KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti leading a group lobbying for the release of Kuwaiti citizens held as suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, urged their U.S. captors not to torture prisoners.
Khaled Al-Odah's comments on Sunday follow the return home earlier Sunday of the first of 11 Kuwaitis released after being held at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba since their arrest in Afghanistan following the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks. Nasser Al-Mutairi, 27, was briefly reunited with his younger brother at an undisclosed Kuwaiti airport before officials took him into custody for questioning about his detention and arrest in Afghanistan. It is unclear when he will be returned to his family.
Kuwait may be one of the United States' closest Middle Eastern allies, but al-Odah's efforts to seek the release of his fellow citizens have until now been fruitless. The group's campaign to secure the release of detained Kuwaitis has been fueled by claims that U.S. military personnel have mistreated some Guantanamo detainees.
"Stop torturing our sons," al-Odah said during a press conference after al-Mutairi's release. "How can a country that considers itself a beacon for human rights, freedom and human dignity, do this?"
Al-Odah, whose son Fawzi is among the remaining 10 Kuwaitis in US custody, cited recently released FBI documents that allege quite a number of prisoner abuse allegations at Guantanamo. U.S. officials in Kuwait were not immediately available for comment.
The U.S. Military says it will investigate the abuse allegations, but the military maintains that most of the incidents occurred in 2002, when the prison was just opening, and that some of the interrogation techniques labeled "aggressive" are no longer in use.
"We believe that our sons have had their share of these barbaric actions ... by investigators and guards," Al-Odah said, without specify alleged abuse of Kuwaitis.
Tom Wilner, a lawyer appointed by Al-Odah's group and the Kuwaiti government, said in a conference call from Washington that what he knows about prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo makes him "terribly embarrassed and very ashamed" as an American. "I can tell you that all of the prisoners at one time or another have been treated very badly," he said.
Al-Odah said he spoke briefly with Al-Mutairi after his return and the former detainee told him the remaining Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantanamo were "well" and "comfortable." Al-Mutairi's release was a "ray of hope" for the freeing of the others, said Al-Odah. Abdul-Rahman Al-Haroun, the Kuwaiti lawyer for the prisoners, said al-Mutairi is being held at the Interior Ministry where he expects investigators will ask him about why he went to Afghanistan and how he was arrested.
Al-Mutairi's family insists he was teaching in Afghanistan's mosques and schools as a member of the apolitical Tableegh missionary group when he was detained after the U.S.-led war there began. Some 550 detainees from more than 40 countries are held in the naval base as "enemy combatants." Some 200 men have been released, many who come from countries friendly to the United States, such as Kuwait, and some were ill.
The US government had argued that enemy combatants, held on foreign soil, were not entitled to hearings in U.S. courts. But it established military review tribunals after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that "enemy combatants" could challenge their detention. Human rights advocates have called these hearings a sham, partly because they don't allow defense attorneys.