this is bbc news. we'll have the headlines and all the main news stories at the top of the hour as newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. it barely merits international headlines these days, but america's guantanamo bay prison is still operational. a0 inmates are left. most have been held for nearly two decades without being charged or tried. for m years, my guest today, mohamedou ould slahi, was held there, having been identified as a high—value
al-qaeda terrorist. he was eventually released without charge, and now a film, the mauritanian, has been released, telling his remarkable story. what is the guantanamo legacy? mohamedou ould slahi in nouakchott, mauritania, welcome to hardtalk. thank you very much, stephen, for having me on your programme, and i salute your audience. well, it is a pleasure to have
you on our programme. let's begin with how it feels to have a film made about your story and in a sense have your name become recognised around the world years after you were finally released from guantanamo bay, when perhaps your story should have been better known to the world, but almost nobody had heard your name at all. does it feel weird that your story is now the subject a film? i'm still trying to digest but in a positive way because this whole operation, you know, when i was kidnapped, was conducted in total darkness. no—one should know anything about this abduction, no—one should know anything about torture, no—one should know anything about disappearance and this rendition from senegal to mauritania, tojordan, to bagram, to guantanamo.
so i'm happy now that the world is knowing this, the story. in the course of this interview, we'll talk in detail about what happened to you in guantanamo. but actually, before we begin that, i just want to ask you today, as we see you sitting there in nouakchott, mauritania, do the memories of your 1a years and two months in guantanamo bay, do they still haunt you? are they still alive in your mind? because it is more than four years now since you were released. that is correct, stephen. so, more than 1a years in guantanamo bay and nine months outside guantanamo bay in dark prison, secret prison, so it's almost 15 years after 9/11. and of course, i still suffer.
when i was tortured, i was physically tortured and mentally abused for a very long time, and to this day, there are certain triggers that send me right away to the hospital and ijust become like, you know, very sick, and they take me to the hospital for several days, when one of these triggers come. this is not easy. i was tortured, like, my ribs were broken and i lost my gallbladder, that was kaput, and to this day i suffer from that. no western country accepts, including the uk, to receive me, for medical assistance. you use that word we became familiarwith, �*rendition�*, to describe the way you picked up and you were sent through third countries, eventually to jordan and then on to guantanamo bay where of
course you were incarcerated. that happened to you for a reason, mohamedou, it happened because the united states and its allies had intelligence that you were a member of al-qaeda and that you were an important figure in al-qaeda's international network, having contacts with other al-qaeda operatives, first in canada and also in germany, in berlin. there was evidence. can you confirm to me that going back to your late teenage years and early 20s, you were a sworn member of al-qaeda? so, this all started in late �*98 or early �*99 when i received a very harmless phone call from my cousin.
and it was just a family call. he wanted me to send some money to his father who was sick in nouakchott and they needed the money, and then he lived in sudan. and this was very mundane, the phone call was in the possession of united states of america, i presume, and there is nothing to it, except what i am telling you. however, there was a problem. this call was conducted from a phone that belonged to osama bin laden himself, he then lived in sudan, and my cousin was a friend of osama bin laden. and — so my — i have to mention that the united states found out that my cousin was not involved in the 9/11 attack. i'm not here to interrogate you, god forbid, you've had plenty of that in your life, but i just want our audience to be clear that there were some, let's be honest, some pretty extraordinary connections between you and men that you know became active
terrorists in al-qaeda. just to name one, ramzi bin al—shibh, you had connections, direct connections, to him in germany. these connections are real. how do you explain them? as to ramzi al—shibh, i don't know him. i saw him once, he came once to my house to visit a friend. those are all the connections. there is no connections whatsoever with any type of organised crimes because i don't want to use terrorism because i don't believe in these word because it's used to oppress politically descend in my part of the world, and it's abuse to collectively punish innocent people. if you say a murderer, everybody would understand and there are evidence, but if you say a terrorist, you can do everything you want with a person with no accountability whatsoever.
