My heart just about broke today when I read the following article distributed by AP. I hate the fact that the country I love so much has become the world’s bully. I have a daughter who is close in age to the young man in the article, and I think about her having to live through what he has. Even if some of the detainees are guilty of acts against the USA, these is no excuse for the way they have been treated. Is there any group, like the Red Cross, that is providing any comfort to these men that have been imprisoned for so long? Other than voting against Bush in November, what can I do to help?
*By STEVENSON JACOBS, Associated Press Writer
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - An Afghan prisoner made an impassioned plea for his release Wednesday, telling a U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay that he worked as an assistant cook for Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s ousted Taliban regime but was never an enemy of America.
The 24-year-old Afghan prisoner rocked back and forth and fidgeted with his shackled hands as he asked to call four witnesses at his afternoon hearing.
He said the witnesses could verify claims that he was forced to join the Taliban as a cook and had tried to escape but was recaptured.
“I swear to God I was never an enemy of America and I never will be,” said the prisoner, whose name the media is prohibited from releasing.
The tribunal president, whose name journalists are also prohibited from releasing, refused his request. “Whether or not the detainee was forced to join the Taliban, or in what role they served in the Taliban, is not relevant,” he said without elaborating.
The man has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years. Some of the men have been held for nearly three years since the mission began in January 2002. All of the approximately 585 of them are accused of links to the Taliban or the al-Qaida terror network.
During the session, the detainee said he was captured by the Taliban while buying tea and sugar in his village and was later brought to Kandahar and Kabul. No dates were given.
He said his duties included bringing food to the Taliban fighters. He said he was never given a weapon and didn’t receive weapons training.
“If you keep me here for 10 years I’ll still be the same person,” he said. “If you let me go there will be no threat from me. You’re wasting food and time on me because I’m not worth it.”
The military said he was associated with the Taliban and said he was conscripted to work as a cook’s assistant. He was captured by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Kabul.
He was the 16th detainee to go before the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which are being conducted to determine whether the detainees should set free or continue being held as enemy combatants, a classification that gives them fewer legal protections than prisoners of war receive under the Geneva Conventions.*