The Interview

The Interview

Jumah al-Dossari was held in Guantanamo Bay for almost six years.

Known as '261' in Camp X-ray he was released without charge a year ago and has now returned to Saudi Arabia where he was born.

In this week's edition of The Interview, he speaks to Owen Bennett-Jones about what happened to him and how he is now re-building his life as a newlywed back in his home town.

Wrong place, wrong time

Jumah was arrested in the Pakistan border area in January 2002, three months after the 9/11 attacks.

"I went to Afghanistan to check out several mosques and orphan schools.

"My job was to take pictures of all these projects.

"The Sheikh sent me from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, he told me it was my job to check all these mosques", said Juma.

The Sheikh was an Imam in the town that Jumah came from in Saudi Arabia.

He was picked up on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The Pakistani army sold me to American forces...they got about $5000 (US dollars) for me", said Jumah.

He spent more than two weeks being transferred from various jails in Pakistan.

He was then eventually questioned by an American interrogation team.

"I asked them if they were Americans and they replied to me in my language and accent, saying "what do you think?", said Jumah.

He was interrogated for several hours and says that he had all his money taken from him and put in a file.

Before all these events, he lived in the US state of in Indiana for almost a year, where he practiced as an Imam, leading prayers in a local mosque.

"When I was in the jail in Pakistan and I knew that I was going to be transferred to the American forces in Kandahar, I was very hungry and I was thinking of hamburgers.

"I talked to the other detainees and said to them not to worry, the American government are good, they have respect for human beings and you are not going to be hurt.

"I told them at least you'll get a hamburger there", said Jumah.

Midnight flight

He says he was transferred to Kandahar in Afghanistan and was questioned there again for 16 days, before finally being taken on a flight in the middle of the night to Cuba.

"I was scared, I didn't know where I was going to go, which place, would I be alive or tortured?" he said.

He recalls that they were very dark days in Guantanamo Bay, many things happened to him that he doesn't want to remember.

He says he was interrogated more than a thousand times by numerous teams of people.

"When I talk about the torture and mistreatment, I don't feel well".

"I call them the black days", he said.

Juma says that he spent the last three and a half years in isolation - he could only talk to people by trying to shout through the door.

He says he had three recreation periods a week, where he could see other detainees but wasn't allowed to talk to them.

He says he was punished and had his books taken away if he did talk.

Hope in hell

"I lived on the hope that I would get out of Guantanamo Bay.

"Some guards were nice, some of them talked to me.

"When I was in isolation, I was in a very tiny cell, very dirty, with a very weak light...it was cold and I had no bedding, it was like spending five months in a freezer.

"One of the guards hid cookies and candy in a bucket and gave them to me, he also brought me hot chocolate", said Jumah.

The guard said that he didn't want Jumah to think that all Americans were bad - Juma was a human being and should be treated with humanity.

Jumah finds it hard to talk about the things that happened to him when he was in custody in Guantanamo Bay.

"Once a team of people came and beat me and broke my nose, I was in Intensive Care for three days, I couldn't talk or see", he said.

Finally free

After almost six years he was handed over to the Saudi Authorities where he was supported and rehabilitated by them.

The Saudi government imprisoned him for two months as when he left the country previously to go to Afghanistan, he did so with out taking government permission - which is an offence.

"I was angry when I was in Guantanamo but once I got out everything was different.

"When I saw the Saudi delegation at the airport and they smiled at me and hugged me, I forgot everything.

"I have learned in Islam to always keep your heart clean and that revenge is bad, the day of judgement will come for everyone", said Juma.

Jumah is now back living in Saudi Arabia and has just recently got married.

Reflecting on his time in prison, he doesn't hold any bad feelings.

"Maybe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"All Americans are not the same, we should live in peace and respect, regardless of your colour, language and religion, we are all the same", he added.