Guantanamo prisoner Saifullah Paracha: Demand to know the truth about Scottish rendition

My lawyer read me the article in Scotland on Sunday (“Guantanamo Bay prisoner in plea to Sturgeon”, News, 9 February).

Saifullah Paracha's accuser was being tortured himself
Saifullah Paracha's accuser was being tortured himself

I am very grateful to the paper, to Nicola Sturgeon, and to the people of Scotland for keeping me in mind after all these years, forgotten in Guantánamo Bay. It has been 17 years now, and the hopelessness has finally got to me. I feel that we are already buried here, and that is the end of it. After we stop breathing they will put us in a grave or the sea.

The last days have been important for the testimony of Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, the two psychologists who devised and implemented the CIA torture programme. I would like to file a case against them simply so they can understand the pain they put me through when they tried to take control of me and break me down. Others suffered even worse than I did at their hands, but the only fitting word for their methods is torture – the deafening non-stop music, the freezing cold and days upon end of sleep deprivation. They even came up with little things that were fashioned to suit the individual prisoner. So because I was elderly, they would limit how often I could go to the toilet because they knew I had a weak bladder. They considered very carefully how they would break you.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

I wish the suffering had been mine alone, but when they broke me, they broke my family too. I had an American brother-in-law who lived in New York – we were close when I lived there in the early 1980s. When I was seized in Thailand and flown to Afghanistan in chains to be tortured, my brother-in-law talked to my wife. She did not know where I was, and everyone became very worried that I had been kidnapped. He was so stressed that he had a heart attack and died.

The “enhanced interrogation” techniques Jessen and Mitchell used did not produce any actionable intelligence – the CIA itself admitted as much – but they did give the men being tortured an incentive to lie, to make the pain stop.

When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, they demanded answers about me as they somehow thought I was important.

Eventually he made something up: he said that I hatched a plan with Ammar Baluch and Majid Khan to export bombs in the containers my business used to export garments. Baluch and Khan denied it was true, because it was all a fantasy KSM invented to get temporary relief from his torture. And yet here I am 17 years later still suffering the consequences.

The two psychologists were paid $81 million. And when the CIA cancelled their contract, they insisted on a $1 million insurance policy against future claims against them – by people like me. So the US military want to keep me in prison forever after suffering torture, while the perpetrators continue to deny responsibility. My lawyer told me that in the witness box, Mitchell claimed he restrained CIA interrogators from inflicting even harsher tortures. It makes me sick to think of him walking away with his millions, still saying he did nothing wrong.

When I was first seized – kidnapped is the more accurate word – Pakistan had refused to cooperate with US to allow them to grab me in my home country. So the CIA lured me on a business trip to Thailand and arranged my abduction there. This is where Scotland comes in. The CIA could not have pulled it off if the aircraft sent to kidnap me had not been allowed to stop over in one of your airports.

I am 72 years old and perhaps not long for this world. I would love to see freedom again, and my family, but I have had two heart attacks already and according to the cardiologist the next one will be my last. If I am to die here, I do not want my death to be in vain. I beg of you, the Scottish people: demand the truth. Let it be understood how your land was used to ferry me to my miserable destiny. Let us learn the truth so that we can learn to avoid repeating history in the torment of someone else.

Read Martyn McLaughlin’s original article at