Sunday, June 05, 2005

NYT: "even American documents indicated that much of the evidence on Mr. Kurnaz actually seemed ... to exonerate him" (Richard Bernstein)

We're highlighting only one article in this entry because it's an important one (Lynda, Eli, Rob, Kara, Maria, Susan, Zach and Ben all e-mailed on it). From Richard Bernstein's "One Muslim's Odyssey to Guantanamo" in this morning's New York Times:

About two months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, the Pakistani police picked up Murat Kurnaz, a 19-year-old Muslim from Germany who was traveling by bus near the city of Peshawar.
The police turned Mr. Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen born in Germany, over to the American military in Pakistan, who in turn transferred him to Afghanistan, and he was held as a terrorist suspect.
[. . .]
Though no link to Mr. Atta was ever found, Mr. Kurnaz was sent to the American prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he has been held for about three years now as an enemy combatant, specifically accused of being a member or ally of Al Qaeda or its terrorist network. The evidence against him is that, while he was traveling in Pakistan, he was the guest of a militant Islamic group said to have supported terrorist acts against the United States.
In addition, Mr. Kurnaz was known to have intended to travel to Pakistan with a close friend, Selcuk Bilgin, another Turkish citizen from Bremen. And Mr. Bilgin, according to an American military tribunal's findings on Mr. Kurnaz, later carried out a suicide bombing.
But in recent months, as details of the charges against Mr. Kurnaz have come to be known, German officials here in Bremen who have investigated both Mr. Kurnaz and Mr. Bilgin have reacted to the American conclusions about Mr. Kurnaz with astonished incredulity.
The most striking element in the picture is that, contrary to the American assumption about Mr. Bilgin having carried out a suicide bombing, the Germans say that claim is demonstrably false.
"He lives here," Uwe Picard, the Bremen criminal prosecutor who carried out the German investigation into Mr. Bilgin, said in an interview in his office here. "He is still alive."
Moreover, even American documents indicated that much of the evidence on Mr. Kurnaz actually seemed more to exonerate him than to incriminate him. The decision of the three-member Guantanamo tribunal that found Mr. Kurnaz to be an enemy combatant last September refers to classified material in his file and indicates that that is where the reputed links to Al Qaeda would be documented.

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