Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The other Gitmo, except this one stays open

President Obama has signed an order to close Guantanamo, but has left Bagram prison, and other prisons in Afghanistan, open for business. (While White House correspondent Helen Thomas did inquire about the discrepancy at the first President Obama press conference, it was left to an Obama spokesman to spin an excuse.)

The New York Times once called Bagram "larger and more secretive" than its counterpart on Cuban soil. From London's Sunday Telegraph:

Inside the other Guantanamo
Prison camp at American base in Afghanistan has twice as many inmates and an even murkier legal status

KABUL, Jan 25 - [...] More than 600 detainees are held at the US Bagram Theatre Internment Facility - known by campaigners as "the other Guantanamo''. Not only are there no plans to close it, but it is in the process of being expanded to hold 1,100 illegal enemy combatants; prisoners who cannot see lawyers, have no trials and never see any evidence there may be against them.

Like Guantanamo, since opening it has held men which the US military says must be kept off the battlefield; alleged al-Qaeda terrorists and Taliban fighters. Some, US officials have confirmed, were arrested abroad before being flown to Bagram for incarceration.

According to human rights lawyers, the prison also holds scores of innocent people, many seized after tip-offs from tribal rivals. The alleged offences are never tested in court.

The prison has been accused of torturing detainees and two men were allegedly beaten to death there in 2002. The US Army does not let outsiders in to view conditions...

Dr Ghairat Baheer was a former Mujahideen leader who was arrested in 2002 because he is related to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord whose men have killed dozens of American soldiers...

Dr Baheer's ordeal lasted for years as he was shifted from one Afghan prison to another. Sometimes he was denied food; and in some facilities he was held in cells with al-Qaeda terrorists.

He said of one prison: "It was an enemy factory, creating future insurgents from the detainees and their large families.''

A Western diplomat in Kabul agreed. He said: "His treatment is an example of how we helped create the insurgency. He should not have been arrested at all. They [the Americans] thought arresting him would help them get to Hekmatyar.'' ... (link)

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