is still classified.