Abd al Maqsut Muhammad Sagim Mazruh
By Matthew Schofield | McClatchy Newspapers
TIRANA, Albania — After years of imprisonment, alleged torture, countless interrogations and unrelenting psychological pressure, there are some things that Abd al Maqsut Muhammad Sagim Mazruh won't talk about.
He won't say why he was in Pakistan in late 2001 or early 2002, when he was arrested. He won't talk about how he made a living. He won't discuss why he can never return to Egypt, his country of birth, or his three previous arrests and — according to documents filed with the Albanian government — torture in those prisons.
He will talk about why, after more than four years in American prisons, he thinks there can be no doubt that he's innocent of all terrorism charges and suspicions, and why he thinks there can be no doubt that the U.S. never had any evidence against him.
"I'm sitting here, aren't I?" he explained through an interpreter. "Is there any reason to believe that if the United States could produce any evidence against me, any evidence at all, they would have set me free? I was innocent when I was arrested. I am innocent now."
In fact, he said that a U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo told him in 2005 that he was innocent, but there are no public records to confirm that. The U.S. did declare him no longer an enemy combatant that year, the closest it's come to admitting that it made mistakes.
Earlier, Mazruh had been charged with being a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, a charge that the timid, soft man recalled created waves of laughter from other Guantanamo inmates: "You were his bodyguard?" he said others told him when they heard of the charge. "And he's still alive? He's still free, and he hires the likes of you to protect him? You need a bodyguard; how could you be one?"
He was released, to Albania, in November 2006.
Not that this is a freedom he cherishes. Along with seven other former detainees who couldn't be returned to their homelands for fear that they'd be tortured, Mazruh has been placed in Europe's poorest nation. He lives in a small room in a refugee center, in a walled complex on the edge of the capital, in a neighborhood of rutted and pitted gravel roads cut through by a trash-filled creek.
He's trapped without knowing the language, without work or even a permit to work. His wife and children wait in northern Africa, and he's filed a petition with the Albanian government to allow them to join him, a petition that other former detainees are watching closely because they haven't seen their families since they were arrested, either.
But, Mazruh said, being in Albania is the only freedom available; his arrest and lengthy imprisonment, as with most Guantanamo detainees, has left many nations suspicious of him, even though he was released without charges.