Guantanamo Bay prisoner 'tried to commit suicide a dozen times'

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The Independent US

A prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, held without charge for more than four years, has tried to kill himself a dozen times in an attempt to escape the misery and isolation of his incarceration. On one occasion he tried to take his life during a visit by his lawyer.

Jumah al-Dossari, 33, claims he has been repeatedly beaten and suffered intense psychological abuse during his years of incarceration at the US prison camp in Cuba. He says he has watched US guards abuse the Koran, that he has been sexually humiliated and regularly kept in isolation.

His 12 attempts to take his life - either by hanging, slitting his wrists or a combination of both - account for a third of all the suicide attempts by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay reported by the US authorities. The most recent was in March.

"The enormous horrors that my eyes have seen and continue to see, renew my anxiety and pain and my very being and feelings are shaken at the mere thought or flash of them in my memory," he wrote in a 20-page account given to his lawyer. "I have written these lines from behind the walls of the dreadful detention camps. I have written about my pain and my sadness. I do not know what will happen in the future and what fate has hidden for me, when the end will come or how it will be."

Mr Dossari's lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, has seen his client a handful of times. During a visit on 15 October last year, Mr Dossari tried to kill himself. "During our interview he asked for a toilet break," he said. "When I came back [into the cell area] he was hanging there with his arm cut."

Though Mr Dossari has not been charged, the authorities accuse of him of being a member of al-Qa'ida and say he was "present at Tora Bora" - an apparent reference to the military operation in late 2001 to capture Osama Bin Laden. He is also accused of travelling to Bosnia in 1995 "to participate in the jihad" in exchange for money and of attending a training camp in Afghanistan in 1989 "where he received instruction on the AK-47". He denies the allegations. Mr Colangelo-Bryan said his client was in Afghanistan in 2001 to monitor a mosque building project but that he was not present at Tora Bora. He added that his client had travelled to Bosnia to look for a wife and that he had attended a weekend training camp in Afghanistan as a 16-year-old on a trip sponsored by the Saudi authorities after the Russians had left.

Mr Dossari, who has joint Bahraini-Saudi Arabian citizenship and previously lived in Indiana, claims he was wrapped in the US and Israeli flags during one interrogation session and that an interrogator urinated on his copy of the Koran.

"They have violated us deep in our hearts, our dignity and our humanity ... This is what those who brag about civilisation, peace and the law do," he wrote.

A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regularly visits all prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and pays special attention to those who have tried to commit suicide. The ICRC will not comment on individuals.

A spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo said he could not comment on specific prisoners but said one detainee had tried to take his life on 11 March. Commander Robert Durand added that one prisoner accounted for 12 of the 39 suicide attempts at the prison since 2002. "Detainees at Guantanamo are treated humanely, and will continue to receive excellent medical care," he said.

The authorities have refused requests to transfer Mr Dossari from the maximum security Camp Five area of Guantanamo. They claim he is able to communicate with other prisoners through the feeding tray hole in his cell door and receives "daily interaction" with prison staff. It even claims he can "interact with one or more interrogators in various ways, including eating Western food such as hamburger and pizza".

Mr Dossari's case has been highlighted by Amnesty International.