mohamedou, you were known as prisoner 760... yes! ..at guantanamo. you were subject to enhanced interrogation techniques which were signed off by the defence secretary donald rumsfeld himself. you've already used the word torture to me, what were the most difficult experiences you went through? so, one day, i remember it's around noon, but i don't think it's at noon. these middle—aged men by the name of richard zuley, lieutenant richard zuley, he called himself captain collins, came to me in my interrogation room and i was then interrogated by staff sergeant mary, the one you saw in the movie who was crying, and he told me that the united states of america decided to kidnap my
mother and put her in a men's only prison, insinuating that she would be raped. he said she would remain in that prison until i confess to my quote—unquote crimes. and at that point, i knew there was nothing left for me to lose because the last time i saw my mother is when those police, those cops, in plain clothes, came to my house and led me outside the house and i could see my mother in the rearview mirror praying, holding the prayer beads. and she disappeared as we turned to the right after about 200, 150 metres, and that's it, my mother disappeared. then i did not know she would disappear forever, but now i know she disappeared forever. she never got her day in court, she never got to defend her
son, she never got to clear the name of her son. so, and at that point, i wasn't doing well when they came to me. i went through, up to that point, 70 days of sleep depprivation, no sleep. and sexual assault, multiple times. i was being interrogated 2a—7. i'd been exposed to the cold room. i told them "i'm dying". i was pleading with them, trying to negotiate my way out of torture. what i didn't know, that some of my co—detainees died in the cold room. mohammed gul didn't get a chance to talk to stephen in hardtalk because he died, he succumbed in the cold room. they used these techniques against you, you've outlined some of them — we know it involved waterboarding, we know it involved beating,
we know it involved sleep deprivation, and as you've said, you've talked about sexual abuse as well, as well as the psychological torture involving threats to your mother. you cracked, mohamedou, in the end, you decided the way to stop this was to confess. are you now saying that everything you told investigators about your involvement with jihadists is was a complete fabrication? was a complete fabrication? no. i went to afghanistan, that was true. i went to afghanistan for a very brief period — like twice, two month, and then your country, the united kingdom, germany, where i live, and the united kingdom, were on my side. the first interrogator interrogated me in guantanamo bay, he told me "i was with you in afghanistan" bay, he told me, "i was with you in afghanistan" and he completely, he knows
that this was all supported by the united states of america. it's not like i went with a fake passport, trying to cross border, i went to the embassy of the mujahideen in bonn, and i got a visa from the mujahideen, a recognised organisation from germany. and it was not like that, i prayed in mosques in germany and that i know other muslims. this was a concerted war against young arabs and muslims from around the world. no, i have no doubt about it. and it's very shameful that the countries who committed most abuses are arabs in muslim countries, in this so—called war on terror. i'm not cutting them any slack, by the way. i want to stick with this idea of what happened in your head after this, as you put it, this torture over many, many months.
