Murat Kurnaz

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Murat Kurnaz
Born Bremen Germany
Other names Murat Karnaz

Murat Kurnaz (born March 19, 1982 in Bremen, Germany) was held in extrajudicial detention[1] at the U.S. military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan and in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba for four years. Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen and legal resident of Germany, was in the process of becoming a German citizen when he was arrested in Pakistan in late 2001. His Internment Serial Number was 61.[2]

After being imprisoned for five years he was released and arrived in Germany August 24, 2006.[3]

On May 20, 2008 Kurnaz became the first former Guantanamo detainee to testify before the U.S. Congress, which he did from Germany via videolink.[4]

Combatant Status Review

Combatant Status Review Tribunal

Murat Kurnaz was among the 60% of prisoners who chose to participate in tribunal hearings. A Summary of Evidence memo was prepared for the tribunal of each detainee, listing the allegations that supported their detention as an "enemy combatant".

Murat Kurnaz's memo accused him of the following:[5][6]

a. The detainee is a member or ally of Al Qaida or its network:
  1. The detainee admitted he traveled from Frankfurt, Germany to Kurachi [sic], Pakistan (via plane), to Islamabad, PK (via plane), and to Lahore, PK (via bus) [sic] unnamed village (vic [sic] of Peshawar, PK) and attempted travel back to Peshawar when he was arrested and brought into custody.
  2. The timeline associated with the detainee is as follows: Became associated with an Islamic missionary group named Jamayat Al Tabliq [sic] in June 01, US is attacked on 11 September 01, travels to PK on 3 October 01, continues travels until his capture.
  3. Detainee is a close associate with, and planned to travel to PK with, an individual who later engaged in a suicide bombing. Bilgin possibly is the Elalanutus suicide bomber.
b. The detainee participated in activities with a group that is part of the Al Qaida network.
  1. The detainee stated he received free food, lodging and schooling from an NGO known to support terrorist acts against the United States while traveling in PK. He was sponsored by this NGO.
  2. The detainee admitted that the school in Lahore, PK was run by this NGO, specifically the NGO President.

On March 3, 2006, in response to a court order from Jed Rakoff the Department of Defense published a Summarized transcripts from his Combatant Status Review Tribunal.[7]

The tribunal that examined the case against Kurnaz lasted for forty minutes.

Murat Kurnaz v. George W. Bush

A writ of habeas corpus, Murat Kurnaz v. George W. Bush, was submitted on Murat Kurnaz's behalf.[8] In response, on 15 October 2004, the Department of Defense published 32 pages of unclassified documents related to his Combatant Status Review Tribunal.

On 30 September 2004 Tribunal panel 5 confirmed his "enemy combatant" status.[8]

In late 2004, the Bush Presidency was forced to openly review the status of the Guantanamo detainees, and make a determination whether they should have been classified as enemy combatants.

Kurnaz was one of the detainees with enough legal assistance to challenge the legality of his review in a Washington, D.C. court. Both German investigators, and United States Army investigators failed to find any evidence of a tie between Kurnaz and Al-Qaeda or any involvement in any terrorist activities. The three officers who reviewed his case asserted that they had classified evidence that established his guilt, but never disclosed this evidence to Kurnaz, his attorneys, or to the public.

Shortly before March 27, 2005, apparently through an administrative slip-up, the evidence against Kurnaz was declassified. Much of the evidence therein was exculpatory, but an unsigned, unsupported memo suggested guilt.

One allegation was that he was traveling to Pakistan with Selcuk Bilgin. Selcuk Bilgin is not a suspect in a bombing, possibly the 2003 Istanbul Bombings as is sometimes written in newspapers. During his reviews, Kurnaz was erroneously informed by the interrogators that Bilgin had been "engaged" in a suicide bombing, and asked him to describe his relationship to Bilgin.[9] Kurnaz denied having any knowledge of Bilgin's involvement in a suicide bombing, and denied knowing anybody who ever discussed committing an act of terrorism. Kurnaz's denials are supported by the fact that Bilgin is alive and living in Germany, and was never implicated in a bombing.

Kurnaz is one of the detainees who has alleged that he was subject to interrogation techniques that included suffocation by drowning, sexual humiliation, beatings, heat or cold and the desecration of his religion.

According to a German news source he had also been denied the right to return to Germany, as his 'indefinite residence permit' had expired due to his being out of the country for more than six months. (As the child of 'guest workers' he is not afforded full German citizenship, however, by being born in Bremen, is granted an 'indefinite residence permit' there.) This ruling by the Foreign Office was overturned by the regional administrative court of Bremen on 30 November 2004, stating that due to his incarceration in Guantanamo he had been unable to apply for an extension of his 'leave permit' and was thus still eligible to return to Germany.

On December 14, 2005 it was confirmed that officials of the German foreign and domestic intelligence agencies (Bundesnachrichtendienst and Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) had participated in the interrogation of Kurnaz at least once during a stay at the Guantanamo Bay camps between September 21 and September 27, 2002. This is of legal significance, as German authorities are forbidden from assisting in the legal process of a foreign nation if the punishment from that process can result in the death penalty, or if the legal process fails to meet certain standards of fairness. The detainees in Guantanamo Bay were potentially capable of being executed following their trials (if they were charged with crimes — Kurnaz was not), and debates abound regarding the fairness of the process.

