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Gitmo detainee's dire mental and physical health detailed in court papers

Lawyers for Shaker Aamer claim he has suffered PTSD because of his treatment, urge his immediate release

The last remaining British resident being held at Guantanamo Bay is in dire need of medical and psychiatric help, according to U.S. court documents filed Monday urging his immediate release on health grounds.

The legal papers, which include a mental and physical analysis of detainee Shaker Aamer’s health by an independent American physician, provide a glimpse into life at the detention camp in Cuba, detailing the effects of isolation, alleged torture, and hunger strikes.

Aamer was picked up Afghan troops in 2001, and transferred to Guantanamo after a stint at Bagram Airfield, a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, in 2002.

He has never been charged with a crime, and was cleared for release by both the Bush Administration in 2007, and the Obama Administration in 2009. But despite the clearance, and repeated pleas from human rights groups and the British government, Aamer has remained at Guantanamo.

Now, his lawyers say that unless he is released and given intensive, long-term medical care, his conditions could become worse. As such, they have filed a motion in a Washington D.C. District Court calling for his immediate release.

Aamer’s health was documented in a 25-hour in-person review by U.S. psychiatrist Emily A. Keram on behalf of Aamer’s lawyers at legal rights charity Reprieve.

The review paints a bleak picture of a man struggling to maintain his grasp on reality as he is allegedly systematically isolated and tormented by guards.

Aamer told Keram that he was tortured both at Bagram and at Guantanamo. Upon his arrival at Guantanamo, he was allegedly kept in an outdoor cage without protection from the sun or inclement weather for an extended period. Once indoors, he said he was kept in cells isolated from other prisoners and guards for up to four months at a time.

Aamer also claimed that guards would tie up and interrogate him for 36-hours at a time without letting him take breaks for the bathroom.

U.S. military officials would not comment on Aamer’s case.

Keram’s report concludes that Aamer’s detention and treatment have left him with severe edema, liver problems, and other medical issues. The report also says that his isolation has caused him to hallucinate and have paranoid delusions. Keram believes the detainee is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.    

“The worst thing about torture is that you don’t know how to think, what to do, how to feel,” the court documents quote Aamer as saying to Keram. “It’s terrible. We believed that the people here: the CIA, the interrogators, use ‘djinn.’ (spirits) … Some of the things that happened, you can’t explain. Some people (would) think that it was drugs or something, but 95% of us believe we got possessed by djinn.”

It’s unclear whether the court filing will have any impact on the potential for Aamer’s release or that of others. While President Obama has called for closing the base, over 160 detainees remain.

According to leaked files, U.S. officials believed Aamer once met with Osama bin Laden, the late Al-Qaeda leader, and led a unit of fighters against NATO troops in Afghanistan. But his supporters say Aamer suffered terrible abuse while in captivity and that an alleged confession was made under the pain of torture.

Aamer is not the only Guantanamo detainee who has claimed maltreatment at Guantanamo. Dozens of detainees have gone on hunger strikes to protest their indefinite detention and the way they are treated. But following the latest hunger strike, the United States stopped releasing information about the protests. The U.S. has also come under fire for force-feeding those on hunger strike.

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