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Ex-Gitmo detainee held for memoir

india Updated: Jan 08, 2007 19:21 IST
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In his chronicle of life as an inmate at Guantanamo Bay, Afghan writer Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost describes his three years of humiliating detention for alleged ties to al-Qaida. Now, he has lost his liberty again - this time believed jailed by the Pakistani intelligence service for the book's fierce criticism of the agency's role in the US-led war on terrorist groups.

Just weeks after the September 3 release of The Broken Shackles of Guantanamo, co-written with his brother and fellow Guantanamo detainee Badruz Zaman Badar, Dost was taken away as he left a mosque after prayers in the north-west Pakistan city of Peshawar, where the family has lived for nearly 30 years.

Badar, 36, hasn't seen Dost since and thinks he was detained by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. In the book, the brothers condemn the agency as a "black institution" and accuse it of selling them into American custody.

There is no official word on Dost's whereabouts, although the rights group Amnesty International also thinks he is held by the government. Pakistan's military and ISI officials did not respond to requests for comment on Dost's case or the brothers' comments on the agency's conduct.

The brothers are both journalists and run a gemstone business. Dost has written more than 30 books, including poetry, and has edited magazines sympathetic to militant Islam, dating back to support for the Muslim guerrillas who fought Soviet troops occupying Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The brothers were both arrested in Peshawar in November 2001 and transferred to the US military in Afghanistan before being taken to Guantanamo.

According to the book and details from "enemy combatant" review hearings at Guantanamo, the brothers were suspected of having links with Islamic extremists. Dost was accused of running a liaison office for al-Qaida in Herat, Afghanistan. He denied that, and the brothers were eventually freed a few months apart in 2005. During detention, they were repeatedly questioned about Osama bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Omar but insist they never met the two leaders.

 
Badruz Zaman Badar (L) and Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost

"We are not fighters. We are men of letters," Badar told The Associated Press in an interview. "We have criticised the American government for their overseas policies but we do not hate the American public, for they are innocent like us."

The 450-page book alleges guards at Guantanamo committed sexual improprieties, physical abuse and mistreatment of the Qur'an - reiterating charges made by other freed detainees and denied by the U.S. military. But with a poetic flourish, the book also offers a look at daily life inside the prison at the US Navy base, where hundreds of suspected Taliban and al-Qaida members have been held since the September 11 terror attacks on America.

Dost grumbles about the prison food and says inmates were not fed chicken joints with big bones in case they could be used as weapons against guards.

He recounts giving lessons on Islam to other inmates using a secret communication system, passing words from cell to cell. He writes that captivity deepened prisoners' Muslim faith and some learned the Qur'an by heart, which he says helped them endure the indignity of detention.

"Life in Guantanamo jail is close to life in a grave," the book says. "That is because the prisoners in Cuba are neither dead nor alive. They are not dead because they have souls ... (but) they have been deprived of all the rights of living people." Yet the brothers' bitterest criticism is reserved for the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

Dost and Badar call its agents "criminals," accusing the ISI of selling the brothers into American custody and of confiscating tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewellery, cash and other goods from their business.

"We have such a strong views against ISI because they are our neighbors, they speak our languages and they claim to share the same religion as we do," Badar told AP.

Pakistani intelligence has been instrumental in arresting hundreds of al-Qaida suspects since 2001, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attack, but human rights campaigners often accuse it of acting above the law. Dost says ISI agents twice visited the brothers' home in Peshawar trying to prevent them from publishing The Broken Shackles of Guantanamo. The brothers refused, and it was published on September 3 in Pakistan, in their native Pashto language.

On September 29, unidentified men took Dost away from the mosque, bundling him into a jeep and driving off as one of Dost's sons looked on. Dost, who has nine children, hasn't been heard from, and his family fear for his safety.

In a recent report, Amnesty International said Pakistani authorities have violated "custodial safeguards" by not producing Dost in court or allowing him access to a lawyer or his family. Badar, who has three children, now keeps a low profile running the family business. But he is keen the book is more widely read. He wants to issue translations in English, Arabic, Persian, French and Urdu.

"We want the world to know the facts and so that others don't suffer like us," he said.

 

Associated Press writers Matthew Pennington in Islamabad and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.

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