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A decade after the tragic events of 9/11, the backwash of US effort to prevent any future terrorist attacks keeps turning up new revelations about questionable practices and unpleasant realities. Recently, a former Guantanamo inmate gave an interview to the BBC, describing some of the things he endured during his captivity between early 2002 and 2008. Saad Iqbal Madni was known as an Islamic scholar and prize-winning reciter of the Quran when he, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, was bundled into a plane during a visit to Indonesia and flown to Egypt. In Cairo, Egyptian intelligence agents were allegedly waiting to extract information under the auspice of US agents. “The place they put me was smaller than a grave,” Mr Madni told the BBC, “They asked me questions about [shoe bomber] Richard Reid, and if I had any information about 9/11. When I denied it, they gave me electric shocks in my knees. A few times I passed out.”
After Cairo, Mr. Madni explains he was taken to Bagram Air base in Afghanistan where they deprived him of food and kept him in isolation for 10 months. By March 2003, he was transferred to Guantanamo as classified as an enemy combatant. The main accusation was connections to al-Qaeda and planning terrorist acts – charges he denies.
During an interview with BBC’s Pakistan correspondent Orla Guerin, Mr Madni gave a detailed description of some of the traumatizing experiences he was forced to make while carrying the number 746 in Guantanamo Bay. “Since they arrest me, up to today, every second night I wake up screaming, yelling and crying,” he confessed, breaking into tears. “I can’t forget what they did to me. No one can do that with the animals. I don’t know how they can do that with human beings.”
Among other things, Mr Madni was exposed to a practice called ‘frequent flier status’. “That means the detainee is not allowed to sleep,” he said. “Every 20 minutes, every half an hour, the guards come and wake up the detainee, they handcuff him, they leg shackle him, and move him from block to block, cell to cell. If we try to get a nap the guards come and kick the doors, yelling, screaming and cursing.” The BBC report acknowledges that much of Mr. Madni’s chronicle of imprisonment cannot be independently verified, but his account echoes those of other former detainees.
Within the first year at Guantanamo, Mr Madni attempted suicide but his actions were punished with increased torture and intimidation. When contracting an ear infection, he claims that he was refused treatment and told to cooperate with interrogators if he wanted medical help. He cites doctors for telling him that he was an enemy, not a patient.
Mr Madni denies having links with extremists groups in Pakistan, though admits having met members of a hardline Indonesian Islamic group – the Islamic Defenders Front – with a scholarly purpose. He claims not to have known the US considered them terrorists. When asking the interrogation personnel about his status during the five years in Guantanamo, he explained “they just said that Washington D.C. need to keep you in here. When they decide to let you free then all the charges will be dropped”. True to word, a US court ordered his release in August 2008 where he returned to Pakistan.
However, the government of Pakistan has placed him under house arrest, listing him under the country’s anti-terror watch. “I am suffering more that I was in Guantanamo Bay,” he says, “I can’t work. I can’t see my family members. I can’t leave the city.” Mr Madni says the situation has left him suicidal. “Over there is a small cage,” he told the BBC, “and Pakistan is the bigger cage. That’s it.”