“The beatings began as soon as I was turned over to the Americans,” Kurnaz said. Once in the Americans’ hands, he was transferred to a camp at Kandahar, in Afghanistan, where suspected terrorists were held in tents. His account of his torture at the hands of the Americans–in his book and in interviews–is clear-eyed and consistent. He has repeated it in testimony before a committee of the German parliament, where he was described as a “very credible witness.”
In the prison camp in Kandahar, Kurnaz said, he was hoisted on chains and was forced to hang by his hands while he was being interrogated. He was left hanging for “hours and days” after the interrogators left. An American physician in camouflage would come and check his vital signs to determine if he could withstand more enhanced interrogation.
The doctor’s house call must have failed Kurnaz’s neighbor in the next room. “They were hanging me and pulled me up higher than the other times. I could see the man in the other room. He was hanging, too. Maybe they lifted him higher that time, too, I don’t know. I had heard him moaning and breathing; this is the first time I saw him. He was dead. The color of his body was changed and I could see he was dead.”
Kurnaz said he was also subjected to waterboarding and electric shock. And that beatings were routine and constant. He theorizes that much of the torture was a result of the failure of the American soldiers and agents to capture any real terrorists in the initial sweeps. (He was told that he was sold to the Americans for $3,000 by Pakistani police, who identified him as a terrorist.) “They didn’t have any big fish. And they thought that by torture they could get one of us to say something. ‘I know Osama’ or something like that. Then they could say they had a big fish.”
The German government is still conducting a parliamentary inquiry into its complicity in the Kurnaz case. Ultimately Kurnaz may have a legal cause of action to seek some reparations from his government. As for the U.S. regime, the Bush administration’s attempt to create a unitary presidency that uses war to justify executive powers never imagined by the men who negotiated our Constitution has been unmasked, and the Bush-Cheney presidency is in its last throes. When it is gone, or even before it packs up and moves on, some plaintiff will likely find legal counsel and a forum in which to litigate these issues.
In such a case, Kurnaz’s book and testimony will be useful. He’s written a primer on rendition, incarceration and torture. It’s being translated by a U.S. publisher for a January release. It’s not Solzhenitsyn, but it’s a gripping account of life in an American gulag. read article