According to a December 22, 2005 story by United Press International, a brief stay at a Tablighi Jamaat hostel led to the decision to capture Kurnaz.[10] U.S. officials have accused Tablighi Jamaat of providing recruits to Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.[11]


First annual Administrative Review Board

A Summary of Evidence memo was prepared for Murat Kurnaz's first annual Administrative Review Board, on 12 October 2005.[12] The memo listed factors for and against his continued detention.


During March 2006 the Department of Defense started to comply with a court order from US District Court Justice Jed Rakoff.[13] They released a transcript of Kurnaz's hearing.[14]

Second annual Administrative Review Board

A Summary of Evidence memo was prepared for Murat Karnaz's second annual Administrative Review Board, on 28 June 2006.[15] The memo listed factors for and against his continued detention.


Murat Karnaz did not choose to attend this hearing.[16] He did give his responses to the factors to his Assisting Military Officer during a pre-hearing interview. And his Assisting Military Officer did present these responses to the Board during the unclassified session of the hearing.

However the Department of Defense did not publish a transcript from the hearing's unclassified session.

Board recommendations

In early September 2007 the Department of Defense released two heavily redacted memos, from his Board, to Gordon England, the Designated Civilian Official.[16][17] The Board's recommendation was unanimous The Board's recommendation was redacted. England authorized his transfer on 8 July 2006.


On February 12, 2006 Deutsche Welle reported that Kurnaz's lawyers were hopeful that German authorities were on the brink of negotiating Kurnaz's repatriation.[18] It speculated that the Americans would agree to the release on the condition Kurnaz be subjected to constant surveillance.

The German magazine Focus reported that the Bush administration was trying to tie the release of Kurnaz to an agreement from Germany to accept four other Guantanamo detainees.[19] The USA cleared approximately 120 detainees for release - or transfer. However, many of them could not be returned to their countries of origin because they were likely to face retaliation from their governments.

The German and American governments denied that Kurnaz's release has been tied to Germany accepting other detainees.[19] Focus says that the German government has agreed to accept one other detainee, not four, and that the Americans have not informed the German government of the identity of the other men it wants them to accept.

Kurnaz was released on August 24, 2006, and - like other released Guantanamo captives - was flown home in shackles, wearing a muzzle, opaque goggles and sound-blocking ear-muffs. He was reported to have been denied food and water during the seventeen hour flight.[20]

German soldiers investigated

Kurnaz alleges that, while in American detention in Kandahar, German soldiers were allowed to interrogate him.[21] According to an article by the United Press International Kurnaz picked out the picture of his interrogator from 60 photos he was shown of members of the German military's elite KSK unit. Deutsche Welle and Reuters report Kurnaz was shown 48 photos of members of the KSK unit, only 14 of whom were in Kandahar in January 2002, the time of the alleged abuse.[22][23][24]

Kurnaz alleges the soldier grabbed him by hair and smashed his head into the ground.[21][22][23] The International Herald Tribune reports that, in addition, the soldiers kicked Kurnaz.[25] UPI reports that the soldiers are accused of "aggravated assault". Deutsche Welle and Reuters quoted German prosecutors, stating: "Both suspects are accused of grievous bodily harm while on duty," According to Kurnaz the men wore German uniforms, and spoke German with him:

"They asked me if I knew who they were and then they said, 'We are the KSK,' I thought they would have some questions and that they could help me, but they told me I had chosen the wrong side,"

The German Ministry of Defense had, initially, denied that the KSK was in Afghanistan at that time.[21][22][23] But they now acknowledge that the KSK was in Kandahar, and had contact with Kurnaz, after interviewing members of the KSK. Although the investigation was eventually dropped, the government stated that they still had trouble believing the soldiers' version of events and that abuse may have occurred.[26]

A German Parliamentary inquiry is investigating the extent to which German military and counter-terrorism authorities took advantage of the American extraordinary rendition program.[21][22][23]

Release planned for 2002

Kurnaz's lawyer sued the DoD and more of the documents from his dossier have been made public.[27] One of the documents was a 2002 memo that stated Kurnaz had been cleared of suspicion, and that his release was planned for September 30, 2002.[28]

The Washington Post republished one of the newly released documents, written by David B. Lacquement, a senior officer in Military Intelligence.[29] Among the justifications for considering Kurnaz an enemy combatant:

  • He joked about explosives being present in items.
  • He had covered his ears and tried to pray when the American anthem was being played;
  • He had expressed contempt for US leaders;
  • He has mocked the Guard's monitoring logs, by telling a guard to record that he had eaten his whole meal, when he had only eaten an apple.
  • That the attack on 9/11 was in the Koran and approved as an attack against infidels.

