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Former Guantanamo Detainee Details Treatment

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

There are new calls to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the suicides of three detainees over the weekend. Two Saudis and a prisoner from Yemen were found hanging from clothes and bedsheets in their cells.

They were the first prisoners to die at Guantanamo since the U.S. began sending al-Qaida and Taliban suspects there four years ago. News reports today say that one of the men was about to be released but he didn't know it.

Ruhal Ahmed was detained at Guantanamo Bay for two years without charges. He and two other men are featured in a new British film -- it's to be released here later this month -- called The Road to Guantanamo.

The three, they're called the Tipton Three, were reportedly detained on their way to a wedding in Pakistan from Birmingham, England. And welcome to the program, Mr. Ahmed.

Mr. RUHAL AHMED (Former Guantanamo Detainee): Thank you.

BRAND: You heard the news over the weekend. What was your reaction?

Mr. AHMED: Well, it's affected me because I knew two of the detainees very closely, because I spent a long time with them from day one. So it has affected me. It's a very sad, sad story, really.

BRAND: Tell us about the two that you knew.

Mr. AHMED: I knew one of them. His name is Yasser from Saudi Arabia. And...

BRAND: And what was he like? Was he...

Mr. AHMED: He was just a young, young, young man. He was, at the time, I think he was about 17, maybe 18. So he was just like another Saudi Arabian young individual, you know, jolly and happy.

I met him a few times in Guantanamo. He became a cell mate for about two, three weeks. And he wasn't suicidal. And from what I can recall, that he was, you know, he had problems eating the food in Guantanamo.

He would repeatedly - every time he would eat his breakfast or lunch or dinner, he was always vomit it up. He lost a lot of weight during his stay in Guantanamo.

BRAND: Now, the U.S. is saying that these were coordinated suicides and they were part of a public relations effort by the detainees. I think the quote was, This was an act of asymmetrical warfare on the part of the three men. What do you think?

Mr. AHMED: It's only the American government that can turn such a tragic indicent into such ridiculous - you know, by saying that it's a jihadi code of conduct. It's just absolutely insane.

You know, instead of saying, you know, these people who committed suicide, you know, it's sad and they should be sent back to their family, but instead of that, they're saying, no, there was terrorism, you know, it's just - there are no words, I don't know what to say.

BRAND: Well, what is it like in there, not knowing if you'll be released and what your future holds?

Mr. AHMED: Well, when I was held in Guantanamo Bay for two and a half years, that was always in my mind to commit suicide because it is the easiest option out.

BRAND: It was always in your mind to commit suicide?

Mr. AHMED: Of course, because, you know - it's not like going to normal prison. A normal prison is like you'd be told exactly how long you were going to be spending in the prison. And you know, you get your rights. You get to write letters. You get to make telephone calls, etc.

But in Guantanamo, there is no such thing. Now, you were just indefinitely detained without any valid explanation why you were held in Guantanamo.

Also, every time you - and in a normal prison you - if you get sent to a normal prison, you're guilty. But these men are being held without any, any fault. So it is easiest way out to commit suicide. I mean, we thought about it, I thought about it. It's nothing surprising, really.

BRAND: And now you're showing the United States for $10 million.

Mr. AHMED: That's right.

BRAND: Why?

Mr. AHMED: Well, it's two and a half years of my life I've lost. You know, I lost two and a half years of my life for no apparent reason, really. You know, I was imprisoned in Guantanamo and in Kandahar without any valid reason. I was released without charges after two and a half years.

And the detainees who committed the suicides, they just lost their entire life.

BRAND: Well, thank you very much for speaking with us, Mr. Ahmed.

Mr. AHMED: Thank you.

BRAND: Ruhal Ahmed was in Guantanamo Bay for two years. He's featured in the upcoming film Road to Guantanamo, and he joined us from his home near Birmingham, England. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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