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Thursday, October 20, 2011 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Harsh Immigration Laws Threaten "Humanitarian...
2011-10-20

Former Guantánamo Prisoner Speaks Out on Lawsuit Seeking Bush’s Arrest in Canada for Torture

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Police in British Columbia have taken extra security measures ahead of today’s visit by former President George W. Bush, who is set to speak at an economic summit. The security is to handle hundreds of protesters, but Amnesty International has also called on the Canadian government to arrest Bush and either prosecute or extradite him for the torture of prisoners in the so-called "war on terror." Meanwhile, four men who say they were tortured in U.S. prisons under the Bush administration will lodge a private prosecution today against the former president in a Canadian provincial court. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Canadian Center for International Justice have already submitted a 69-page draft indictment to Canada’s attorney general, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting material, that set forth the case against Bush for torture. We are joined by one of the alleged torture victims, Murat Kurnaz, a former Guantánamo prisoner. He is a Turkish national who was born in Germany. He was detained in Pakistan at the age of 19 in 2001. "I believe George Bush is a criminal, and he has to pay for this, what he did. And even in my own case, even though I was got proven that I’m innocent and never had done anything wrong, so they kept me for like five years. After that I got proof that I’m innocent, they kept me five more years, and they never stopped the torture." We also speak with Katherine Gallagher, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who is assisting the plaintiffs in the case. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Police in British Columbia have taken extra security measures ahead of today’s visit by former President W. Bush, who is set to speak there at an economic summit. The security is to handle hundreds of protesters, but Amnesty International has also called on the Canadian government to arrest Bush and either prosecute or extradite him for his role in torture. Amnesty says a failure by Canada to take action during Bush’s visit would violate the U.N. Convention against Torture.

Meanwhile, four men who say they were tortured in U.S. prisons during the Bush administration will lodge a private prosecution today against the former president in a Canadian provincial court. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Canadian Center for International Justice have already submitted a 69-page draft indictment to Canada’s attorney general, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting material, that set forth the case against Bush for torture.

AMY GOODMAN: The four men named in the lawsuit are Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz. They also say they endured years of torture in U.S. custody. Hassan bin Attash remains at Guantánamo. The other three have been released.

For more, we’re joined by one of the alleged torture victims, Murat Kurnaz, former prisoner at Guantánamo. He’s a Turkish national who was born in Germany. He was detained in Pakistan at the age of 19 in 2001. He’s joins us on Democracy Now! video stream from Germany.

Here in New York, we’re joined by Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who’s assisting the plaintiffs in the case.

Why don’t we begin by going to Germany, by asking about what exactly your charges are?

MURAT KURNAZ: So, because he is—I believe George Bush is a criminal, and he has to pay for this, what he did. And even in my own case, even though I was got proven that I’m innocent, and know I had done anything wrong, so they kept me for like five years. After that I got proof that I’m innocent, they kept me five more years, so—and they never stopped the torture. And some people are responsible for this, of course.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Tell us about your case. You were picked up in Pakistan. How were you picked up? How were you brought to Guantánamo? And what kind of—what kinds of things did authorities do to you when you were in Guantánamo?

MURAT KURNAZ: I was close to the airport. I had already bought my plane ticket to go back to Germany. And I was close to the airport in Pakistan, when the police, Pakistani police, stopped the bus and they asked me a couple questions. Afterwards, they just captured me, and they put me in handcuffs on. And a few weeks later, they sold me to the American government, to the American army. And, of course, during this time, they never told me what’s going on. Even I asked for a phone call, and I asked what’s going on. They never allowed me to have a phone call with my home or any lawyer. And later, I found out that they sold me for a bounty of $3,000 to the American army as a terrorist.

AMY GOODMAN: Katherine Gallagher, talk about the overall case and how Murat Kurnaz’s story fits into that.