you made a confession, but you also betrayed other individuals. you implicated others and ijust wonder how guilty you feel about what you did at that point when you talked of others and their involvement. very, very, ifeel very bad about it. and stephen, i tell you, i think this was karma because when they came to me and they told me, the interrogator, the fbi, told me that ramzi al—shibh testified that i helped him go to afghanistan and i don't know the guy let alone helping him, and i was like so upset and i was so upset with him, i said how could he, how could they lie about it? and other detainees, they told me, "mohamedou, you are crazy." this guy was tortured so badly, we couldn't sleep hearing him
crying all night long and after a couple of months, i was in the same situation, and everyone there asked me about, i would say he's a terrorist, he's al-qaeda, and then i know exactly the kind of people they want me to name, and ijust named my friends, my closest friends. and the first thing i do when i met my lawyer, itold her, i named mohsin and i named ahmed, and he have nothing to do with anything. and i didn't plan to... the first thing i told her to go to their lawyers if they were in prison, but i'm so happy they are free people and my friend, i contacted, he never even went to prison, because everybody knows that this is under torture. by 2010, the case against you was falling apart,
a usjudge ruled that the, as he put it, coercive treatment inflicted upon you undermined the possibility of trial — the evidence, quote, "so tainted by coersion "and mistreatment, it cannot support a successful "criminal prosecution". that was in 2010, but you weren't actually released until the autumn of 2016, and i'm just wondering, by the time you finally got out, were you almost scared of the outside world? you had been habituated to guantanamo for so long, what was it like considering contemplating your own freedom? it's like if someone comes to you today and tells you that you're going to mars, another planet, and i remember vividly one of the captains, a female captain came to me and stuck her head through the bin hole —
that iss where they give us food — and she was smiling that is where they give us food — and she was smiling the most beautiful smile and said "760, you know that you're going home". ijust want to make a comment about thejudge decision to release me. so, i was intimidated and threatened not to go to court and they told me that even if i went to court they would not let me go. this is complete disrespect to the rule of law because guantanamo was designed to circumvent the law, because the country, the executive power, should not be able to arrest people and put them in a prison and sentence them without proper procedure. that's all i am saying, all i am saying is this. did you...mohamedou... crosstalk. these exceptions that africans
and middle eastern people are an exception to human rights and thus only europeans and americans are the ones to enjoy human rights, is fascism, actually. every human beings should enjoy full human rights, full access to a lawyer, to a judge and to proper procedure. that's all i am calling for, and i'm a testimony that the suspicion of the government are not enough to convict someone because i was 100% innocent. mohamedou, given this story of yours, on what has happened to you, how much anger and desire for some sort of revenge do you have in your heart and soul today? absolutely none whatsoever. when i spent eight months in the prison of darkness injordan, the cia came to me.
of course, i didn't know then it was the cia. they started to cut open my clothes with scissors. this was the first time i feel something like that. i was blindfolded and i was earmuffed, and they put me in diapers. and then it dawned on me, i will go to an american prison and die forgotten. what i regretted was not being nice enough to the people around me. i regretted every bad word, every bad comment i made about people, and i promised and took it upon myself to be nice if i had a chance to go back to life. i didn't regret that i didn't have a lot of money or didn't marry this beautiful women, et cetera — all that mattered to me at that moment is to be nice to people and this is it,
this is what's going to happen when i am about to die. that's why i forgive everybody and everyone and i'm not asking anything, and i invited them to come to me and visit me and to show them around, and some of them indeed accepted my invitation, like my former guard, steve wood who came to me twice, i took him steve wood, who came to me twice, i took him into the desert, he stayed with me at home, we drank tea together, we did some of ramadan, et cetera. it would be hypocritical, stephen, for me to call for human rights, for the rule of law, for reconciliation and not to begin with myself and forgive those who visited pain upon me. some people around the world may be amazed to learn that you actually in the last few years have married an american woman and you have a son who, of course, is therefore both mauritanian and american.
