Detainee 053

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Murat Kurnaz, after his release.

Murat Kurnaz, after his release. Source: Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Source: Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images

Murat Kurnaz's story, told in Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo, is pretty remarkable. In 2001, just after Sept. 11, he was arrested in Pakistan. (Kurnaz claims he was traveling to the country on a religious pilgrimage.) After his arrest, Kurnaz was taken to a military base in Afghanistan, where he claims he was tortured, then to Cuba, where he was held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Kunraz stayed there until 2006, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President Bush to release Kurnaz, who was born in Germany.

In the second hour of the program today, we'll talk to Kurnaz, about his time in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, during which he struggled to figure out why he was imprisoned, what rights he had, and when he might be released. If you have questions for him, leave them here.

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During your prison time in a US Military Base in Afghanistan, did you have any contacts with any Afghans? What do you remember about Afghanistan?

Can you give us the details of the kinds of tortures inflicted upon you?

Sent by HS | 3:00 PM | 4-9-2008

I have been listening to Murnat's story and I would like to know if his treatment, and that of all the innocents at uantanamo,falls into the category of war crimes and if so if he intends to bring
charges against the US government. If he were my son I would certainly pursue this avenue.

Sent by Colleen Freidberg | 3:25 PM | 4-9-2008

Mr. Kurnaz's story teaches a fateful lesson which we should all heed with profound concern: government run amok, supported by irrational fear can create the most odious of injustices. As Americans, it is our responsibility to hold our government to its constitutional limits. Guantanamo Bay itself is unconstitutional, let alone the savage human rights abuses which have occurred there. Authorities who have approved/executed these actions should stand trial, it's as simple as that.

Sent by Nick from St. Louis | 3:32 PM | 4-9-2008

Hi Neal,

I am very sorry to hear this story today if it is true. Trouble is, I don't believe it. My husband served in the military and we have wonderful friends and family in the military and we even have had a medal of honor recipient in the fam. If this is true, I am sorry. But I have all the compassion in the world for those working with the prisoners. We are fighting a heinous war and the enemy is bloodthirsty and does all kinds of gross things like beheading with dull blades. Why is it that almost every time I turn my radio to your shows, you are knocking our wonderful country? If we are so bad, why don't you all at our indicting public radio organization find other places to live? I am tired of hearing you constantly slam the United States. Truth is, would you or I fight in this war on the front lines? My guess is we both would be too wimpy. We are the baby boomer spoiled ones. There, I have been meaning to voice my complaints to you for months. I'm just as much at fault as I don't speak up very much for fear of how folks would view me. I love the US and we don wonderful things around the world and I'm tired of the constant negativity. Would you please find some positive stories to speak on on your show like how many soldiers are a comfort overseas??????????????? The only NPR program I find credible anymore is Car Talk. Praying for you all to see the privilege of calling yourselves Americans.
Sadly,
Donna Largent

Sent by Donna Largent | 3:40 PM | 4-9-2008

The emphasis on the practice of water boarding may well be overstated. The real issue, as revealed by this unfortunate detainee, is that other, perhaps far more damaging, torture methods have been used by on a regular basis by our government. The essential question is, besides water board torture, what other torture methods has our government been using. Mr Kurnaz clearly indicates that electro shock was used and that some prisoners have died. As vile as water boarding is, other torture methods are far worse and frequently result in death.

As for the State Department's denial of his treatment, I can find no reason to believe this government. Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice and you cannot be trusted. This government is simply a tissue of lies and self serving deception.

Sent by Tim | 3:42 PM | 4-9-2008

Mr. Kurnez,

As a human being, my tears flow at the atrocities committed against you. As an citizen of the USA, I deeply
apologise to you. What is most important is that I am now informed of the truth of what is occurring in Guantanamo. I am humbled by your great courage.

Please travel throughout the USA and tell all of my ignorant fellow citizens the truth. Peace and faith organizaatiions, etc. will support such an endeavor. I personally, will assist in contacting them.

