Chilling story of Saudi held at Guantanamo Bay

Ahmad Al-Darbi's family hopes his ordeal will come to an end soon so he can return to the Kingdom

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Ahmad Al-Darbi is a 39-year-old Saudi who has been in U.S. custody since 2002. Like many other Guantanamo Bay detainees, he has been subjected to torture and ill-treatment at the hands of military interrogators. But after more than a decade of confinement for crimes his family said he never committed, Al-Darbi’s family hopes his ordeal will come to an end soon so he can return to the Kingdom.

Arrested in Azerbaijan, Al-Darbi was taken to the notorious Bagram military detention facility in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s extraordinary renditions program.

At Bagram, Al-Darbi was placed under the control of Alpha Company of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion where he was tortured for months before being transferred to the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

Al-Darbi’s brother spoke with Al-Watan Arabic daily about his brother’s 13-year ordeal and how his family is holding out hope for his release and return to the Kingdom.

Al-Darbi was born in 1974 in Taif. His family eventually moved to Althibyah village in Jazan where he and his 10 brothers and sister spent a normal childhood. According to his brother, all 12 siblings attended government schools and had a normal upbringing.

Al-Darbi, who was popular among his friends, finished high school in Jazan and then joined the paratroopers for two years. Afterward, he left to find a civilian job and married a Yemeni woman from a reputable family that belonged to the Al-Hada tribe in Sanaa.

His marriage to his Yemeni wife would later prove to be costly because her brother, Khalid Al-Mihdhar, was one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which was flown into the Pentagon as part of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The couple has two children – a boy and girl – who, along with their mother, live with Al-Darbi’s father in Jazan.

According to Al-Darbi’s brother, his marriage to Al-Mihdhar’s sister made him an instant suspect in the eyes of American intelligence agencies.

“Al-Darbi did not commit any felony against the American authorities. He was in Dubai trying to set up his own company and went to Azerbaijan on business. After his arrest at the airport, he was sold to the American Army in Afghanistan,” he said.

Once at Bagram, Al-Darbi was tortured and nearly beaten to death. He was forced to watch interrogators tear the Quran and had to bear constant insults and threats.

One of his interrogators was Damien M. Corsetti, a soldier who, according to various media reports, was nicknamed the “Monster” and “King of Torture” by his fellow soldiers. When torturing Al-Darbi, Corsetti would threaten him with murder and rape.

“He killed another prisoner and Al-Darbi was a witness to the crime but no one ever questioned Al-Darbi regarding the incident except years later when all charges had been dropped,” said his brother.

The army eventually launched an investigation into abuse claims at Bagram and Corsetti was charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, assault and performing an indecent act with another person but was acquitted of all charges. In 2006, Corsetti was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army.

It was reported through Al-Darbi’s civilian lawyer and City University of New York associate professor, Ramzi Kassem, that Al-Darbi has tried to commit suicide on multiple occasions and remains in poor health. He also suffers from diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure. Medical care provided to prisoners is only sufficient to keep detainees alive.

“Perhaps the conditions at Guantanamo are much better now than the past but my brother is still deprived of many basic needs such as healthy nutrition and proper clothing. He misses his family a great deal though he does not express his discontentment very often,” he said.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Friday, June 20, 2014.

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