London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Libyan national Omar Deghayes, one of three British residents who were recently released from Guantanamo, has declared that from the first day of his detention over five years ago he was certain that God would end his ordeal.
Deghayes, who had moved temporarily to Pakistan with his Afghan wife and child, was arrested in 2002, along with his family, by bounty hunters in Pakistan.
Deghayes was held in Guantanamo after being accused of appearing on a Chechen rebel training videotape seized by the Spanish Government, which led him to being placed on the list of the top 50 terrorists in the world; however he was later cleared after facial recognition experts declared it was not him on the video.
Deghayes was arrested upon arrival in England, but was later set free by a British court on a 50,000-poundbail and is under continuous electronic surveillance. He now lives with his family in the coastal city of Brighton.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you witness human rights violations at Guantanamo?
[Deghayes] The violations were confirmed by lawyers who visited the camp, former CIA officers, investigators, and translators. Terrible things happened including assaults on copies of the Koran. In April 2002violations occurred. It is enough to tell you that strong floodlights were left shining on us for 24 hours. At the present time 12 brothers are on a hunger strike including Sami al-Hajj, a Yemeni citizen, a Saudi, and a Kuwaiti. They are being force fed. However, the way the guards have been treating the detainees improved a little last year.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How did you know while at Guantanamo that you were going to be released and sent home to London?
[Deghayes] They transferred us to another section of the camp, having closed the earlier section. This was a sign that they were planning to deport us from Cuba.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Who accompanied you on your plane trip board the plane from Guantanamo to London?
[Deghayes] I believe the plane stopped in Miami. Scotland Yard officers and officials of the British Foreign Office came on board.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What verse of the Koran did you use to recite most often while you were incarcerated?
[Deghayes] I used to recite a Koranic verse from the Sura, the House of Imran [3:146]: “How many of the prophets fought in God’s way, and with them fought large bands of godly men? But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in the cause of God nor did they weaken in will nor give in. And God loves those who are firm and steadfast.”
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What kind of books did you read while you were in solitary confinement?
[Deghayes] We spent two years without a library but I was occupied all that time in learning the entire Koran by heart, revising it, and learning to recite it aloud. In the past few months conditions improved and they allowed us to walk outside our cells for two hours daily.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Were you convinced of your innocence and that God would bring you relief at the end of the dark tunnel?
[Deghayes] Ever since I arrived at the US detention camp, I had a clear vision and never weakened. I sensed that God was with me. I used to talk to God. I used to think a lot about my mother, Hajjah Zahrah, my brother, Abu-Bakr, my sister, Amani, and my son, Sulayman, whom I had left when he was very little. He was only six months and today he is almost six years old. The camp authorities refused to let me have a photograph that my family sent to me through the Red Cross. I never knew the reason for this deprivation.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did Libyan officers visit you at the US detention camp?
[Deghayes] Yes I was visited by four Libyan officers in 2005. They said, “You are immature, misguided youths. You do not know the meaning of the Islamic religion. When you are delivered to us, we will teach you the Koran from the beginning all over again.” I only looked at them in surprise. There were 10 Libyan detainees at Guantanamo.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What did a cell in the Fifth Section contain?
[Deghayes] It had a bed, a washbasin, and a toilet. It was a small cell with floodlights on the ceiling that turned night into day. The aim was psychological torture so that we would not be able to sleep. Conditions improved, however, and they began to switch off the lights after a while. Sometimes I was not let out of the cell for a whole week. They had the air-conditioning going on strong the whole time, which made you feel weak in your bones.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What persons were you thinking about during your detention?
[Deghayes] I thought a lot about my mother, Hajjah Zahrah, who experienced many difficulties. Letters were far in between. I also thought a lot about my son Sulayman, whom I left when he was six months old. He now lives with his mother in Kabul.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What did you learn from the ordeal of imprisonment at Guantanamo?
[Deghayes] I learned numerous things. I made a pledge to God to improve my manners and morals and change myself to the best degree possible, keeping in mind that perfection is God’s alone.