The case of Murat Kurnaz has deepened as the former Guantánamo detainee testifies to a parliamentary committee investigating his alleged mistreatment at the hands of German soldiers.
Kurnaz made new allegations Wednesday of torture and human-rights abuses in the US coalition's jail in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he was held in 2001 and 2002. Members of the German parliament who heard his testimony said they were shaken by the Turkish citizen's claims, although his account has not been verified.
He said Wednesday that he had been suspended for several days in chains while in Kandahar and inspected by a doctor only for his "fitness to be tortured." He claimed a German-speaking interrogator gained regular access to him in both prisons dressed as a Red Cross worker, and that other prisoners in Kandahar were exposed -- either naked or in thin clothes -- to extreme cold.
Parliamentary members reported Kurnaz's claims to the German press on Wednesday. Elke Hoff, a member of the business-friendly FDP (Free Democrats) party, said Kurnaz's story was believable, and wanted to call witnesses from the Red Cross to learn whether one of the group's members -- or just one of its uniforms -- had been used to help interrogate Kurnaz.
Left Party member Paul Schäfer said Kurnaz's testimony had bolstered his suspicion that the Kandahar prison was a "hell before the hell" of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Kurnaz's claims last October of mistreatment by Germans in Kandahar have led to a investigation of two members of the elite German Special Forces Command (Kommando Spezialkräfte, or KSK). The German parliament now wants to learn whether German officials knew enough about his case to free him during ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's term in office, which ended in 2005.
Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen born and raised in Bremen, Germany, was arrested in Pakistan shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 and sent to prison in Afghanistan. He was transfered to Guantánamo Bay in 2002, the same year US officials suggested he should go free for lack of evidence. The US released him only after a personal intervention by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington in 2006. Kurnaz now lives with his family in Bremen.
Kurnaz, who turned 24 on Thursday, is an embarrassment to US and German authorities because he spent so much time in the terrorist prisons Kandahar and Guantánamo without ever yielding evidence of belonging to a terrorist group.