WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Pakistani man held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay has denied belonging to al Qaeda and accused U.S. authorities of torturing him, according to a document released by the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Majid Khan, who lived in the United States for several years, was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and held in a secret network of CIA-run prisons before he was transferred to the military jail on Cuba last year.
“I am not an enemy combatant. I am not an extremist,” Khan told a panel of military officials on April 15, according to the edited transcript released by the Pentagon.
The hearing was held to determine whether Khan, 27, meets the U.S. definition of an enemy combatant but no decision has been reached. The hearing was closed to the public.
U.S. authorities say Khan was an al Qaeda operative selected to carry out a possible attack on the United States by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-declared mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
A U.S. summary of the case against him says he attended a training course on building time bombs and discussed plans to smuggle explosives into the United States for al Qaeda attacks.
It also said Mohammed considered Khan for an operation to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and tasked him to conduct research on poisoning U.S. water reservoirs.
Khan moved with his family to the United States in 1996 and settled in Baltimore, Maryland, before returning to Pakistan in 2002, according to the summary.
As well as denying he worked for al Qaeda, Khan submitted a “statement of torture” to the tribunal but it was heavily edited by military officials. The Pentagon says transcripts are edited only to remove sensitive security information.
U.S. officials have said they do not use torture in interrogation but have argued their precise methods should not be disclosed as that would give their enemies an advantage.
“I swear to God this place (is) in some sense worst (worse) than CIA jails. I am being mentally torture(d) here,” Khan said of his treatment at Guantanamo, according to the transcript.
Khan said he had staged hunger and thirst strikes at Guantanamo and tried to chew through an artery on his elbow out of frustration. He complained he had not been allowed access to his family or lawyers.
Khan also said a guard had confiscated a picture of his daughter, whom he has never seen in person as his wife was pregnant when he was arrested, and that guards had also forcibly shaved his beard “to humiliate me and offend my religion.”
According to a statement from his father, Ali, read out at the hearing, Khan was detained by Pakistani soldiers and police at his brother Mohammed’s house in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 5, 2003.
Both brothers were detained and interrogated by Pakistani and U.S. agents and Mohammed Khan was allowed to see Majid Khan after eight days, said Ali Khan, who still lives in Maryland.
“According to Mohammed, Majid said that the Americans tortured him for eight hours at a time, tying him tightly in stressful positions in a small chair until his hands, feet, and mind went numb,” he said.
“They re-tied him in the chair every hour, tightening the bonds on his feet each time so that it was more painful. He was often hooded and had difficulty breathing. They also beat him repeatedly, slapping him in the face, and deprived him of sleep.”
The Pentagon investigates any allegations that prisoners have been abused in its custody, a spokesman said.