U.S. News

Ex-Guantanamo detainee sues U.S. for damages

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Syrian man who was held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has sued Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former military officers, seeking compensation for alleged torture and inhumane treatment during his nine years of detention.

An inmate near his cell at the Camp Delta detention center for terrorism suspects at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Randall Mikkelsen

Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al Janko, 32, was released from the prison last October after winning a court challenge to his detention despite the U.S. government’s contention that he had been part of the al Qaeda militant group in Afghanistan.

Janko sued Gates and current and former officials under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He accuses them of being responsible for his torture, as well as violating the Geneva Conventions.

“The United States and its officials are responsible for the human rights violations he has suffered,” says the lawsuit made public on Thursday. He seeks unspecified damages and is now living abroad.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the agency was reviewing the lawsuit and will respond in court. Pentagon officials were not immediately available for comment.

Janko went to Afghanistan after a family fight while he was living in the United Arab Emirates in 1999, and he hoped humanitarian groups would help him get to Europe. He fell into the hands of the Taliban, who accused him of being a spy.

Janko was imprisoned and tortured by the Taliban in 2000 after he was forced to confess he was an American and Israeli spy, the lawsuit said.

He was initially freed after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

But in January 2002 U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller accused Janko of being tied to al Qaeda after a video of him was found. He was imprisoned briefly in Kandahar, Afghanistan, before being transferred to the Guantanamo prison.

There, Janko accuses various U.S. officials of orchestrating and overseeing his torture, from being urinated on to lengthy sleep deprivation, harsh interrogations and severe beatings. He tried to commit suicide 17 times, the lawsuit said.

Obama has been trying to close the Guantanamo prison since he took office in 2009, arguing that harsh interrogations and other activities there have been used to recruit anti-American militants.

However, the White House has run into fierce opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Congress, who argue it is the best place to house and prosecute terrorism suspects.

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, Editing by Xavier Briand