WASHINGTON - A terror suspect who once lived in Maryland told a military tribunal that "mental torture" at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, drove him to twice attempt suicide by chewing through his own arteries, according to a hearing transcript released yesterday by the Pentagon.
Majid Khan, 27, one of 14 "high-value" suspects held for years by the CIA at secret foreign prisons before their transfer to Guantanamo, also said he lost 30 pounds in 27 days during a hunger strike, according to the transcript. He complained of mistreatment that ranged from having his beard forcibly shaved and spending weeks without sunlight to the poor quality of the camp's newsletter, it says.
"I swear to God, this place in some sense worst than CIA jails," Khan is quoted as telling the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, in imperfect English, on April 15 as it considered whether to designate him an enemy combatant.
Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday that Khan had been "treated humanely" in the custody of the Defense Department.
According to the transcript, Khan, who graduated from public high school in a Baltimore suburb in 1999, denied being a terrorist and twice volunteered to submit to a polygraph. He told the tribunal he helped the FBI take an illegal Pakistani immigrant into custody in 2002 - an assertion that an FBI spokesman declined to comment on yesterday.
U.S. officials allege that Khan, a Pakistani national, took orders from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who is also a high-value detainee at Guantanamo. Khan was allegedly asked to research how to poison U.S. reservoirs and blow up U.S. gas stations, and was allegedly considered for an operation to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
At the hearing, the government cited statements it said were made by two of Khan's family members in 2003. His brother allegedly said Khan was "involved with a group that he believed to be al-Qaeda," and his father allegedly said Khan had been "influenced by anti-American thoughts."
In addition, the government cited statements it said were made by Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting a plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge and launch a simultaneous attack on Washington. Faris said Khan referred to Mohammed as his uncle, according to the documents, and told the government that Khan once spoke of his desire to martyr himself by detonating an explosives vest that would assassinate Musharraf.
Faris disavowed those earlier claims in a statement provided to the tribunal at Khan's request. "That is an absolute lie," Faris wrote of his earlier statements, saying he had been coerced or deceived into making them.
Khan's father, Ali Khan, also gave the tribunal a statement disavowing his and his son's earlier statements. "Anything we may have said about Majid Khan was simply out of shock," he wrote, "because we only knew that Majid had disappeared and was pure speculation based on what FBI agents in the United States told us and pressured us to say."
Majid Khan was detained while staying with a brother in Pakistan in March 2003. His whereabouts were not officially disclosed until September, when President Bush cited him as one of the high-value detainees moved to Guantanamo.
Gitanjali Gutierrez, Khan's attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, said Khan's response to the conditions of his confinement showed how formidable they were. "The idea of indefinite detention is something that the Red Cross identified years ago as being tantamount to torture," he said.
Damaging information about Khan came from Saifullah Paracha, a Guantanamo detainee who gave a statement to the tribunal at Khan's request. Paracha said that, while in Karachi, he and a man later identified to him as Khan had been introduced by Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew of Mohammed's accused of helping finance the Sept. 11 attackers.
But Paracha said he had never had any discussions with Khan about money, despite statements his son Uzair made during FBI interrogations, the Associated Press reported.
Two U.S. appeals court judges in Washington yesterday intensely questioned a Bush administration attorney as attorneys for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay pleaded for a broad court inquiry on behalf of the detainees.
Judges Judith Rogers and Douglas Ginsburg expressed skepticism about government assurances that the appeals court would receive all necessary evidence in evaluating the detainees' status as enemy combatants.
"I don't see how there can be any meaningful review if we don't know what we don't know," Ginsburg told Justice Department lawyer Douglas Letter.
Letter said an extensive record of classified and unclassified material on the military tribunal proceedings would be supplied to the court.
Letter said the tribunals largely duplicated long-standing procedures laid out in the Army Field Manual. Rogers admonished him: "You'd better not invoke that. We don't have all those" procedures here.
A year ago, the GOP-led Congress, at the urging of the administration, stripped the prisoners of the right to challenge their indefinite detention. The only challenge they can make is to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia, for the limited purpose of assessing the
- Associated Press
Read a transcript