MSNBC's Chris Hayes conducted a harrowing interview on his Saturday show with Lakhdar Boumediene, the former Guantanamo detainee
Boumediene was one of several Algerian men arrested in Bosnia over a plot to blow up the American embassy there. But the Supreme Court in Bosnia found that there was nothing tying the men to the plot and ordered their release. However, upon their release they were immediately captured by American forces and taken to Guantanamo. There, Boumediene would languish for seven years, never charged with any crime. He eventually sued the U.S. government and won a Supreme Court case, which stated that Guantanamo detainees had the right to habeas corpus and which led to his release.
Recently, Boumediene has been speaking out about his detention and torture at the hands of his American captors. In an op-ed for the New York Times last week, he wrote, "I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget."
Hayes spoke to Boumediene via satellite and through an Arabic translator; Boumediene now lives in the south of France with his family. Before the interview, he played footage of President Obama saying he was going to close the Guantanamo prison. He called the tape "very hard to watch right now," since the prison remains indefinitely open, and since Obama has expressed his support for detaining people without trial there.
Boumediene told Hayes that, when he was captured, he assumed it was all a mistake.
"I thought that America was a great country," he said. "That there was justice and freedom. And...that they would realize i am innocent and they would let me go home to my family. But it was totally to the contrary." He said he was told by one of his interrogators some years into his detention that his case was a purely political one that had nothing to do with terrorism.
Boumediene eventually went on a hunger strike inside the prison. He told Hayes that, though his captors knew that there was a permanent blockage in his left sinus, they would jam his feeding tube into that nostril "for five to ten minutes" until they hit bone.
He also discussed the toll his detention has taken on him, even after his release.
"I don't have anything," he said. "I lost all my life. I go and try to find a job. They ask me, between 2002 and 2009, what did you do? And this is where the shock is. The interviewer hears the word 'Guantanamo' and they freak out."
Boumediene said that the American government was an "arrogant" one. "Until this very moment, they don't want to admit they made a mistake," he said.