- Arrested following a night raid on his home in 2009
- Imprisoned for 14 months at Bagram without charge or trial.
- Accused of owning weapons that he says belonged to his cousins.
- U.S. government never presented evidence that these were his weapons.
- Released in late 2010 after his relatives testified at a hearing at Bagram that T. was a poor man who did not own any weapons.
“One interrogator was telling me, ‘you have not done anything wrong, but just tell us who are the bad guys in the area.’ When I said there were no bad guys in my village, he said I would be detained for life. They wanted me to work for them and point out the bad guys.”
T., a father and farmer in his mid-40s from Khost province, was arrested following a night raid of his home by U.S. and Afghan soldiers in the fall of 2009. Accused of planning to attack U.S. forces with weapons, T. spent about 14 months in the U.S. detention center at Bagram. He was accused of owning weapons that belonged to his cousins, he said, and that were taken from his cousin’s house, not his. He says he had no plans to attack Americans.
T. had two hearings at Bagram. At the second hearing, elders from his village were brought to testify. The witnesses testified that T. was a poor man who did not have any weapons. After 14 months at Bagram, T. was transferred to an Afghan prison. He was released and allowed to return home two months later.
HRF: Can you tell us about your arrest?
T.: Around midnight, I was at home. U.S. and Afghan soldiers entered my house. One of the Afghans shouted “come out”. There were about 50-60 soldiers, and many vehicles.
HRF: Did they tell you why they had come?
T.: The Afghans said, we’re searching the house, that’s it.
HRF: What did they do?
T.: They took all the men in the house. About 18 people, taken out of the house, facing a wall.
The Americans separated me from the others. I was sitting, my hands were tied behind me. They raised me by my arm. My sandals were left behind.
One Afghan knew me. I didn’t know him because his face was covered. But I think we’re from the same region. We have some feuds in the area. My cousins have land dispute with the village below us. Three people have been killed in this dispute.
They kept us for 3-4 hours outside the house. Only I was taken to Khost airport. They released the others.
HRF: Did they find anything when they searched your house?
T.: They found weapons in other houses, but not in mine. They searched almost 12 houses. They did not search mine as much. My family told me the soldiers came with a dog and a metal detector. From my cousin’s house they got a weapon. It was hung on a wall in an obvious way, because of the dispute with other villages over land. They took all the weapons.
HRF: How did they treat you?
T.: They did not mistreat anybody. They apologized to the other 17 men. They said the report was only about me, so they released the rest.
HRF: Then what happened?
T.: The soldiers put the weapons in front of me and took pictures. My cousins later wrote to the government office, saying these are our weapons. But the Americans insisted it was my weapon.
My hands were tied in back, but I could see. I was not blindfolded.
At Khost airport, I spent a day with Afghans. Then the Americans took me and searched me. They stripped me. I was given an orange jumper to wear. I told them I didn’t want to take off all my clothes, it’s very bad for a Muslim. But they insisted. They didn’t accept.
HRF: How long were you in kept in Khost, and how did they treat you there?
T.: I spent eight nights at the Khost airport base. Doctors were there, they treated me well. They gave me a medical exam.
But then I was interrogated. The interrogators were getting angry, saying I was doing this, this and this.
In the interrogation, they were telling me, you know you’ve done a lot of things. They said, “you had a program to launch an attack on Alisheer district, but you failed.” And, “We knew you were meeting with religious scholars of this district. And that you have links with Taliban commanders, and were collecting weapons for them.”
HRF: How often were you interrogated in Khost, and can you describe the interrogations?
T.: In Khost, they interrogated me in the daytime. Probably five times in eight days. It lasted about three hours each time. Then the interrogators would take a break.
The interrogator said, there are witnesses who will come and give testimony.
I said “okay, bring them and I will hear them.”
Some of the words were sweet, but sometimes they got angry. But they were not insulting.
One interrogator was telling me, you have not done anything wrong, but tell us who are the bad guys in the area. When I said there were no bad guys in my village, they said I would be detained for life. They wanted me to work for them and point out the bad guys.
HRF: What was the prison like in Khost?
T.: In Khost, I was held in a small room. I could touch the end with my feet if I was sitting against one wall. They gave me a Koran. They gave me water. And a very thin blanket and very thin sponge-like mattress. I was fed dry military food, MRE’s 3 times a day. I only at the biscuits, not the food.
The light was on 24-hours a day. I couldn’t sleep. I complained, and they said I would get used to it.
I was the only person at the Khost prison for most of the time. It was silent except during interrogations.
I was taken only once outside into the sun. My hands and feet were handcuffed outside. And I was cuffed, blindfolded and ear muffed to go to the bathroom. Once a female guard didn’t do that, but the rest did.
There was no window or natural light in the cell. The guards told me the prayer time, though.
HRF: How long were you at Khost?
T.: After eight days, they gave me my clothes, put me in a helicopter, and I was taken to Bagram. Blindfolded and handcuffed.
At Bagram, they took me out of the helicopter and into a vehicle. My hands were tied by a belt, later replaced with real hand cuffs.
They shaved my head, but not my beard. I was told to take a shower, and forced to strip naked in front of other men. The solders watched. I was given another orange jumpsuit to wear.
The first 4 nights I spent in a bathroom. There was a toilet and a place with a blanket. They gave me a Koran. Another detainee was brought to take a shower there. I had two blankets, and slept on a board.
I was not taken for interrogation, but taken to a medical doctor. I told him I had a cold and high blood pressure. I was not given any medicine. I had a very bad cough. I was taken to interrogation and I was shivering. I told the interrogator, I’m sick. He said no, I’m just afraid.
A few days later I was taken to a doctor.
HRF: When were you taken for interrogations at Bagram?