that is a pretty extraordinary thing that you have done, given your experience of the united states of america. when people tell me that, isaid, of course, i need to marry an american because i need the witness next time they kidnap me. butjoke aside, we are human beings. dividing us between muslims, christian, westerner, african, middle eastern, i don't accept it. i am multiple identity. you know? i'm notjust like an african oran arab or muslim. i'm also open—minded, liberal—minded person and i have so many shared values with american and in all, i love american people. i think american people are decent people by and large. and i have no beef with americans. let me ask you this than. you, in the course of our conversation have said,
"yes, i went to afghanistan, i believed in the concept ofjihad." tell me today what is your attitude to your religion and to those within your religion who still espouse this extreme jihadist ideology. so, of course, i completely condemn extremism, whether it's coming from muslims, jewish people, hindu people. i don't do extremism in any shape or form. today i want the whole of law and democracy for all, all human beings, including in mauritania, starting from mauritania, i would say. when i was a teenager, i lived in a military dictatorship, you know, where people couldn't talk. we couldn't even talk — if you talk, you go to prison, you risked your freedom. and i didn't know
how to break free. and there was so much propaganda about the way that afghanis had taken up arms and risen up against the regime, the communist regime, and i was infatuated about the idea. absolutely. and i don't regret that, at all. i say this. but today i am a mature man and i know that violence is not the way. i believe in peaceful revolutions, in peaceful change. and at the same time, i think that people who espouse extremist ideology have a place in open society and they should express themselves and they should not be put in prison because because they say they want sharia law, or anything. you can only put people in prison if they commit violence. we're almost out of time. one last question about the future of guantanamo bay. you and other former inmates have written to presidentjoe biden asking him to close guantanamo bay,
it was a promise made by barack 0bama but he couldn't deliver. you want biden to deliver the complete closure of guantanamo, but what then should happen to inmates like khalid sheikh mohammed who the americans are, absolutely convinced based on, they say, overwhelming evidence he, they say, was a key architect of the 9/11 attack and other attacks as well? if you want guantanamo closed, what should happen to people like khalid sheikh mohammed? this is a very good question. first, guantanamo bay must be closed and i do believe that president biden will close guantanamo bay because i believe in him. i thinkjoe biden is a good guy. people who are poeople like khalid sheikh mohammed and anyone who the government thinks were involved in this atrocious attacks must
be brought to trial. an open trial with proper defence. and it is up to the judge and jury to convict them, not up to me or stephen or the cia or fbi. mohamedou 0uld salahi, i thank you very much indeed forjoining me from nouakchott, mauritania. thank you. thank you, stephen, for having me. hello there. this upcoming week is
looking pretty changeable. we've started off with a bit of sunshine around and some warmth. today, though, it looks decidedly wet for parts of england and wales in particular. and midweek, a ridge of high pressure will settle things down, we should see some good spells of sunshine before more rain arrives for friday and a new low pressure moves in off the atlantic. now we've got a complicated area of weather fronts moving northward across the country — this first one bringing light and patch year rain across parts of scotland in northern england, but it's this batch of rain across parts of central, southern, and eastern england which will be quite heavy with some localised floating in places, maybe some rumbles of thunder as it continues to journey its way north eastwards. but i think we should start to see skies brightening up in northern ireland, wales, southwest, but the sunshine comes out and could set off a few heavy showers. disappointing temperatures where we have the cloud and the rain, otherwise highs of around 19 or 20 degrees in the warmest spots. that rain eventually clears away into the north sea. could see a few showers, though, clinging back across eastern england,
and we'll see this very weak weather front pushed into the northwest of scotland to bring some patchy rain. but elsewhere, mainly dry, temperatures just into single figures under clear skies. 0therwise, relatively mild where we hold onto the cloud. so, for wednesday and indeed, for thursday here, we have this ridge of high pressure building in, which is going to settle things down. there could be quite a bit of mist and fog, low cloud to start the mornings, but into the afternoons, i think there'll be plenty of sunshine around. i think wednesday looks like being the mistiest, murkiest to start to the day. still a few showers across eastern england thanks to that area of low pressure, and a chance of some showers pushing to western scotland and northern ireland. otherwise for most, it should be dry where we get the sunshine breaking through, highs of around 20—21 degrees. otherwise, the high teens for most. thursday, again, a bit of early mist and fog, and then it promises to be a largely dry day — i think thursday looking like being the driest and sunniest day of the week. but we'll start to see wind increasing with outbreaks of rain across the far northwest of the country later on. top temperatures, though, 22, maybe 23 degrees. more change, though, for friday.
a new area of low pressure sweeps in off the atlantic. it'll bring a band of rain, some of it heavy, into western areas. it'll tend to weaken as it pushes eastwards, and behind it, we'll see sunshine and showers following. those temperatures a little bit lower on friday than thursday because there'll be more of the breeze, more cloud and outbreaks of rain.
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