French ex-detainee condemns Guantanamo Bay

14th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2006 (AFP) - A French ex-Guantanamo prisoner said in an op-ed piece published Wednesday by The New York Times that he understands why three detainees in the US detention centre in Cuba recently decided to take their lives.

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2006 (AFP) - A French ex-Guantanamo prisoner said in an op-ed piece published Wednesday by The New York Times that he understands why three detainees in the US detention centre in Cuba recently decided to take their lives.

Describing the "suffering and torture," endless interrogations and disappointment to the point of developing "an immunity to hope," Mourad Benchellali said: "it is easy for me to see how this daily despair and uncertainty could lead to suicide."

Seized in Pakistan shortly after the September 11 attacks, as he tried to make his way back to France from an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan where he was "lured ... by a misguided and mistimed sense of adventure," Benchellali was released in July 2004.

Along with another five Frenchmen, he awaits trial in France in July on charges of counterfeiting and "associating with criminals in relation to a terrorist enterprise."

The former detainee said he is unable to forget his three-year ordeal with hundreds of other prisoners, most of whom he believes did not commit any hostile act against the United States. "The shared pain endlessly takes me back to the camp."

"I cannot describe in just a few lines the suffering and the torture; but the worst aspect of being at the camp was the despair, the feeling that whatever you say, it will never make a difference," he said.

For some of his fellow prisoners distorted by extremism and full of hatred, Bechellali said, Jihad was "life itself ... But the huge majority of the faces I remember -- the ones that haunt my nights -- are of desperation, suffering, incomprehension turned into silent madness."

Despite his belief that "a small number of the detainees at Guantanamo are guilty of criminal acts," Benchellali said what he heard "from cage to cage, what I said myself so many times in my moments of complete despondency, was not, 'Free us, we are innocent!' but 'Judge us for whatever we've done!'

"There is unlimited cruelty in a system that seems to be unable to free the innocent and unable to punish the guilty," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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