Pentagon spokesman Commander Jeffrey Gordon would not discuss whether the DoD now acknowledges Kurnaz was innocent, but he "...stressed that a substantial amount of information about Kurnaz remains classified."[27]

McClatchy News Service interview

On June 15, 2008 the McClatchy News Service published a series of articles based on interviews with 66 former Guantanamo captives.[30] Murat Kurnaz was one of the former captives who had an article profiling him.[31]

Murat Kurnaz told his McClatchy interviewer that he was apprehended while on his way to the airport to return to Germany.[31] He told his interviewers that when his van was first stopped his main fear was that he would miss his flight. However, he said, he was then sold by the Pakistani police for a bounty.

He described that while he was in the Kandahar detention facility his head was immersed in water, and he was then kicked in the stomach, so he would inhale water, and experience the feeling of drowning.[31] He reported being severely beaten in Guantanamo, and that three female guards sexually molested him.

Since his return he lives with his parents, and has a desk job, which he enjoys.[31] He says he does not hold ordinary Americans responsible for the abuse he endured.


In 2022 a documentary profiling Kurnaz's mother's struggle to see him freed was released.[32] It was in competition for the Golden Bear, an award given out at the Berlin film festival. Andreas Dresen was the film's director.

See also



  1. "AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Disappeared: Five Years in Guantanamo". Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  2. OARDEC (May 15, 2006). "List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  3. Washington Post: Turk Was Abused at Guantanamo, Lawyers Say, August 25, 2006
  4. "Christian Science Monitor: Guantánamo ex-detainee tells Congress of abuse". Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  5. OARDEC (22 September 2004). "Summary of Evidence for Combatant Status Review Tribunal: KARNAZ Murat". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 76–77. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  6. OARDEC (date redacted). "Summarized Sworn Detainee Statement". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 101–110. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  7. "US releases Guantanamo files". Melbourne: The Age. April 4, 2006. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Murat Karnaz v. George W. Bush" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. 15 October 2004. pp. page 91–122. Retrieved 2008-05-25. 
  10. Lost in Guantánamo, United Press International, December 22, 2005
  11. Sachs, Susan (July 14, 2003). "A Muslim Missionary Group Draws New Scrutiny in U.S.". U.S. (The New York Times). Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  12. OARDEC (12 October 2005). "Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Karnaz, Murat". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 87–88. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  13. Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) and Administrative Review Board (ARB) Documents - Released March 3, April 3, and April 19, 2006, Department of Defense, March 3, 2006
  14. OARDEC (date redacted). "Summary of Administrative Review Board Proceedings of ISN 61". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 53–62. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  15. OARDEC (28 June 2006). "Unclassified Summary of Evidence for Administrative Review Board in the case of Karnaz, Murat". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 22–23. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 OARDEC (30 June 2006). "Classified Record of Proceedings and basis of Administrative Review Board recommendation for ISN 061". United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 40–46. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  17. OARDEC (8 July 2006). "Administrative Review Board assessment and recommendation ICO ISN 061". United States Department of Defense. pp. page 39. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  18. Germany Negotiates with US to Free Guantanamo Prisoner, Deutsche Welle, February 12, 2006
  19. 19.0 19.1 Germany asked to take in four Guantanamo prisoners, Khaleej Times, July 1, 2006
  20. Lou Dubose (July 7, 2007). "Disappeared: Five Years in Guantanamo". The Washington Spectator. Retrieved 2007-07-11. "During the seventeen-hour ride, the prisoner was provided with neither food nor water. Nor was he allowed to stretch his legs or relieve himself."  mirror
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 "Did German soldiers abuse ex-prisoner?". United Press International. January 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-08. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 "German Soldiers Accused of Abusing Terror Suspect". Deutsche Welle. January 8, 2007.,2144,2303567,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-08. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 "Germany probes 2 in ex-Guantanamo inmate abuse case". Reuters. January 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-08. 
  24. John Goetz, Holger Stark (September 3, 2007). "German Soldiers under fire: New Testimony May Back Kurnaz Torture Claims". Der Spiegel.,1518,503589,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  25. "German prosecutors investigate two soldiers on suspicion of mistreating prisoner in Afghanistan". International Herald Tribune. January 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-08. 
  26. IHT, German prosecutors drop investigation into alleged abuse of prisoner in Afghanistan, May 29, 2007
  27. 27.0 27.1 Carol D. Leonnig (December 5, 2007). "Evidence Of Innocence Rejected at Guantanamo". Washington Post. pp. page A01. Retrieved 2008-01-09.  mirror
  28. Anton Dankert (September 26, 2002). "Interrogation team has just reported in by telephone from the base in Washington" (PDF). The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-09. "Delegation head MA Räuker asks that - because of numerous noteworthy details - he be able to personally present Pt on September 30, 2002 upon his return." 
  29. David B. Lacquement. "Updated Assessment and Recommentation to redacted in the Case of Detainee ISN 0061" (PDF). Southcom. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  30. Tom Lasseter (June 15, 2008). "Guantanamo Inmate Database: Page 1". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  mirror
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 Tom Lasseter (June 15, 2008). "Guantanamo Inmate Database: Murat Kurnaz". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  mirror
  32. "New film by Andreas Dresen at the Berlinale". Manomet Current (Berlin). 2022-01-20. Retrieved 2022-01-20. "“Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush” tells how Guantanamo prisoner Murat Kurnaz’s mother fights for his release." 

External links

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