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Chaplain defends Guantanamo Bay

The senior chaplain at the United States military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has defended the conditions under which 600 detainees from the American action in Afghanistan are being held.

But he criticised the way the American army treated its own Muslim chaplains.

The Tablet reports that after seven months spent leading a multi-faith team of chaplains at Guantanamo Bay, Fr Raymond Tetreault returned to the United States in late December.

He said that, contrary to many media reports, the detainees were being treated well and in accordance with international treaties for prisoners of war.

The detainees, who come from 34 different countries including Britain and Australia, were free to practise their religion, which in most cases was Islam, the chaplain said.

On any given day, as many as 10% of prisoners could end up in the infirmary, he added. Their health was poor to begin with and many were recovering from battle wounds.

The Catholic priest from Rhode Island, who ministered to 5000 American troops and their families as well as the detainees, had three Muslim chaplains within his pastoral team.

"They said that they and their families have been abused, even on military bases",

Fr Tetreault said. Other members of the American army had scrutinised them, believing that, as they were Muslim chaplains, "they must be on the other side".

Fr Tetreault said that his time at Guantanamo had taught him that "education is the key to stopping terrorism", and that creating an educational system to prepare the next generation of Islamic leaders was one of the greatest challenges facing Muslims in unstable countries.

The Tablet

Guantanamo Bay: US Naval Base (US Military website)

15 Jan 2003