Difficult Re-Entry for Guantanamo Prisoner Learning to Walk without Chains

For well over four years, Murat Kurnaz lived in a small, brightly lit cell at Guantánamo. Now a free man, he has to re-learn how to deal with reality -- and how to walk without chains on his feet.


Murat Kurnaz arrived back home in Bremen on Friday morning.
DPA

Murat Kurnaz arrived back home in Bremen on Friday morning.

Murat Kunaz may now be home. But the ex-Guantanamo prisoner, who arrived in Germany last Thursday following more than four-and-a-half years in isolation, has a long way to go before he re-adjusts to reality. Indeed, having not been allowed out of his cell without his feet chained together, Kunaz even had to relearn how to walk normally, his defense attorney says.

Kurnaz, now 24, touched down at the United States military base at Ramstein on Thursday evening following lengthy negotiations between Washington and the German government to secure his release. His lawyer Bernhard Docke said Kurnaz would first have to re-learn how to cope with reality. Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen with German residency, had never seen euro notes before and was surprised to learn that mobile phones now have cameras built into them. From the air base, Docke said, Kurnaz drove with his family to Bremen where he lived prior to his arrest. On the way, Kurnaz asked for them to stop the car so he could look at the stars -- which, because of the bright lights at Guantanamo, he hadn't seen in well over four years.

Kurnaz, who became known as the "Bremen Taliban" following his arrest in Pakistan in 2001, said the bright, neon light in his cell hadn't been turned off during the entire time he was held at the camp, his lawyer said in a press conference after his arrival in Germany.

Even in the process of freeing Kurnaz from imprisonment, the US took no chances. Docke says his client was chained to the floor of an American transport plane and his eyes were covered during the flight. Fifteen American soldiers were on the flight with him.

"The Americans are incorrigible, they have not learned a thing," Docke said. "He was returned home in chains, humiliated and dishonoured to the very end by the Americans."

Defense Department officials told the Washington Post last week that they agreed to release Kurnaz only after receiving assurances from Germany that he would be treated humanely and that he would not pose a security threat. Documents declassified and reported on last year made it clear that both US military intelligence and German officials had concluded that Kurnaz had no ties to al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization. Kurnaz has said he was on a missionary trip in Pakistan and was originally arrested by Pakistani authorities because he was a foreigner.

cgh/spiegel/ap

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