While at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002, Uighur detainees were interrogated, abused and threatened by a delegation from the People's Republic of China, recently liberated Uighurs told the Huffington Post in a phone interview from Bermuda.
"When the Chinese delegation came we didn't really want to meet with them and answer their questions. They brought us out anyway," said Khalil Manut through a translator. "They made threats, turned down the temperature in the room, made the room very cold."
The Chinese interrogated each of the detainees in 2002, said Manut and the other Uighurs.
"Basically they made many, many threats against them and against their families and even said, 'We will either take you back or we will make sure that you end up here for a long time. You will never be free,' and things like that,' said Manut.
The Chinese delegation -- which the Uighurs estimated at five total interrogators -- questioned some of the Uighurs for 18 hours straight in the extreme cold, depriving them of food and sleep. Ablikim Turahun, one of the freed Uighurs, endured such an interrogation. He said that after six hours he was sent back to his room to eat, but before the meal came he was taken back to the Chinese for another six hours. He was then sent back to his room and given a meal. Just as he was falling asleep, he was brought back again for a third straight six-hour session in extremely cold temperatures.
"They said, 'You're not talking now, [but] we have ways to make you talk when we take you back.' Basically implying they would torture us and get whatever out of us," recalled Manut. The threats against their families have not been carried out, they said.
The government of Bermuda recently accepted four Uighurs who have now relocated from Guantanamo to the island nation. The government of Palau may accept some of the remaining 13 Uighurs, but discussions are ongoing. The United States has deemed them not to be a threat, but U.S. politicians are afraid to allow them to relocate to America.
The White House declined to comment on the Uighurs' accusation, and the Chinese regime did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment, but a May 2008 report by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice indicates that the U.S. did allow the Chinese delegation to interrogate the Uighurs. ABC News wrote about the report when it was released.
"Another FBI agent stated in his survey response that several Uighur detainees were subjected to sleep deprivation or disruption while being interrogated at Camp X-Ray by Chinese officials," the IG report reads.
In a footnote, the report goes on: "While the Uighurs were detained at Camp X-Ray, some Chinese officials visited GTMO and were granted access to these detainees for interrogation purposes. The agent stated that he understood that the treatment of the Uighur detainees was either carried out by the Chinese interrogators or was carried out by U.S. military personnel at the behest of the Chinese interrogators."
The FBI agent also reported that "...one Uighur detainee, Bahtiyar Mahnut (#277), claimed that the night before his interrogation by Chinese officials he was awakened at 15-minute intervals the entire night and into the next day. Mahnut also claimed he was exposed to low room temperatures for long periods of time and was deprived of at least one meal."
Elizabeth Gilson, the attorney for Mahnut, told the Huffington Post that the American guard's involvement in the Chinese interrogation was one of the most troubling parts.
"We know that it's true," she said. "It's one of the most shameful parts of this shameful episode. Not only did they allow the Chinese delegation to intimidate and scare these men to death, our American soldiers were told to soften them up for the interrogation."
Yet the Uighurs now in Bermuda say they feel no ill will toward the United States. Rather, they blame the Chinese for their detention.
"We don't blame United States for seven years spent in captivity, because the communist Chinese government is the main reason for this," said Manut. "Because of the Chinese communist government we left our homeland and we fled out of China and we ended up in Afghanistan."
Once captured, said Manut, he was well aware that he was unable to be sent to a third country because of diplomatic pressure being applied by the Chinese. "Because of the communist Chinese government no one accepted us, although the United States cleared our innocence a long time ago," he said. The United States State Department has been trying to relocate us to a third country for many, many years but the countries around the world, nobody had the guts to stand up against Chinese and no one wanted to break their business ties with China. No one was willing to give us a home, accept us, so United States couldn't find a country to relocate us. We know all these details, therefore, the seven years that we spent in Guantanamo, it's not because of the United States. That's why we don't have any ill feelings toward the United States."
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