Life Harsher in New Guantanamo Unit
Saturday, February 3, 2007; 9:49 PM
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- Abdul Helil Mamut's good behavior earned him a spot in a medium-security compound at the Guantanamo Bay prison, where he slept in a barracks, shared leisurely meals with other prisoners and could spend more than half the day in an outdoor recreation area.
But in December, the detainee was among dozens transferred from Camp 4 to the maximum-security Camp 6, the newest section of Guantanamo Bay's military prison.
Now Mamut, an ethnic Uighur from China captured in Pakistan, spends all but two hours a day isolated in his cell. He eats and prays by himself. His only recreation comes in a concrete courtyard surrounded by high walls, separated from other prisoners by a chain-link fence.
The U.S. government says the unit provides detainees with more private and comfortable quarters.
But Mamut and other Uighur prisoners complain their days are now filled with "infinite tedium and loneliness," said Sabin Willett, an attorney for the men, in an affidavit filed in a Washington court.
"All expressed a desperate desire for sunlight, fresh air and someone to speak to," Willett wrote after a January visit to the prison, located on the U.S. military base in southeastern Cuba, where the U.S. holds nearly 400 men suspected of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
Wells Dixon, who also represents Uighurs held at Guantanamo, predicted the lack of human interaction in Camp 6 will cause detainees to lose their grip on reality.
"It will very soon become an insane asylum," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview after he returned from the base in January.
The military, however, says Camp 6 has improved the lives of detainees
A guard at Camp 6, an Army sergeant whose name cannot be disclosed under military rules, insisted that the prisoners prefer the new air-conditioned cells and the privacy.
"It's kind of like having their own apartment," he said.
Camp 6 houses about 160 men _ more than a third of the total at Guantanamo _ and is similar to the highest-security U.S. prisons, even though no one at the prison has been convicted.