updated 3/22/2005 9:00:56 PM ET 2005-03-23T02:00:56

A Sudanese prisoner denied being a threat to the United States during a rare open hearing Tuesday in military proceedings that are determining whether terrorism suspects jailed here should remain in custody.

Three other prisoners refused to participate, and their hearings were held without their presence.

The hearings, many of which have been closed to journalists, come amid a Defense Department effort to persuade home countries to take custody of some 545 prisoners at this Navy base. Detainees determined by the hearings not to be a threat to America or not to be a potential source of information about terrorist groups could be freed.

The 30-year-old Sudanese, who slouched in a plastic chair and looked down frequently, insisted he went to Afghanistan before the U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001. He said he went to fight the Soviet army, which occupied Afghanistan in the 1990s, and tried to flee to avoid fighting Americans.

“Even though the roads were closed, I tried to leave in order not to fight the Americans. I tried and tried, but could not,” he said in a statement read by his assisting military officer.

Some refuse to attend
The other three suspects — a Saudi, an Azerbaijani and an Algerian — refused to attend their hearings. There have been 64 hearings held so far, and only 29 suspects have attended.

All four suspects, whose names were not released, have been at Guantanamo Bay since January 2002.

U.S. authorities allege the Sudanese man told interrogators he would fight Americans again to protect his religion and country — a charge he denied. “This statement was changed from its meaning. I said, ’If someone attacked me, no matter who it was, I would defend myself and my family as best I can,”’ he said.

Asked by a panel member if he posed a threat to the United States, he replied: “I don’t pose a threat to the United States. From the beginning I haven’t posed a threat.”

In the statement, he also denied participating in a Nov. 25, 2001, uprising of Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners outside the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif that led to the first CIA casualty, paramilitary officer Johnny “Mike” Spann.

Azerbaijani, 29
The second case heard was that of a 29-year-old man from Azerbaijan accused of traveling to Afghanistan in search of the Taliban and guarding food supplies for the militant group. Authorities also allege he trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan.

The man refused to attend the hearing, but his assisting military officer read a statement in which he accused interrogators of “adding things I did not admit to.”

“I did not look for the Taliban. I did not fight the Americans,” he said in the statement. He said he went to Afghanistan to study the Quran and Arabic.

Algerian, 34
The third suspect was a 34-year-old Algerian who entered Afghanistan in June 2001 after residing in England.

He was accused of being Taliban fighter who fled to Pakistan to escape the advance of the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance. He was also allegedly identified by an al-Qaida operative as having trained at an al-Qaida camp.

He denied the charges in a written statement.

Saudi, 28
The final suspect was a 28-year-old Saudi Arabian who allegedly traveled to Afghanistan in May 2001 after hearing clerics in his country make calls for jihad, or holy war. He allegedly trained in Taliban camps in Afghanistan.

U.S. authorities also accused him of punching at least two Guantanamo guards in 2004, threatening to cut another guard’s throat and leading chants about the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

He gave no written statement and his assisting military officer said he was uncooperative.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments