HARGEISA, Somaliland — A Somali just home from eight years in the US jail at Guantanamo Bay told AFP Monday the prison was “hell on Earth”, and alleged torture there had scarred some of his fellow inmates.
Mohamed Saleban Bare, who arrived in his hometown of Hargeisa on Saturday, said he was innocent of any charges that would have caused security forces to arrest him in Pakistan in 2001 and transfer him to the US jail via Afghanistan.
“Guantanamo Bay is like hell on Earth,” he told AFP in the town, capital of the breakaway state of Somaliland.
“I don’t feel normal yet but I thank Allah for keeping me alive and free from the physical and mental sufferings of some of my friends,” he said.
Bare, 44, was among a dozen Guantanamo detainees from Afghanistan, Yemen and the breakaway Somalia region who were sent home at the weekend, bringing the number of detainees at the “war on terror” prison in Cuba to below 200.
He and another Somali, 45-year-old Osmail Mohamed Arale, were handed over to their relatives in Hargeisa by the International Representative Committee of the Red Cross in the presence of Somaliland authorities.
“Some of my colleagues in the prison lost their sight, some lost their limbs and others ended up mentally disturbed. I’m OK compared to them,” he said.
Bare said he was picked up in the Pakistani port city of Karachi in December 2001, weeks after the United States launched its “war on terror” following the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York.
After about four months he was transferred to US military prisons in Kandahar and Bagram in Afghanistan, he said.
“At Bagram and Kandahar, the situation was harsh but when we were transferred to Guantanamo the torture tactics changed. They use a kind of psychological torture that kills you mentally,” he said.
This included depriving prisoners of sleep for at least four nights in a row and feeding them once a day with only a biscuit, he said.
“And in the cold they let you sleep without a blanket. Some of the inmates face harsher torture, including with electricity and beating,” he said.
Bare said the US authorities had never told him why he was arrested.
“They used to ask many questions, most of them relating to my background like what I was doing in Somalia and about the people I know. It was all about suspicions and not a clear case,” he said.
“I was in prison for about eight years and two months without being guilty. But praise be to Allah, I’m free now and back home, wishing to overcome the ordeal.”
Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels control southern Somalia and authorities in northwestern Somaliland, which broke away in 1991, in October called for war against them.
US President Barack Obama has vowed to close down the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility by January with some of the inmates to be moved to a maximum-security prison in the state of Illinois.