An Egyptian-born teacher imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the past 3 1/2 years recently convinced the U.S. military that he is not an enemy combatant, but rather what he said he was: a pro-democracy English teacher swept up when the military seized fighters and suspected terrorists from the battlefields of Afghanistan.
In newly declassified records of statements to his attorney, Sami Al-Laithi said that as a result of his detention at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, he is now confined to a wheelchair with two broken vertebrae. He said military personnel and interrogators stomped on his back, dropped him on the floor and repeatedly forced his neck forward soon after his arrival at the prison.
He said he has been denied an operation that could save him from permanent paralysis and is being held at Camp V, a maximum-security wing of isolation cells reserved for the most uncooperative and high-value inmates, while he awaits transfer
This is barbarism," Al-Laithi said of his treatment in the statement. "Why, even if I was guilty, would they do this?"
"I am in constant pain," he continued. "I would prefer to be buried alive than continue to receive the treatment I receive. At least I would suffer less and die."
Al-Laithi said he was teaching English and Arabic at Kabul University when American troops began bombing Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, and was picked up by the U.S. military in Pakistan while trying to flee the assault. Soon after he was transferred to the prison in Cuba.
It is not disputed that Al-Laithi walked into Guantanamo and now must use a wheelchair. What is in question is the reason. Al-Laithi traces his disability to a day soon after his arrival at the prison when he was beaten by U.S. military personnel while at the prison hospital.
"Once they stomped my back," Al-Laithi wrote. "An MP threw me on the floor, and they lifted me up and slammed me back down. A doctor said I have two broken vertebrae and I risk being paralyzed if the spinal cord is injured more."
Laithi said his neck is also permanently damaged because Emergency Response Force teams at the prison repeatedly forced his neck toward his knees. He said the military also forced a large object into his anus on what his lawyer called the "pretext" of doing a medical exam.
"I know most prisoners had Americans put their fingers up their anuses, but with me it was far worse -- they shoved some object up my rectum," he wrote. "It was very painful."