Rushan Abbas: Translator
Rushan Abbas: Translator
The four freed Guantanamo prisoners were tricked and sold to US forces for up to $10-000-a-head after fleeing their tiny village in the foothills of the Tora Bora mountains.

They were living as refugees in an abandoned village when the US began bombing the entire region in response to the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Translator Rushan Abbas - who knows their story better than anyone - said they fled across the border to Pakistan where they were taken in by local tribesmen who welcomed them to join their Ramadan feast.

But with the US air-dropping leaflets along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border offering rewards of up to $10,000 to anyone who turned over 'foreign fighters' to security forces, they were betrayed by their hosts and found themselves in US custody. It wasn't until they got to Guantanamo and were given access to a translator that they were able to tell their story.

Ms Abbas said this version of events had been accepted by U.S. authorities. She emphasized that though she has worked as a translator first for the interrogators and then for the Uighurs, she was not acting now as an advocate for them, simply telling parts of their story they did not have the language skills to communicate themselves.

In a PBS special report, aired last year, about four Uighurs arrested at the same time as the Bermuda quartet and released in Albania in 2006 John Kiriakou, a top CIA official in Pakistan after 9/11, explained the US' modus operandi in dealing with 'suspects' handed over to them in the wake of the Tora Bora bombings.

"If a Pakistani or Afghan villager comes up to you with a guy he has tied up and says, 'This is a terrorist; I caught him in my village,' what are you going to do? Maybe he is a terrorist."

Kiriakou says the only way to sort out the captives was to send them to Guantanamo.

"We viewed it as a place where you had the luxury of time. You had a staff of linguists, and you could spend quality time with each one of these prisoners, interviewing them and getting to the bottom of each one of these stories," he told the programme.

Despite this admission and the fact that the men were cleared for release years ago there are those who refuse to accept that anyone who has spent time in Gitmo could be completely innocent.

Internet reports - citing transcripts from tribunals held at Guantanamo - have suggested that at least one of the Bermuda foursome had admitted to receiving 'training' at a 'camp' in Afghanistan.

The reports on right wing US publication the Weekly Standard's internet blog, which selectively quoted limited experts from the tribunals, also suggest that some of the men had admitted their group was led by a man named Abdul Haq.

It went on to suggest that this was the same Mr Haq whom US intelligence had designated a terrorist leader with links to Al Qaeda.

Ms Abbas said there reports were extremely misleading. She said the excerpts (based on depositions taken when she was not working for either side) contained several mistranslations and misunderstandings, which had been taken out of context.

One quotation suggested that Khalil Manut had trained on an AK-47 rifle at a 'camp' in Afghanistan.

What he had actually said was that he fired an old rifle a couple of times while at a house in Afghanistan.

"Taking a shot on a rifle, is that training?" said Ms Abbas. After the Soviets left Afghanistan there were weapons everywhere - just like in the US.

"If somebody knows how to shoot a gun does that make them a terrorist? I used to have a gun in my house (in the U.S.) and I knew how to shoot it. Am I a terrorist?"

Bogus information

Another report posted on the same website and heavily quoted in the Mid-Ocean News alongside an interview with its author Thomas Joscelyn last Friday, reprinted transcripts of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals claiming they were admissions that the men had been trained by a terrorist named Abdul Haq.

The transcripts - presented by the site as incriminating evidence against the men - actually only include an admission that they knew a man called Abdul Haq who was a leader in their community.

"Saying you know someone called Abdul Haq is like saying you know someone called John," said Ms Abbas, who emphasized that few people used their real names at refugee camps anyway.

"This reference is just a mistake. There was one person who was taking care of the house where they stayed and his name was Abdul Haq. This is not the same person.

"If you know someone called John and then somebody else named John kills ten people does that make you an accomplice?"

She suggested the selected transcripts were a non-issue in the context of the bigger picture - that the men had been totally cleared of any involvement in international terrorism by the U.S years ago. Tellingly none of the mainstream media has picked up on the transcripts and most reports emphasise that the four were cleared by U.S. authorities.

Ms Abbas said the four men were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and everyone, including their U.S. interrogators, had accepted that years ago.