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Britons once held by U.S. claim brutality

/ Source: The Associated Press

Three Britons freed from Guantanamo Bay claim they suffered systematic brutality and sexual humiliation during their detention at the U.S. military base.

A report released by their lawyers Wednesday claims prisoners at Guantanamo were stripped naked and forced to watch videotapes of other prisoners who had been ordered to sodomize each other. It also says one of the men was questioned with a gun to his head.

Asif Iqbal, Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, friends from Tipton in central England, were released without charge from Guantanamo in March after being held for more than two years.

The men claim that scorpions and snakes roamed the open cages where they were held in the sweltering Cuban heat and that guards would throw the prisoners’ Qurans into the toilet and forcibly shave them to try to force prisoners to abandon their Muslim faith.

False confessions alleged
They said they were forced through brutal treatment to make false confessions. Iqbal admitted being the man interrogators pointed to on a videotape with Osama bin Laden, but that was later disproved by British intelligence, since Iqbal was in England at the time the videotape was made.

“The idea that these three people were kept in this prison, this gulag, and forced to make false confessions is amazing,” said Michael Ratner, head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights law firm.

“That’s what you’re getting in Guantanamo, false confession after false confession,” Ratner said at a news conference.

Military’s response
A Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Michael Shavers, would not address the specific allegations of abuse in the report or say whether any had been, or would be, investigated. He said U.S. policy condemns abuse of detainees.

“The U.S. operates a humane and professional detention operation at Guantanamo that is providing valuable information on the war on terror,” Shavers said.

The men were detained in Northern Afghanistan on Nov. 28, 2001, by forces loyal to warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum and held for 30 days, then turned over to U.S. Special Forces, according to the 155-page report compiled by the men and their lawyers.

The report also alleges that a British officer who said he was a member of the SAS special forces interviewed Ahmed in Afghanistan.

During questioning, “one of the U.S. guards had a gun to his head and he was told if he moved he would shoot him,” the report said.

The British Ministry of Defense said it would investigate any official complaint but was not aware it had received one concerning the alleged interrogation incident. It wouldn’t comment on whether SAS officers had helped question British detainees.

At the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the men said that prisoners were subjected to brutal treatment similar to the abuse later uncovered at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

Link to Supreme Court case
The report was released in New York by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the law firm that represented Rasul and Iqbal in Rasul v. Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court case that successfully challenged the Bush administration’s policy of indefinitely holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay without judicial review.

In its ruling the court held that foreign terrorism suspects may use the American legal system to challenge their detention.