A former Muslim military chaplain assigned to Guantanamo Bay has claimed in an interview that none of the detainees at the U.S. prison camp can be classified as terrorists.
“It’s safe to say there weren’t any prisoners who could be definitely connected to hardcore terrorism,” ex-U.S. Army Capt. James “Yousef” Yee said in a recent interview conducted in the U.K. with BBC radio.
The Pentagon last week announced it would seek the death penalty against at least six al-Qaida terrorist suspects currently held at Gitmo. It charges that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Waleed bin Attash conspired to murder almost 3,000 people in the 9/11 attacks.
Several other Gitmo detainees have been linked to al-Qaida in addition to the six, who face a military tribunal at a specially constructed court at the base in Cuba.
The majority of detainees held there were captured in Afghanistan after the
2001 U.S. invasion against the Taliban and al-Qaida. However, most are not Afghan nationals, but Saudis, Pakistanis and other foreigners who traveled to Afghanistan to wage violent jihad, a Pentagon spokesman says.
Still, Yee maintains there is a “misconception that Muslims are naturally inclined to violence.”
Yee, who left the Army after being charged with espionage, mishandling classified documents and lying to investigators, also claimed that Gitmo guards subjected Muslim prisoners to “abuse” and “psychological torture” by mishandling copies of the Quran that he made sure were distributed to them, along with other forms of alleged religious disrespect.
“Guards searched the cells and recklessly handled the Quran,” he complained.
Yee saw to it that every cell got a copy of the Quran, along with a surgical mask to cradle the Muslim holy book above ground and keep it safe and clean.
He also convinced his superiors to provide Muslim detainees with prayer caps, prayer oils, prayer beads and up to half a dozen books on Islam from the library, which he stocked with some $26,000 worth of Arabic and English titles.
Yee, who wore a crescent moon pin on his beret, called detainees to prayer five times a day.
In the BBC interview, he also contended that during prisoner interrogations, female military intelligence officers stripped naked and rubbed themselves on detainees, and even grabbed their genitals to rattle them. He said such advances by women are forbidden in Islam and offensive to Muslim men.
They were “stripping off their clothes, standing naked in front of these Muslim male prisoners,” he complained. “The women interrogators would inappropriately rub their bodies on these shackled prisoners.
“And female interrogators even went so far as grabbing the genitals of Muslim male prisoners during the course of interrogations,” he added.
Other times, he claims, interrogators forced detainees to bow down inside a circle with the symbol of a pentagram in the center, while shouting: “Satan is your god now, not Allah.”
Yee admits he didn’t see any of these incidents first-hand – having been far removed from the interrogation rooms and operations – but heard about them from the Muslim detainees he privately counseled.
He and a group of Arabic translators he worked with at Gitmo were accused of sympathizing with the enemy. In fact, two of his Muslim colleagues were convicted of stealing or mishandling classified Gitmo documents.
Yee was caught with classified Gitmo maps, among other things, according to FBI agents familiar with the espionage case. He was arrested at a U.S. airport and served time in a South Carolina stockade before the military dropped charges to protect national security.
Yee, who eventually left the Army with an honorable discharge, believes he was the target of “sheer bigotry” and was silenced for exposing “systemic”
abuse of prisoners at Gitmo.
“My being an American Muslim made it easy for them to target me,” said Yee, who wrote a book about his experience, “For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire.” He was recently in Europe promoting the book.
He says he’s still waiting for an apology from the Pentagon.
Even in the wake of the Gitmo spy ring, the Pentagon has not conducted an investigation of its Muslim chaplain corps, which was set up by convicted al-Qaida fundraiser and terrorist Abdurahman Alamoudi in the early 1990s.
The chaplains whom he sponsored have not been re-vetted since his 2004 sentencing.
“Alamoudi placed Muslim chaplains throughout our military. He is now in jail on charges of terrorism,” said U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., who co-chairs the House Anti-Terrorism/Jihad Caucus. “The chaplains, to my knowledge, are still in their current positions.”
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