Bagram prisoners ‘moved around in wheelchairs with goggles and headphones on’
The US military is operating a “secret jail” at an Afghan airbase where prisoners are deprived of sleep and “made to dance” by US troops whenever they want to use the toilet, a BBC report states.
The BBC interviewed nine people who say they were held at the facility, known as the “black hole,” at the site of the Bagram air base. The prison appears to be separate from the main Bagram prison, which the US established after the 2001 invasion and which continues to be the target of human rights complaints.
A man identified only as “Mirwais” who says he spent 24 days at the facility told the BBC that prisoners are routinely subjected to sleep deprivation.
“I could not sleep, nobody could sleep because there was a machine that was making noise,” said Mirwais. “There was a small camera in my cell, and if you were sleeping they’d come in and disturb you.”
“Mirwais said he was made to dance to music by American soldiers every time he wanted to use the toilet,” the BBC reports.
Witnesses said the lights were kept on in their cells at all times; that the Red Cross had no access to the facility; and most had been beaten by US troops before they were brought there. The BBC report does not address under what circumstances the witnesses found themselves there, or whether any of them were insurgents.
This is not the first time that allegations have been made of a secret facility at Bagram. Last November, Raw Story reported on claims of a secret site at Bagram that was still in operation as of late last year, apparently in contravention of President Obama’s order, upon taking office, to shut down the CIA’s “black sites” around the world.
Three people claiming to be former inmates of the facility told the New York Times “of being held for months after the intensive interrogations were over without being told why. One detainee said he remained at the Bagram prison complex for two years and four months; another was held for 10 months total.”
The secret site appears to be separate from the main prison facility at Bagram, which itself has been the target of complaints from human rights activists. Unlike the Guantanamo Bay facility, prisoners at Bagram aren’t given access to lawyers.
“To this date, no prisoner has ever seen a lawyer in Bagram,” lawyer Tina Foster told the BBC.
The news organization was given a rare peek inside the main Bagram prison complex, a new facility that replaced an aging one earlier this year:
In the new jail, prisoners were being moved around in wheelchairs with goggles and headphones on. The goggles were blacked out, and the purpose of the headphones was to block out all sound. Each prisoner was handcuffed and had their legs shackled.
Prisoners are kept in 56 cells, which the prisoners refer to as “cages”. The front of the cells are made of mesh, the ceiling is clear, and the other three walls are solid. Guards can see down into the cells above.
The BBC was told by the military to wear protective eye glasses whilst walking past the mesh cells as prisoners sometimes throw excrement or semen at the guards.
Faced with a lawsuit from the ACLU, the US military earlier this year released a long-secret list of prisoners at Bagram. The list showed some 645 prisoners being held at the facility, but the BBC now reports that number to be closer to 800, thanks to an increase in prisoner intake likely linked to the increased military effort in Afghanistan in recent months.
“The US military itself has admitted that about 80% of those at Bagram are probably not hardened terrorists,” the BBC reports.
In March, the Times of London reported that the Bagram facility could be expanded and used as a replacement for the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The idea is “being considered as US officials try to find an alternative to GuantÃƒÂ¡namo Bay,” the Times said.
Last year, former CBS anchorman Dan Rather said “there is a school of thought” that Bagram is already replacing Guantanamo as the site where terrorist suspects from around the world are to be held.
“Some of the contentions that were made about Guantanamo are starting to be made about Bagram,” Rather told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “The critical thing is, there is no transparency.Ã¢â‚¬Â