KATHERINE GALLAGHER: Sure. What’s happening today in Canada is George Bush and Bill Clinton will be sitting down at an economic forum. So we will be presenting to the provincial court in Surrey, where that talk is taking place, a four-count information, which sets out criminal charges for torture on behalf of Murat and others. And we put George Bush’s accountability before the provincial court in Surrey. We lay out his admissions for torture. We lay out the torture program which he authorized. And we put the four cases of the men in that overall context of secret detention sites, extraordinary rendition, quote-unquote "enhanced" interrogation techniques at Guantánamo, and really lay out a case for prosecution.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, of these four men, three were held for years, never charged, and then released, and one is still in Guantánamo? Could you talk a little bit about them?

KATHERINE GALLAGHER: Sure. And in fact, none of the four men, including the man who’s been in Guantánamo now for nine-and-a-half years, none of them have been charged with anything. The case of Sami el-Hajj, he was a journalist for Al Jazeera. Murat Kurnaz, who you’ve just heard his story. Muhammed Khan Tumani, he and his father were arrested in Pakistan. All of the arrests of these four men occurred in Pakistan. Muhammed was only 17 at the time he was detained. And he was kept in solitary confinement for a good deal of the time that he was in Guantánamo and suffered psychological torture, physical torture. And I think it’s important to remember that, even after release, these men continue to suffer the scars of their detention, both because of the aftermath, the mental effects of the torture, and also because of the stigma that’s attached to them. They have restrictions on their travel. Muhammed Khan Tumani cannot travel to see his father, who has also been released. And that is continued harm.

AMY GOODMAN: When you were at Guantánamo, Murat Kurnaz, what exactly happened to you there? And did you say you were sold to the Americans in Pakistan?

MURAT KURNAZ: When I arrived into American custody, so, they was not interested who I am. They just forced me to agree that I’m the member of al-Qaeda and that I’m the terrorist. So, they forced me to sign papers, I should agree that I’m the member of al-Qaeda. And because I refused to sign those kind of papers, they never stopped the torture. They tortured me by electroshocks and by waterboarding and different kinds, all kinds. They—every day, they came and beat me up for not signing those papers.

AMY GOODMAN: And you refused to the end?

MURAT KURNAZ: Yes, of course. They tried this for five years, and I refused to sign, five years long. Even on the day of my—on the day when they released me, they brought me those kinds of papers and told me, "If you don’t sign now, you will not leave this place, and you will stay five more years." And they tried to make me sign even in the last few minutes during my detention in Guantánamo.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And how long were you detained before your family or your loved ones even knew where you were or what had happened to you?

MURAT KURNAZ: I even didn’t—for the first three or four years, I did not know that I had a lawyer, and I even didn’t know if my family knows that I’m alive in Guantánamo, so—because we was not allowed to have any phone call or family visits and to read the newspaper or to watch news. So that mean we didn’t know what’s going on in the out world. I even didn’t know that there is a war in Iraq and between the U.S.A. and Iran. So I really didn’t know anything about my own case. Nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the Red Cross visit you?

MURAT KURNAZ: The Red Cross, they came a few times, but they was not authorized to send any kind of postcards, if it’s got not—if it’s not gotten approved by the American U.S. Army, so...

AMY GOODMAN: Who waterboarded you?

MURAT KURNAZ: The soldiers and the interrogator.

AMY GOODMAN: How often?

MURAT KURNAZ: With waterboarding, that was just one time. It’s actually not called waterboarding. It’s a kind of waterboarding. It’s really called "water treatment." There’s a difference between waterboarding and water treatment. So, the water treatment means they have some buckets, bucket over with—full with water. They stick my head into it, and I have handcuffs behind my back. Two soldiers, they hold me, and another one, he stick my head into this water. And in the same time, they hit me into my stomach, so I had to—I had to try—so, if you inhale all those water, it gives you the feeling of drowning into water. And the U.S. Army means that as a technique, adhering technique, so it’s—they believe they can reach a couple things with it, so...

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Katherine Gallagher, the Amnesty call, at the same time, for President Bush to be indicted, the relationship of your case of these four men to this call by Amnesty, if any?

