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'Nightmare' for freed Bay Three

FLASHBACKS, insomnia and a loss of faith in society are just some of the short and long-term effects that three Bahrainis released from Guantanamo Bay can expect, according to a top UK lawyer who is fighting for the release of all detainees.

Clive Stafford Smith said some detainees released as long ago as 2002 were still suffering from what he called "torture victim syndrome", which he described as a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder normally experienced by war veterans.

Some of them actually wake in the middle of the night screaming because of the "horrific shock" of being locked up there, he said.

He was speaking from personal experience of working with former detainees released from the notorious US military base, in Cuba.

Three of the six Bahraini detainees held at Guantanamo Bay - Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Adel Kamel Hajee and Abdulla Majid Al Nuami - were released and returned to their families after being interviewed briefly by prosecution officials on Saturday.

Mr Stafford Smith called on the Bahrain government and society in general to assist in their rehabilitation by providing financial and emotional support.

He said the most pressing symptom was a loss of trust and faith in the world due to the experience of being "tortured".

"After what has been done to them, it's hard [for them] to believe that society will treat them fairly," he told the GDN.

Other symptoms including terrifying flashbacks, an inability to sleep and the constant fear that they are back in Guantanamo Bay, he added.

Mr Stafford Smith said it was important that ex-detainees are given help adapting to civilian life - particularly in getting a job.

One of the biggest problems faced by his clients was finding employment.

"They needed to look after their families, they needed jobs and life was more difficult for them," said Mr Stafford Smith, who spearheaded a campaign to organise legal representation for Arab detainees with the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) last year.

"I was pleased to see the Saudi government providing financial assistance and helping [ex-detainees] find jobs.

"This is very sensible and I hope the Bahrain government will do the same."

Detainees released from Guantanamo Bay have apparently had varied experiences since returning home.

Mr Stafford Smith said the rehabilitation process had differed on a "personal and individual basis" - with some of his clients choosing to speak out about their experiences, while others "just wanted to hide away and stay at home".

However, he claimed it was important for released detainees to talk about their experiences, either personally or publicly, to help them make the transition to normal life.

As a step towards rehabilitation, Mr Stafford Smith arranged examinations and treatment by mental health experts specialising in victims of torture for his clients.

He also took steps to sue the US government, which he accused of "stealing part of their lives".

"Don't get me wrong, the treatment is only for people who want it and they are not crazy or insane," said Mr Stafford Smith.

Although he admitted that winning financial compensation from suing the US government was unlikely, he said it had resulted in an apology for British and other ex-detainees.

"It's the least we can do," he said. "The US government has stolen part of their lives and owes them an apology, which some people say is the first step in getting to forgiveness."



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