[News] Papers Show Inmates Defy Gitmo Troops

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Mon Jul 4 12:43:21 EDT 2005


AP: Papers Show Inmates Defy Gitmo Troops

Associated Press Writer

July 2, 2005, 9:01 AM CDT

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Military authorities have previously disclosed 
some incidents of guard retaliation at Guantanamo Bay, which resulted in 
mostly minor disciplinary proceedings. What emerges from 278 pages of 
documents obtained by The Associated Press is the degree of defiance by the 
terrorism suspects at Guantanamo.

The prisoners banged on their cells to protest the heat. They doused guards 
with whatever liquid was handy -- from spit to urine. Sometimes they struck 
their jailers, one swinging a steel chair at a military police officer.

And the American MPs at times retaliated with force -- punches, pepper 
spray and a splash of cleaning fluid in the face, according to the newly 
released documents that detail military investigations and eyewitness 
accounts of alleged abuse.

Some prisoners at the U.S. base in eastern Cuba have gone on the attack, as 
in April 2003 when a detainee got out of his cell during a search for 
contraband food and knocked out a guard's tooth with a punch to the mouth 
and bit him before he was subdued by MPs. One soldier delivered two blows 
to the inmate's head with a handheld radio, the documents show.

"Several guards were trying to hold down the detainee who was putting up 
heavy resistance," recounted a translator who saw the incident. "The 
detainee was covered in blood as were some of the guards."

The soldier who struck the inmate, and was dropped in rank to private first 
class as a result, described it as a close call. "The detainee was fighting 
as if he really wanted to hurt us. ... We all saved each other's lives in 
my opinion," he wrote.

The documents, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by 
AP, are far from a comprehensive look at Guantanamo and do not provide full 
details about each incident.

Names and some other identifying details have been blacked out by military 
censors. Handwriting at times isn't legible and pages appear to be missing 
or out of sequence. In some cases, it is not possible to decipher who did 
what to whom. Disciplinary measures against the troops were either 
relatively minor or unclear in some reports.

The internal investigative reports do, however, provide a snapshot of life 
behind the wire at Guantanamo, depicting a tense, hostile and sometimes 
chaotic place.

In one of the more serious incidents described in the documents, detainees 
told guards that an MP threw the cleaning liquid Pine-Sol in the eyes of a 
prisoner in the middle of one night in January 2004. In a written 
statement, another soldier said he came in immediately afterward to find 
what smelled like cleaning liquid dripping from the cell.

"The detainee could be seen rubbing his eyes intensely and moaning in 
pain," he said.

Documents show that the guard, from the 661st Military Police Company, did 
not admit throwing the cleaning fluid when questioned about it that night 
but did say the detainee had spit on him, and may have thrown urine.

A medic on the cell block flushed the detainee's eyes with water, a witness 

A Department of Defense investigative memo written six months later 
concluded the soldier had mistreated detainees twice -- the second offense 
involved cursing at inmates -- and that his superiors failed to report 
either episode.

Investigators recommended disciplinary action against the soldier and a 
probe into why the incident wasn't reported up the chain of command, but 
the outcome is unclear from the papers.

In a statement to investigators, one service member said he hadn't seen the 
Pine-Sol incident but noted that U.S. personnel have been taught to use 
restraint with detainees: "The training we have received here at Guantanamo 
Bay has always stressed ... that no matter what happens on the block do not 
retaliate .... it will just get you into trouble."

Still, tensions between prisoners and guards have been high since the first 
suspects arrived in early 2002, hooded and shackled, mostly from the 
battlefields of Afghanistan.

The detainees' defiance discussed in the documents ranged from mild -- 
prisoners getting matching haircuts in a show of solidarity or refusing 
orders to stop practicing martial arts in the exercise yard -- to hostile 
acts like spitting or throwing unknown liquids at the MPs. One soldier used 
pepper spray on prisoners because, he said in a report to superiors, he 
feared that the unknown liquids hurled could pose a health danger.

One soldier told military investigators he punched a detainee's face 
because the man spit at him and hit him as he tried to put him in 
restraints at the prison hospital in October 2004.

"My instincts took over after the hitting and spitting," said the soldier. 
Documents show authorities recommended that the punishment include 
reduction in rank to E-4, loss of a month's pay and extra duty for 45 days, 
though the outcome is unclear.

In the prison camp's early days, inmates showed their anger over the heat 
and the practice of leaving lights on in their cells at night by banging on 
the bars throughout one guard shift in September 2002, the documents say. 
One detainee who was believed to be leading the protest threw what an MP 
said smelled like water from the toilet on him. The MP tried to spray water 
from a hose in response, but the detainee blocked it with a mat.

The guard who tried to spray the detainee was charged with assault, given a 
reduction in rank to private first class, which was suspended, and 
reassigned to other duties at Guantanamo.

In another case, an inmate threw a partially full urine bottle at an MP in 
May 2002, apparently because he believed the soldier had intentionally 
kicked his hospital bed. When the soldier threw the urinal back, the 
detainee grabbed a steel chair and swung it at guards before they subdued him.

A military witness defended the MP, writing: "I believe (name deleted) to 
be a good and honest soldier ... and just influenced by negative elements 
among us." The documents don't make clear what punishment, if any, the MP got.

Military officials at Guantanamo did not respond this week to questions 
about relations between guards and detainees at the camp, which has held 
some 700 prisoners from 45 countries since it opened. There are about 540 
detainees there now.

* __

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is based on information contained in 278 pages of 
U.S. military documents dealing with investigations of alleged abuse of 
prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The Associated Press obtained the documents 
under a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

Copyright © 2005, The Associated Press

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