Let us know whatever we can do to expose this truth and get the prison closed.

Sincerely,
Kathryn Scott

Sent by Kathryn Scott | 3:47 PM | 4-9-2008

First let me say if your story is true and you were wrongly imprisoned for five years, I am truly sorry.

I would like to know, however, how many of those being held are anti-American combatants? And if released, how many of them would continue with anti-American violence?

Second, your imprisonment was the result of an action. What actions do you see as responsible? Were you in the company of people who were anti-American combatants and arrested because of "guilt by association"? Or do you have to keep backing up events until you can say, "Had no one attached the United States on 9/11, I would not have eventually been jailed."?

Sent by Bill Groover | 3:48 PM | 4-9-2008

This guy is full of @%#*, and it is shameful that you would perpetuate his ridiculous fantasy! It is harmful to the perception of America abroad--yes stories like this destroy our image not PRESIDENT Bush. You are so eager to to defend his story, because you revel in the notion that the United States Military under the Bush Administration is Criminal, Ha! I laugh. You are all so transparent in your bias. I used to be a Democrat, but it is this kind of consistent delusional obsession with the Bush Administration, and the intellectual dishonesty within your politics that have driven me to become an Independent Conservative. America is still a great country, and the best advocate of compassion and human rights in the world--whether you would admit it, or not. You sir, and your colleagues at Talk of the Nation, disgust me.

-God Bless America

Sent by Mark, The "Evil" Conservative, (Eeeeeeew a conservative?) -Yes, I said CONSERVATIVE!!! | 3:57 PM | 4-9-2008

I cannot believe the stupidity and ignorance of the caller who didn't believe this man. If he is not telling the truth, why would he want to take on the U.S. government in this way? Why not just go to Iraq and blow himself up in front of a group of U.S. soldiers? The strength and courage of this man is astounding. It would have been so easy for him to conclude that all Americans are bigoted, violent individuals; yet he acknowledges that there are many good people in the U.S. I hope he finds solace somehow. Hearing what happened to him makes me ashamed to be a citizen of the U.S.

Sent by Meghan | 4:18 PM | 4-9-2008

This whole thing sounds like James Frey in Guantanamo Bay. We are so jaded these days by bogus information that our hoax feelers are on guard. As I listened to this on the radio I had the feeling that it was like "Borat" telling his story with a great deal of embellished detail. This is such an important issue, and needs examination, I just wish is all sounded more credible. The U.S. Government, Mr. Kurnez, the media--everyone spins to suit their own agenda. The truth is a commodity for sale.

Sent by Cara | 5:50 PM | 4-9-2008

The contributor who believes that the transmission of a valid (and important) news item is "is harmful to the perception of America abroad" may have missed the point. As someone from abroad I am confident that his particular disposition towards the possibility of misbehaviour by his government is FAR more likely to harm perceptions abroad. Not least because it seems likely to confirm that the necessary conditions for sustaining improper behaviour are well established.

We Europeans, who appear to many of you to be hopelessly incapable of decisive action, are perhaps a bit more conscious of the consequences of excessive zeal, whether it be driven by fear, strong passions, ideology, or whatever. Our caution comes from concern at the dangers of inhumane and grossly improper behaviour in such circumstances, not least because of the horrific experience of WWII, but also because of repeated subsequent examples of dreadful behaviour by those who would rationalise bad behaviour because they have right on their side.

I cannot tell if this man's story is true (though it rings true), but it surely would be most unwise to discount such a story simply on the basis of a belief that Americans, or their military, or their government, would never do such things? That is a level of complacency to which the citizens of the most powerful nation on earth are not entitled. Citizens of all countries should insist on holding their government accountable. If there are no wrongs to be found then nobody has anything to fear from doing so.

