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Col. Submits Guantanamo Investigation

By MICHAEL MELIA
The Associated Press
Sunday, December 10, 2006; 2:51 PM

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- An Army officer has finished his investigation into allegations of detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay and submitted the report to superiors, according to a military spokesman.

Col. Richard Basset's report, commissioned after several guards allegedly acknowledged beating detainees, is being reviewed, said Army Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, who spoke by telephone Saturday.

Army Brig. Gen. Edward Leacock, deputy commander of detention operations, said guards who allegedly told a Marine sergeant in September that they regularly beat detainees have not been disciplined pending results of the investigation.

Leacock said no mistreatment is tolerated, and he dismissed accusations of routine abuse at the military prison where about 430 men are held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

"I believe we run probably the most safe and humane facility in the world, and I'd even go as far to say it's one of the most transparent detention facilities in the world," he said last week.

Basset, appointed by the U.S. Southern Command to investigate "credible allegations" of abuse, interviewed guards and some detainees during a visit to the naval base in southeast Cuba. He also traveled around the United States to speak with guards who had left Guantanamo, Leacock said.

The investigation stems from Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny's claims in a sworn affidavit that a group of sailors she met at a Guantanamo bar on Sept. 23 described beating detainees as a common practice. Some spoke of denying prisoners water and other privileges without provocation, she said.

Cerveny was working as a paralegal on the defense team for a detainee represented by Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who filed a complaint to the Pentagon's Inspector General's office alleging prisoner abuse was ongoing. Vokey and Cerveny have been ordered by the U.S. Marine Corps not to speak publicly about their allegations.

Guards at Guantanamo say they are routinely subjected to harassment, including name-calling, threats and "cocktails" of bodily fluids lobbed at them by detainees. At times, the guards have retaliated with punches, pepper spray or other force that has led to disciplinary proceedings.

Officials insist that prisoners have exaggerated or invented claims of abuse _ made through lawyers or to military review panels _ as a tactic to damage their American captors.

"They are trained to talk about how they're being mistreated," said Leacock, referring to an al-Qaida training manual. "Here they're treated safely and humanely, and more importantly, there's no torture."

Guantanamo Bay began receiving prisoners, most of them captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in January 2002. Only 10 of the detainees have been charged with crimes.

© 2006 The Associated Press