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Ex-Taliban Details Guantanamo 'Humiliation'
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30/07/2006

By Zeeshan Haider in Kabul

LESS than a year after his release from Guantanamo Bay, a former Taliban envoy has written a book on his "humiliation" with the hope it will add pressure on the US to close the controversial prison.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan and the face of the regime at the time of its fall, spent nearly four years in US detention before being released and handed over to Afghan authorities in September 2005.

"I have been humiliated and tortured. By depicting the oppression that is going on in Guantanamo, I have tried to get the world's attention and hope to put pressure on America to close it down," he said in an interview from his heavily guarded home in west Kabul.

"My detention was totally illegal."

The US military opened Guantanamo, in Cuba, as a prison camp for suspected Islamist militants in early 2002. The inmates mostly are suspected al-Qaeda members and their Taliban allies captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US currently holds about 450 detainees there, most of them detained without charges.

Foreign governments, including US allies, and human rights groups have criticised the indefinite detentions and the prisoners' lack of legal rights at Guantanamo. The Pentagon insists the detainees are treated humanely.

Last month, international concern increased when three prisoners hanged themselves.

"So harsh was the torture and treatment that sometimes prisoners even prayed to die rather than be in detention," Zaeef, 39, wrote in his 156-page book, Picture of Guantanamo.

"Their oppression against prisoners can never be forgiven."

Four weeks ago, the US Supreme Court declared the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals illegal.

While the decision has no direct bearing on the future of the controversial detention centre, legal and security experts say it has indirectly strengthened the hand of those demanding it be closed.

The bespectacled ethnic Pashtun became famous as the Taliban's main voice to the outside world following the September 11 attacks in 2001.

He was one of only three Taliban ambassadors until Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates broke diplomatic relations with the regime under pressure from the US in 2001.

That left Zaeef as the Taliban's sole spokesman. As US troops invaded Afghanistan at the end of 2001 and overthrew the regime, his press conferences from the Afghan embassy in Islamabad were broadcast around the world almost daily.

Pakistani authorities arrested Zaeef in January 2002 and deported him to Afghanistan where US-led forces detained him at Bagram airbase, near Kabul. He was taken to the southern city of Kandahar and then flown to the Gulf before reaching his final destination, Guantanamo Bay.

"I condemn whatever Americans and Pakistan have done to me ... I had done no crime, had harmed nobody," said the bearded cleric, wearing a black turban and shalwar kameez (baggy shirt and trousers).

"When Americans invaded Afghanistan, the entire world knows where I was. I was dealing with the media in Pakistan. I have never been involved in fighting."

The book is published in Pashto. Moves are afoot to translate it into English, Persian, Urdu and Arabic.

SOURCE: The Australian.news.com.au