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Gitmo detainee: U.S. soldiers mistreated me

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Guantanamo Bay detainee says U.S. military interrogators in Afghanistan threatened him with rape and treated him harshly, forcing him to make false statements, according to an affidavit released Tuesday.

Omar Khadr, a Canadian who is accused of killing a U.S. Delta Force commando with a grenade in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, also alleged that guards at the naval base in Cuba abused him while he was weak from a hunger strike. He said they kneed him repeatedly in the thighs and grabbed him by pressure points behind his ears, under his jaw and on his neck.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say the pain was an 11," Khadr said.

Military censors blacked out Khadr's allegations of how U.S. soldiers inflicted pain on him at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. The Toronto-born Khadr, who was 15 when he was wounded and captured, is expected to go on trial at Guantanamo this summer before America's first war-crimes tribunals since the World War II era. His lawyers say the abuse allegations raise doubts about the government's evidence.

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the government investigates credible allegations of abuse but does not have evidence to support Khadr's claims.

"Our policy is to treat detainees humanely," he said.

After being taken to Bagram with two gunshot wounds in his back, Khadr said he was questioned by soldiers who sat beside his stretcher. A photograph published by The Toronto Star this month, taken as U.S. soldiers treated Khadr in the aftermath of the firefight, showed he had two gaping exit wounds in his chest.

Two weeks into his detention, Khadr said, he was moved from the hospital directly to an interrogation room.

"During the interrogations, the pain was taking my thoughts away," Khadr said. Most details of his sessions were redacted from the affidavit by censors. Khadr said that on some occasions, soldiers covered his head with a bag and brought barking dogs into the room.

"I figured out right away that I would simply tell them whatever I thought they wanted to hear in order to keep them from causing me (redacted)," Khadr said.

Defense lawyers filed the affidavit ahead of a pretrial hearing at Guantanamo last week. It was released to journalists Tuesday after the military censored it.

Khadr's Navy lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said Khadr's abuse allegations undermine the validity of statements he made while being interrogated.

Khadr, who has been held at Guantanamo since October 2002, said that after telling the Americans there that his previous statements were untrue, "life got much worse for me." The only unredacted portion of the ensuing account says a Navy interrogator pulled his hair and spat in his face.

Khadr, the son of a suspected al-Qaida financier, is charged with murder in the death of the soldier and is accused of planting mines against U.S. convoys.

He is among the first of roughly 80 detainees the Pentagon plans to prosecute at Guantanamo, which holds about 275 men on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.