(CNSNews.com) - A former Muslim chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp who was accused of espionage and aiding the enemy before being cleared in 2004, said the prison remains a "potent symbol" for questioning the U.S. commitment to human rights and should be closed.
"If we close Guantanamo it would be a great first step," James Yee said at a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday sponsored by the Council for American Islamic Relations. Yee was a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo Bay from November 2002 to September 2003, at which point he was arrested, charged and taken to a Navy brig in South Carolina. He was cleared of all charges six months later.
The Cuban prison camp, Yee said, is a "potent symbol" that "perhaps the United States -- our government, our nation, is not the leader of human rights that it should be, or maybe that we've lost that status and we're not abiding by the rule of law and international law." He said of the 460 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, many have not been charged with a crime and none has yet to have a full trial.
Yee said that in addition to torture, "Gitmo's secret weapon" is to use religion against prisoners. He said American interrogators painted satanic circular symbols on the ground and made some detainees kneel inside of the circles. Female interrogators, Yee said, inappropriately touched the male detainees. And he alleged that copies of the Quran at times were mishandled by guards with pages falling out and interrogators stepping on and kicking the Muslim holy book.
Interrogators also occasionally wrapped detainees in the Israeli flag to frustrate them.
All of this, he said, has led to "mass suicide attempts." Three prisoners - two Saudis and a Yemeni -- hanged themselves with clothes and sheets on June 10.
The suicides, Yee said, "Were only a matter of time."