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2003-11-10

Ex-Guantanamo Pakistani Man Sues U.S. And Pakistan Governments

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In the first case of its kind, a Pakistani cleric who spent a year detained at Guantanamo Bay is suing the U.S. and Pakistani governments for his "illegal detention, torture and humiliation." We go to Islamabad to speak with his lawyer. [Includes transcript]

Click here to read to full transcript A Pakistani cleric who spent a year detained at Guantanamo Bay is suing the U.S. and Pakistani governments for $10.4 million for his "illegal detention, torture and humiliation." His lawyers claimed he was mentally and physically tortured and kept in a cage that was meant for animals.

53 year-old Mohammad Sagheer filed the petition in an Islamabad court on Tuesday. He is suing the U.S. secretary of state, secretary of defense and the Justice Department as well as the Pakistan’s Interior Ministry.

In the first case of its kind, Sagheer said he wanted compensating "for the losses I suffered during a year of captivity and mental anguish," adding "I am a poor man." He is the father of 10 sons and eight daughters.

Sagheer says he was arrested by Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum’s forces in 2001 soon after the Taliban’s ouster in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province. The BBC reports that he is emerging as the first eyewitness to grave human rights violation by the Northern Alliance forces.

In May this year, Democracy Now! broadcast a film never before shown in the U.S. titled: "Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death," which alleges U.S. complicity in the massacre of thousands of prisoners who surrendered to the US military’s Afghan allies after the siege of Kunduz.

  • Mohammad Ikram Chaudhry, Mohammad Sagheer’s lawyer and an advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: A Pakistani cleric who spent a year detained at Guantanamo Bay is suing the U.S. and Pakistani governments for $10.4 million for his, quote "illegal detention, torture, and humiliation." His lawyers claimed he was mentally and physically tortured and kept in a cage that was meant for animals. 53-year-old Mohammad Sagheer filed the petition in an Islamabad court last Tuesday. He is suing the U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Justice Department as well as Pakistan’s Interior Ministry. In the first case of its kind, Sagheer said he wants to be compensated, quote, „for the losses I suffered during a year of captivity and mental anguish," adding, quote, "I am a poor man." He is the father of ten sons and eight daughters. Mohammad Sagheer says, he was arrested by Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum’s forces in Afganistan in 2001 soon after the Taliban’s ouster in northern Kunduz province. The BBC reports, he is emerging as one of the first eyewitnesses to grave human rights violations by the northern alliance forces. I spoke with Mohammad Sagheer’s lawyer last week, Mohammad Ikram Chaudhry, among with Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez. We reached Mr. Chaudhry in Islamabad and asked him to describe the lawsuit.

MOHAMMAD CHAUDHRY: He basically — this is a person very unique because nobody so far has come out with the kind of sufferings and the atrocities committed on innocent people in Afghanistan and elsewhere by the Dostum and U.S. forces. So I think this was a case, which must have been pursued. And when I was contacted after starting the proposition, I decided that an innocent citizen, duly declared innocent by the investigating agencies in Guantanamo Bay, must have compensation and damages for illegal detention, torture, mental and physical sufferings of his own and his family members and I think he has a legal justification for that.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you tell us a little bit about the tortures and the treatment that he’s alleging occurred in Guantanamo Bay?

MOHAMMAD CHAUDHRY: While he was there, he was put into steel cages of six feet into six feet into about six to seven feet height. And it was a solitary confinement of his own and other inmates of Guantanamo Bay. While he was put into those cages, in the earlier days, he was practically chained and handcuffed, not permitted to move around much, not entitled to any pray etc., very poor food and very little time. Approximately 10 minutes time was given for all that was to be consumed. He was, in the early days, of course, not allowed to move around. So, this was initially. Basic interrogation, when started, he was questioned about the Taliban, Mullah Omar, Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden. He told them that he was basically on a routine preaching mission along with his 10 colleagues in the province of Kunduz in Afghanistan in the month of Ramadan that was in November of 2001 when he was arrested by the Dostum forces and, of course, he was physically chained and, along with 250 people, he was taken to Sheberghan and Mazar-e Sharif. Now during this journey, once he was put into a container along with other 250 inmates, where the container could only afford the transporting of about 60 to 70 people. So, the consequence was that being suffocated, about 50 people died under being transported from one destination to another. He also told me that on one journey, there was bombardment and some of the — some of the people — who were being arrested, they were — they were buried and some of the injured alive, they were also buried here. While he was in the Sheberghan jail in Afghanistan, he was along with many other hundreds and thousands. In all he said that he saw about 30,000 people during this journey of about four or five weeks’ time before he was flown from Kandahar to Guantanamo Bay. So during this period, U.S. army soldiers, they were also guarding them in jail and outside and of course in Kandahar too. No medical aid to any sick man. Some of them died over there. Very little food and water was afforded to them. A Red Cross team did visit Sheberghan jail but all that was handed over by them for the prisoners was never handed over to the inmates. It was retained by the Dostum forces.

AMY GOODMAN: He was also —

MOHAMMAD CHAUDHRY: And also he — Mohammad Sagheer — told me that while he was in Guantanamo Bay, he was twice put into a dark, cool chamber, once for eight days and second time it was fourteen days. And during these periods, practically his body —practically was frozen because of the chilly air, which was blown into that room. So, in this way, according to him, he suffered a great humiliation, many times he was abused in Afghanistan by the U.S. forces in Kandahar. He along with others, their beards were shaved, mustaches were shaved, their heads were shaved and they were physically given thrashings a few times. So, this was practically about a year and a month or so, a period of physical, mental torture and humiliating phenomena, which he underwent. He saw the living people being buried, injured people being buried alive. This was happening and he was under constant fear of death and physical and mental torture. So, these are the evils of atrocities committed by the Dostum and U.S. forces and, of course, by the U.S. officials who are manning Guantanamo Bay prison.

JUAN GONZALEZ: In Pakistan, under what provisions or what laws were you able to file this claim, because it is being filed in Pakistan, not in the United States, right?

MOHAMMAD CHAUDHRY: Basically, a United States airplane came here and brought him to Islamabad airport. So we have partial cause of action here and I have also impleaded the interior ministry, which is responsible to safeguard the rights of the citizens in Pakistan and, of course, abroad. So, this is a lawsuit under the law of damages and compensation and this is being tried by a civil court, which is in —-— situated in the premises of Islamabad, the federal capital of Pakistan.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Ikram Chaudhry is Mohammad Sagheer’s lawyer and an advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad. And that does it for today’s program.


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