KATHERINE GALLAGHER: Sure. Yeah, what’s been amazing here is we’ve seen a unified call from human rights organizations, from legal groups, for prosecution. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the CCIJ, the Canadian Center for International Justice, we have actually twice already tried to solicit the attorney general of Canada to open an investigation over the past three weeks, in the same way that Amnesty has. And for all of these calls that have gone in to the attorney general, he thus far has shown no willingness to investigate or prosecute George Bush. That is why today we are taking this step to initiate the prosecution ourselves on behalf of these four men. And Amnesty will be out on the street today. I think we’re seeing Occupy Wall Street move to Occupy Surrey today. And we will need to keep calls going in to the attorney general of Canada to support this case, now that it will be in the court today.

AMY GOODMAN: So it’s called a private prosecution?

KATHERINE GALLAGHER: Yes. What is being done is, an information is being laid that will be a sworn information. And once that is completed, the case will be transferred over to a provincial judge in Surrey. And we need, then, the attorney general, after eight days, to certify this case to proceed. In the meantime, we will be asking for an immediate hearing to be able to present the case of these four men and the case against George Bush. And should Canada not be willing to allow this case to proceed, we will then go to the United Nations and ask them to review the actions of Canada, which has an obligation as a signatory under the Convention against Torture to investigate and prosecute torture in their country.

AMY GOODMAN: What about here? You’re talking about doing this in Canada, trying to get President Bush arrested. President Bush lives in the United States. And then there’s a second question: one of the men you’re talking about doing this on behalf of is still at Guantánamo. President Obama is also here.

KATHERINE GALLAGHER: Mm-hmm, yes. Unfortunately, in the United States, we are not able to initiate private prosecutions. We have called on, and continue to call on, and will continue to present evidence to the attorney general, Eric Holder, and ask him to uphold the United States’ obligations, because, of course, we have been in breach of our obligations under the Convention against Torture. So this fight against impunity needs to be fought domestically, I absolutely agree, and internationally. Today we are turning to our partners in the north to help us close the impunity gap. And we hope to see that take place.

AMY GOODMAN: Murat Kurnaz, when did you come out of Guantánamo? And how have you been able to adjust? How long has it been?

MURAT KURNAZ: It’s already five years ago that I got released. So I have—I got released in 2006.

AMY GOODMAN: And how have you adjusted? How have you adjusted, Murat? How have you been able to make the transition out of Guantánamo, psychologically and physically?

MURAT KURNAZ: Oh, I had—I, myself, I have not any problems, psychologically problems, but that does not mean that all other ones feel the same. So, there are many other prisoners who got released, and they have big problems with it. They have psychological or physical problems. And so, I, myself, I feel psychologically OK. But I don’t know how it comes to this, but I am happy that I have family here in Germany, so as soon as I got released, they picked me up, and everything was well.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Katherine Gallagher, didn’t something like this happen when President Bush wanted to go to Switzerland? And what happened to him there? He didn’t go.

KATHERINE GALLAGHER: Yes. In February of this year, we were working to file a case there on behalf of two Guantánamo detainees—one former, one current detainee. And there were protests that were being planned there. And on the day that we made the announcement of a press conference to announce the case, George Bush canceled his trip. Here, we will see George Bush, I think, arrive in Canada today.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, Katherine Gallagher of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Murat Kurnaz, thank you very much for joining us. He’s joining us by Democracy Now! video stream from Germany. He is a Turkish national who was born in Germany, detained in Pakistan at the age of 19 in 2001, held at Guantánamo for years.

And I want to bring our viewers and listeners this update. An NTC spokesman is telling Sky News that Muammar Gaddafi is dead, and the body is arriving in Misurata any minute now, The Guardian newspaper is reporting. We cannot confirm this. And The Guardian is also showing an image that—from a mobile phone, that shows the arrest of Gaddafi. Again, we are showing this at democracynow.org. These are extremely graphic images. For our radio listening audience around the world, it is a picture of Gaddafi, extremely bloody. And that’s the latest that we have so far. Again, the reports, a NTC spokesperson saying that Gaddafi is dead and that the body will be arriving in Misurata any moment.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, detentions in the United States of immigrants are at an all-time high. More than a million immigrants have been deported under President Obama. Stay with us.

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