A Saudi man (photo, from bbc.co.uk) suspected of involvement in the 11 September attacks has been tortured by US agents at Guantanamo Bay, has said Susan Crawford, the official overseeing trials at the camp.
She told the Washington Post newspaper that after being interrogated, Mohammad al-Qahtani had been left in a “life-threatening condition”.
She added that Mr Qahtani had been subjected to sustained periods of cold, isolation and sleep deprivation.
Though all charges against Mr Qahtani were dropped, he remains at Guantanamo.
He had been facing trial on counts of conspiracy, terrorism, and murder in violation of the laws of war.
‘Aggressive and too persistent’
In May 2008, officials gave no reason for halting the prosecution. But in her interview, Ms Crawford said that the decision had been taken because of the methods used by US agents.
“His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case”, she said.
Mr Qahtani had been interrogated for 18 to 20 hours a day almost continuously for eight weeks, said Ms Crawford, who was appointed convening authority for military commissions in February 2007.
“The techniques they used were all authorised, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent”, she said.
Ms Crawford added she was shocked, upset and embarrassed by the treatment he had received.
She said: “If we tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same techniques?
“How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it.”
Mr Qahtani was at various times forced to wear women’s clothes and was tied by a lead and forced to perform animal tricks, said a report by Amnesty International published last May.
The document also contained allegations that dogs had been used on two occasions to “terrorise” the detainee.
‘Too dangerous to release’
Mr Qahtani has been in detention at Guantanamo since 2002, after being picked up in Afghanistan.
The US authorities had accused him of intending to take part in the 11 September attacks. He was labelled the “20th hijacker”.
In August 2001, he had tried to travel to the US but had been refused entry.
Mr Qahtani remained a “very dangerous man”, said Ms Crawford, despite her decision to drop the prosecution.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he would have been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001”, she said.
Advisers to president-elect Barack Obama confirmed earlier this week that he would issue an order for the closure of Guantanamo Bay within days of taking office.
However, no decision has yet been announced regarding the future of Mr Qahtani and other inmates who are deemed too dangerous to release, but may be impossible to prosecute.