Sent by Alan | 6:12 PM | 4-9-2008

This has nothing to do with Republicans and Democrats. What makes you folks think that the United States is so infallible, while our enemies are evil doers and infidels? How long ago did we treat African Americans as a lesser race? Americans treated slaves and African Americans, Japanese, etc. as lesser beings. We do it today with Mexicans and other minorities, including Arabs.

What makes you think these types atrocities and worse aren't committed by Americans everyday? Patriotism is one thing, ignorant blindness is quite another.

Sent by Rune | 7:37 PM | 4-9-2008

John McCain knows the names of fellow prisoners and what happened to them in N. Vietnam, but this man doesn't know the names of anyone he was in prison with. His story sounds funny to me. Didn't any one at NPR check his story ?
The only truth he said is that he is a Turkish Muslim from W. Germany who spent time in Pakistan. Sounds fishy to me!

Sent by Steve G | 8:34 PM | 4-9-2008

Of course the German government didn't want him back. Because he is not a German citizen, he is Turk. Like he would receive nicer or gentler treatment from the Turkish Government.

Sent by feldspar | 12:17 AM | 4-10-2008

To Donna (Post 4): Which do you think is more unAmerican: voicing criticism or telling critics to leave the country? I'd say it's the latter, by far. Secondly, though I may be mistaken, and I certainly hope I am, I'm reading a dangerous level of "As long as we're better than them, we're still good" in your post. So what if our enemy "beheads people with dull knives"? That doesn't give us ANY excuse to relax our standards one bit, unless you'd like to see a race to the bottom.

Sent by Jake | 12:20 AM | 4-10-2008

As a german with a turkish origin i really wonder why Murat Kurnaz needed to go to Pakistan to learn Islam instead of learning it in Turkey?

Sent by Mahmut | 4:40 AM | 4-10-2008

Simply put, the President, the Sec. Def., the V.P. and others, have lied continuously and provably about the reasons for this war. This administration has provably mis-handled and then lied about spying upon the American people. The Department of Defense continues to hold innocent people without benefit of habeas corpus.
Considering these points and the other war crimes committed by those in power, why would I, an American citizen, believe ANYTHING this administration says or prints?
I don't.

Sent by Petra | 5:53 AM | 4-10-2008

I agree to some extent with you Meghan, the task he undertook was tremendous and courageous. I am a wife of a military officer and what they do at work and home is very different we cannot judge military personnel on what they are commanded to do by a superior. If the ignorant caller listened carefully to how Mr. Kurnaz answered the previous caller's question he would hear him repeating the question to get a better understanding of the name he was inquiring about. During the segment the host repeated questions from callers to Mr. Kurnaz. How is he suppose to remember every Mohammed he meets in prison? He was only concerned about his survival. I am proud to be an American but we as citizens expect too much of our country, she is still young and flawed. We have to open our eyes to the reality that although America is good country we have made some terrible decisions some that may never be made right.

Sent by Anita | 11:53 AM | 4-10-2008

I am appalled that you would present Mr. Kurnaz's book without independent corroboration. I enjoy nearly all of "Talk of the Nation" because of your depth and quality of coverage, including using multiple sources and opinions offered on your subjects. However, Mr. Kurnaz's claims do not pass the "smell" test for me. In my opinion, you would have been better served to have at least tried to find corroboration for his claims.

I am even more appalled by callers who would accept that U.S. service persons would physically abuse a prisoner, especially under the microscope of Guantanamo. These would likely be the same folks who spit on me in JFK Airport and called me "baby killer" just because I was wearing the uniform of this county. I'm glad that we have the right to free speech and to an open press. But...we also have the duty to seek out and tell the truth.

Please keep up your good work. Leave "Borat" to the movie makers.

Sent by Bill Adams | 10:38 PM | 4-10-2008

This is pretty clear cut, I think. Agents of our government picked up a man in a foreign country, took him to
Guantanamo and detained him without trial for years. These are facts that no one can deny. Whatever else went on can be disputed but not the above facts which show that our government is out of control and involved in criminal behavior.

Sent by Moi | 5:20 PM | 4-12-2008