Ex-Gitmo Detainee, Now in France, Describes What Happened

In Guantanamo Bay on May 27, 2009 at 9:27 am

The story of Lakhdar Boumediene:

A former Guantánamo detainee, an Algerian given a new home in France, is contending that he was interrogated at the Cuban detention center for 16 straight nights in 2003 — from midnight until 5 a.m., at least — and that he was force-fed through a nasal tube for more than two years when he went on a hunger strike.The Algerian, Lakhdar Boumediene, 43, is the only Guantánamo detainee that President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has agreed to accept so far to help the Obama administration close the detention center. Mr. Boumediene was captured in 2001 in Bosnia and handed over to American officials. He was kept at Guantánamo from January 2002 until May 15 of this year as terrorism suspect No. 10005, when he was released and put aboard a plane to France. He was kept under observation in a French military clinic until Monday, when he emerged and told some of the details of his story to The Washington Post and Le Monde, which published them on Tuesday. No. 10005 “was my name there,” he said. “That’s what they called me. Never Lakhdar or Boumediene,” he told Le Monde.

He said he underwent more than 120 interrogations, mostly about foreign Muslims in Bosnia, before he stopped cooperating with his questioners. Details of his treatment could not be confirmed. He was the plaintiff in a 2008 Supreme Court case, Boumediene v. Bush, which gave detainees the right to judicial review, and he was later ordered released by a United States District Court judge in Washington.

Mr. Boumediene is one of about 60 detainees considered by the Americans to be safe to release, but Washington is finding it difficult to place them in other countries. An aid worker with the Red Crescent, he was originally suspected of being part of a plot to blow up the American and British Embassies in Sarajevo, but charges were dropped. Still, he was sent to Guantánamo and kept there for more than seven years, and was interrogated about his connections to another of the Algerians, Belkacem Bensayah, accused by investigators of being an operative for Al Qaeda in Bosnia.

Mr. Bensayah had come to his office at the Red Crescent, and Mr. Boumediene helped Mr. Bensayah’s family, according to The Post.

During the 16-night period of interrogation, Mr. Boumediene said that “six or seven” interrogators would take turns questioning him, going from midnight to 5 in the morning, then resuming a few hours later. He insisted to Le Monde that “I was never an Islamist.”

Upon his release from the hospital, Mr. Boumediene, thin and bearded, joined his wife and two daughters, 13 and 8, for a lunch of pizza and orange juice. “Of course I didn’t recognize them,” he said.

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