THREE START HUNGER STRIKE TO PROTEST CONDITIONS

Detainees say Slovak camp is worse than Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO prisoners who were brought to Slovakia earlier this year have spoken out and what they said has shocked the Slovak public.

GUANTANAMO prisoners who were brought to Slovakia earlier this year have spoken out and what they said has shocked the Slovak public.

Branislav Tichý, the director of Amnesty International Slovensko (AIS) announced on June 24 that three detainees in Slovakia contacted his organisation and reported poor conditions and claimed they were mistreated by the Slovak authorities in their detention facility in Medveďov in Trnava Region. Through AIS, the three detainees announced they were going on a hunger strike to protest their conditions.

Tichý stated that the detainees are not allowed contact with anyone except for personnel in the facility and their lawyer. Tichý described their living conditions as poor – having only beds and a sink at their disposal and being allowed to leave their rooms for only an hour each day, the TASR newswire wrote.

The Interior Ministry’s Migration Bureau chief officer, Bernard Priecel, said to TASR in response to the claims that there was no reason for the hunger strike as the Slovak personnel are maintaining high security and re-integration standards. Priecel said that the detainees are receiving personal care which includes psychological treatment and lessons in Slovak, TASR reported.

Following the news coming from the detention camp, Slovak media managed to contact the detainees and disclosed their identity five months after their arrival in Slovakia.

The three men are Adil al-Gazzar from Egypt, Pooland Tsiradzo from Azerbaijan and Rafik al-Hami from Tunisia.

Al-Gazzar gave an interview to the Sme daily over the phone, in which he claimed all three men are held inside and guarded and are permitted to go outside only one hour a day. He called the conditions “a 100-percent prison”.

“Even in Guantanamo it was better,” al-Gazzar told Sme. “We could communicate with everyone, here we cannot.”

He said they are in contact with other Guantanamo detainees who were transferred to other countries such as Hungary who have said they are free to move about and have received proper accommodations and financial support. The three men in Slovakia are now being held in a detention camp and were told they would stay there for six months. Then they are to be transferred to Zvolen where they will spend another six months in a facility for asylum seekers.

“Now, I think the best way would be to leave Slovakia,” Sme quoted al-Gazzar. “We want our freedom, we are not criminals, and we are not here illegally.”

The Sme daily reported that the Slovak Interior Ministry refused to make further responses to the claims made by the three men and the ministry did not disclose its further plans for the three Guantanamo detainees.

According to Sme, al-Gazzar served as an officer in the Egyptian army until 1990 when he started working as an accountant. According to documents from US tribunals published by the New York Times, he was detained in December 2001 in Pakistan, where he was preaching Islam. He admitted he was in touch with people from the Pakistani terrorist organisation Lashkar e Tayyiba but denied the accusation that he was a member. He spent two days in that organisation’s Pakistani training camp. In November 2001 he crossed the border to Afghanistan to help the refugees fleeing from the war and was injured in an American attack and lost his personal documentation. There have been allegations that he might have been denounced as a terrorist to the US because US soldiers in Pakistan were reportedly paying Pakistanis for identifying terrorists.

Tsiradzo was the only Azerbaijani prisoner in Guantanamo. He served in his native country’s army for one and a half years and in 2000 he left to study Arabic language and the Quran in Afghanistan. He rejected the accusation that he did so in order to get in touch with the Taliban. He was detained in 2001 while he was guarding a food storage area with a Kalashnikov in his hand. He said he was not fighting against the US.

Al-Hami is the third Guantanamo detainee presently residing in Slovakia. From 1996 to 1999 he lived in Germany as a guest worker and then he used a false Italian passport to move to Pakistan where he attended religious school. He had admitted that he spent some time in a training camp and learned to use a Kalashnikov but later claimed he made the statements because he was tortured by American soldiers. He was detained in Iran in 2002.

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