T. I was taken 5 or 6 days after I arrived at Bagram. First it was during the day, for 3 or 4 days. Then, there was a new interrogator, and he took me at night. The interrogations lasted all night. They would start around 10 or 11 p.m, and finished early in the morning, after about 5 hours.
After the first four nights, I was taken into a big cell with about 20 other individuals. They took us every three days to exercise outside. Even if we were sick. I spent more than a year in that big cell in Bagram. The light was still on all the time in the cell. There was A/C in summer, and heat in winter. There was no natural light.
I spent two months in the old jail, then more than a year in the new detention center. That was better.
HRF: How was it better in the new jail?
T.: In the old jail, there was only cold water. In the new one there was hot water. And air conditioning was better. The food was military food in the old jail. In the new jail, they announced for us that if we had relations, they could come and see me.
On the 5th or 6th day, I met an ICRC representative. About once a month after that. They were French, said they were just here to listen to our complaints, but they can’t do anything.
My family was informed by the ICRC that I was taken to Bagram a few months after I was taken there. My first meeting with my family was about 5 months later, on the internet.
The light was still on 24 hours a day. I got used to it.
HRF: What kind of questions did they ask you in interrogations?
T.: They questioned me about—they were saying I have links with the Taliban, I’m important in my region. I said yes, I come from a big family.
They charged me with having weapons for the Taliban. I said, “ask the people in my village what kind of person I am.”
Sometimes they were asking me, how did you marry, how do you sleep with your wife, how many children do you have, how do you cultivate your land.
Finally they said my big crime is I have weapons. They showed me a picture of weapons in front of me. I said, “that is not my weapon.” But they insisted these were my weapons.
I had four interrogators. The last one was a very good person, gave condolences, promised I’d be released soon. He was asking me a lot about how security could be enforced in Afghanistan. They mentioned the names of Haqanni, Gudbuddin, asking me where these people are. I said I don’t know. There are very big people.
HRF: How often were you interrogated?
T.: In the beginning, I was interrogated almost every day. That changed to about once a week. At the end, it was only once in three months.
HRF: Were you ever given a hearing or a trial?
T.: Yes, I was taken on trial. A lot of people were sitting there. Elders came from the village. The said I am a good person. But the officials were saying I had weapons, that was the charge.
HRF: How long after you arrived at Bagram did you get this trial? Did anyone represent you?
T.: The first trial was two months after I arrived at Bagram. The room had about 13-15 people. I had no representative there.
One interrogator told me that there was another detainee from my village, and that I should testify against him. But I didn’t know him.
Then, 10-15 days before the first trial, the interrogator said, you are bad because you’re not accusing this other person in the village. I knew him, he was working for the government. The interrogator told me my trial will be very difficult, I will spend a long time in interrogation center. He showed me pictures of this commander with weapons. The interrogator told me he would change the photo and make it look like they were my weapons. I told them that I have seen the justice of you people, I would rather stay in prison than give false evidence.
At the first trial, I was told I was accused of helping the Taliban, I had a plan to attack the district but I failed and there are your weapons. They showed me a picture of the weapon. I said it’s not true. There were 3 AK-47s, and two other rifles from my cousin’s house. No other evidence presented.
HRF: Did you have a chance to speak at the trial?
T.: Yes, I was given time to speak. They said, what will you do if you’re released? I said I will go home. I was asked how security could be brought to Afghanistan. I said it could be through talking and preaching, not through weapons.
About a month later, I was called again for interrogation. Interrogator told me I’d probably stay longer. Then I was given a piece of paper with the decision, I’d stay another 6 months until a hearing.
HRF: Did you have another trial?
T.: Yes. About 8 months after the first trial. In the second trial, there was a representative for me. He said he would talk for me if I am afraid. I met him one month before the second trial.
After 2nd trial, about 50 days later, I was told I would be released to the Afghans. I was told again that I was charged with the same things. My personal representative was sitting there. He was talking about what the interrogator had written against me, and said I don’t look like a criminal. I’m not a criminal.
At the trial, they showed a computer screen with the photo of me with weapons. There was no other evidence. But this time there were witnesses from my village who came to say I am a good person, not a criminal.
HRF: Did the Personal Representative challenge the photo of you with the weapons?
T.: The representative said nothing when they showed the photo of weapons. He asked only what I will do when I go home.
HRF: When did you learn the decision of the trial?
50 days later I was given the decision. I spent 2 days more at Bagram. I got a medical checkup and eyescan. Then I was transferred to an Afghan controlled block at Bagram. I spent one day there.
They gave me back my watch and mobile phone, and then I was transferred to Block D at Policharky prison.
HRF: How long were you at Pul-e-Charkhi, and were you interrogated there?
T.: I spent 2 months at Pul-e-Charki. I was not interrogated. Some other detainees were brought to Pul-e-Charki with me. Some are still there. The commander there said I would be released, but they wanted to first get more information from village elders about me.
From Block D, I was brought to NDS, given paperwork, then told I could leave. A relative came to get me.
HRF: Did you receive any compensation for the time you were in prison?
T.: I was given no compensation. I said I was detained innocently, and they said you can go, but I was not paid a single penny.
The Afghan govt said they would take me to a Peace and Reconciliation office to get money for transportation. I didn’t go get it.
There was no ceremony, I was just told to be a good Afghan, good to my country.
HRF: Were you ever held in the Tor Jail at Bagram?
T.: No, I was never taken to the Tor Jail. But others were. There are a lot of complaints there, prisoners are not allowed to pray, there is no water for ablution, guards watch when they go to the bathroom. That is not good for Afghanistan.
When people told me this, I told these people they should complaint to the ICRC. But they said they were told not to complain to anyone.