Full name: Murat Kurnaz|
Family status: Married, no children
Occupation: Apprentice shipbuilder
Murat Kurnaz was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1982. His parents, Rabiye and
Metin Kurnaz, had emigrated from Turkey in the 1970s.
Murat Kurnaz went to school in Bremen. He was interested in sports, played
keyboard and guitar in a band with friends, attended the local mosque, and
became an apprentice shipbuilder. His mother describes him as a "helpful,
credulous and cordial person, who always treated everyone with respect". In
July 2001 he married his fiancée in Turkey.
After his marriage, Murat Kurnaz became an increasingly devout Muslim. He
started attending Abu Bakr mosque instead of the family mosque, and
reportedly became more and more incensed at what he saw as the persecution
of Muslims around the world. Less than a month after the 11 September 2001
attacks in the USA, he went to Pakistan. His mother, Rabiye Kurnaz, recalls
that he said that he wanted to travel there "to see and live the Qur’an".
"Thank God, I am well, but just God that created us knows when I will come
Murat Kurnaz’ last postcard home, in May 2002.
On arrival in Pakistan, Murat Kurnaz reportedly went from one madrassa
(Islamic school) to another. He was arrested by Pakistani authorities in
mid-November 2001. Soon afterwards he was transferred to US custody in
Kandahar, Afghanistan. His family learned that he was held in Guantánamo Bay
in January 2002 and received the first letter from him in March that year.
The last postcard they received from him was in May 2002.
"For over two years I have been begging for a sign that my son is alive,
that he is being treated justly, that he has not been tortured, that his
dignity has been preserved as he sits alone in a cell in Guantánamo." Rabiye
In the US air base in Kandahar, Murat Kurnaz says that:
interrogators repeatedly forced his head into a bucket of cold water for
interrogators gave electric shocks to his feet;
he was held for days shackled and handcuffed with his arms secured above his
on one occasion, a military officer loaded his gun and pointed it at Murat
Kurnaz’ head, screaming at him to admit to being an al-Qa’ida associate;
he witnessed other detainees being beaten, one of whom apparently died as a
In Guantánamo Bay, Murat Kurnaz says that:
he suffered sexual humiliation and taunting by young women in the
interrogation room where he was shackled to the floor. When one of them
began to caress him from behind, he jerked his head back, hitting her head.
A response team of guards in riot gear entered the room, beat him and
sprayed him with pepper spray. He was subsequently taken to an isolation
cell, where he was left on the floor with his hands tied behind his back for
about 20 hours.
As with all detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Murat Kurnaz is in legal limbo. His
position is worsened by problems over his citizenship. Although he was born
and brought up in Germany and lived there all his life, he is the son of
Turkish gastarbeiter (guest-workers) and is therefore not a German citizen.
The US authorities say that the status of detainees in Guantánamo Bay is a
matter for bilateral diplomacy between them and the government of the
detainee. The German Foreign Minister, however, informed the Kurnaz family
by letter that there was no possibility of Germany making diplomatic
representations on behalf of Murat Kurnaz. The Turkish government originally
viewed Murat Kurnaz as "German-Turkish". Only after intense lobbying by
Rabiye Kurnaz did the Turkish authorities come to accept him as their
responsibility. Despite this recognition, the Turkish government has shown
little interest in pressuring the US government over Murat Kurnaz’ case.
In August 2004 Thomas Röwekamp, the Senator for Interior Affairs in Bremen,
declared that Murat Kurnaz’ indefinite residence visa had lapsed because he
had been out of Germany for over six months and had not reapplied. The
Senator stated that "if [Murat Kurnaz] were to arrive now at a German
airport with his pass-port… he wouldn’t be allowed to enter the country".
In January 2005 a new immigration law came into force in Germany which
restricts access to Germany for those suspected of any involvement in
terrorism". This means that even if Murat Kurnaz is released from Guantánamo
Bay he will have to apply for a visa to Germany, which could be rejected
because the US authorities have by their actions labelled him as a
terrorist". In this case he could be sent to Turkey, possibly never to be
allowed back to the country of his birth and where his family continues to
On 13 April a US Federal Court ruled that the US authorities could not send
Murat Kurnaz to a prison in another country without giving his lawyers a
chance to challenge the move.
"[I]t would appear that the government is indefinitely holding the detainee
– possibly for life – solely because of his contacts with individuals or
organizations tied to terrorism and not because of any terrorist activities
that the detainee aided, abetted, or undertook himself. Such detention…
would be a violation of due process." US District Judge Joyce Hens Green.
Combatant Status Review Tribunal
On 30 September 2004, a Combatant Status Review Tribunal determined that
Murat Kurnaz was an "enemy combatant". However, on 31 January 2005 Federal
Judge Green found that the Combatant Status Review Tribunals are an
inadequate vehicle by which detainees could challenge their detention. She
cited the case of Murat Kurnaz to illustrate "the fundamental unfairness of
the [tribunals’] reliance on classified information not disclosed to the
detainees" in reaching decisions on the detainees’ "enemy combatant" status.
Since this ruling, evidence has come to light suggesting that the US
authorities themselves do not believe there is a case for holding Murat
Kurnaz. Previously classified statements in his file include:
"CITF [Command Information Task Force] has no definite link/evidence of
detainee having an association with al-Qaida or making any specific threat
toward the US."
"The Germans confirmed that this detainee has no connection to an al-Qaida
cell in Germany."
"CITF is not aware of any evidence that Kurnaz has knowingly harboured any
individual who was a member of al-Qaida or who has engaged in, aided or
abetted, or conspired to commit acts of terrorism against the US, its
citizens or its interests."
"If I go back home, I will prove that I am innocent. If I learn of any
terrorist groups or plots, I will notify the German authorities to show them
that I don’t support terrorism, so I can sleep well."
"I am here having lost a few years of my life because of Usama Bin Laden. His beliefs show Islam in the wrong way. I am not angry with Americans. Many Americans died on 11 September in the terrorist attack. I realize the Americans are trying to stop terrorism… I went to study in Pakistan at the wrong time…"