SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- After years of indefinite confinement, many detainees at Guantanamo Bay say they feel they may never receive justice, according to transcripts of hearings obtained by The Associated Press. Fewer than one in five of detainees allowed a hearing last year even bothered to show up for it.
A Guantanamo detainee, center, is escorted by US military personnel away from the dental clinic, at Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba, in this May 15, 2007 file photo. [AP]
The frustrated words of men, some of whom admit to fighting with the Taliban but swear they would go peacefully home if released, illustrate the seething tension at a prison where hundreds are held without charges. The transcripts also underscore that the US allegations against the men are often as difficult to substantiate as they are for the detainees to refute.
Sometimes the allegations alarmed even the panels of military officers charged with determining whether a detainee should be freed.
Rahmatullah Sangaryar stood accused of "planning biological and poison attacks on United States and coalition forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan" and of possessing anthrax powder and a liquid poison.
The Afghan detainee said he was captured only with muddy clothes, possessed no anthrax and never planned such an attack. The officer in charge of the panel seemed to grope for a response.
"Do you know of anyone who would accuse you of such an act? This is so serious," the unidentified officer exclaimed. "I am trying to understand why it is here in front of me, this allegation against you."
The military has released a greater number of detainees from Guantanamo Bay than the roughly 340 men who are there today. As of Sept. 6, the US had transferred or released about 435 prisoners from Guantanamo to more than two dozen nations since the detention center opened in January 2002. Most were subsequently released by their home countries.
But last year, the Administrative Review Board panels determined that 83 percent of the detainees whose cases they deliberated were too dangerous to be sent away, and authorized only 17 percent for transfer to other countries.
After AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request, the Pentagon on Friday handed over transcripts of 64 hearings in which the detainees appeared in 2006. In a letter to the AP, the government said it was withholding three transcripts because they would undermine "particularly strong privacy interests."