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Statement from the Department of Defense

Talk of the Nation invited a spokesperson from the Department of Defense to respond to Murat Kurnaz's statements. They declined to respond on-air, but e-mailed the following statement:

The Law of Armed Conflict allows parties to the conflict to capture and detain enemy combatants until the end of the conflict. The principal rationale for detention during wartime is to prevent combatants from returning to the battlefield to re-engage in hostilities.

Under international law, the United States is under no obligation to release or transfer a detainee out of detention while the conflict is ongoing. Nevertheless, the Department of Defense reviews a detainee's status to ensure that those whose threat can otherwise be mitigated can be transferred out of detention. More than 30 detainees who have left Guantanamo are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight against the United States and our coalition partners.

The Department of Defense policy is clear — we treat all detainees humanely. To suggest that the young men and women of the U.S. military who serve honorably and under the world's microscope were engaged in regular and systematic torture of detainees cannot withstand even the slightest scrutiny.

The Department of Defense takes allegations of abuse or mistreatment very seriously and all credible claims are investigated thoroughly. We have no evidence to support the allegations in Mr. Kurnaz's book and no record that his claims were documented during his time in detention. The abuses Mr. Kurnaz alleges are not only unsubstantiated and implausible, they are simply outlandish.

In fact, many of his claims can be easily refuted based on publicly available documents. For example, Mr. Kurnaz claims that he was grossly underweight while at Guantanamo because he was deprived of quality food. In fact, according to the list of heights and weights of detainees released by the Department of Defense and available on the internet, Mr. Kurnaz stayed, for the most part, well above his ideal body weight contrary to his claims. Publicly available photos released from his reunion also visually indicate a man of robust health at the end of his detention.

During his Combatant Status Review Tribunal testimony, Mr. Kurnaz never mentions a single allegation of mistreatment, neither during his time in Kandahar nor in Guantanamo.

Detainees at Guantanamo are cared for by military medical professionals who treat their enemies with the same respect and care that they provide their fellow service members. Allegations that detainees are not treated properly by medical personnel are belied by the numbers of detainees who have been transferred back to their home countries in better health than when they arrived at Guantanamo.

Cynthia O. Smith, OASD-PA Defense Press Office

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