Nester Fantini and Maimul Ahsan Khan shared their experiences of being tortured while being held capitive in foreign countries during a forum focused on educating and persuading people to take action against torture across the globe with the campus community on March 24.
Fantini and Khan were among the three speakers invited by the Sacramento Chapter and Sacramento State Amnesity International organizations, who hosted the event, to discuss prison torture. The third speaker was Chip Pitts, a lawyer who has done extensive research in different areas of torture and torture laws.
A short video about the discovered tortures in Guantanamo Bay was also presented during the event.
Fantini, who was captured publicly when he was getting his morning coffee at a coffee shop, described his recollections as a “prisoner of conscience.”
“A prisoner of conscience is someone who is being held for their religious choice and/or political stance,” Fantini said.
Fantini, who said he was tortured by Argentina’s government, said on the morning he was captured, he was taken to an undisclosed place and interrogated for information he had no relation with.
He was held for four years, being transferred from one confinement to another, he said. He said he credits his release to the efforts made by an Amnesty branch in Austin, Texas.
“They sent letters giving me hope,” Fantini said.
Khan, who said he was tortured by a militant group in the Middle East, offered a different perspective to his experience.
“The title of my talk should be ‘Torture in the Muslim Perspective,’ ” Khan said.
Khan made a clear difference between Muslim terrorists and Islamic beliefs.
“Neither Islam nor the Koran support religious terrorism,” Khan said.
Furthermore, he noted that the Islamic belief does not enforce religion as mandatory; however, enlightenment is found by individual is just as well, Khan said.
Khan also challenged the definition of torture and society’s sensitivity to it.
“How do we define torture? If my lecture goes five minutes past my allotted time, you later will complain of how torturous it was to have to sit five extra minutes,” Khan said.
Towards the end of the event, Pitt discussed the inconsistencies of the U.S. government in admitting to torture.
When torture acts are discovered in places like Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. government officials respond by saying, “these are a few bad apples,” Pitt said.
“We’ve learned that people as young as 15 were raped and sodomized,” Pitt said referring to Guantanamo Bay. He read off facts of 100 deaths and 28 homicides committed by U.S. military.
“Of these no one has been severely punished,” Pitt said.
Because it is against the Constitution to inflict torture on any individual, top U.S. lawyers across the country gathered to help “redefine the definition of torture from inflicting pain and abuse, to state only ‘actions resulting in organ failure or death’ as being acts of torture,” Pitt said.
Both local and Sac State Amnesty International organizations encouraged involvement.
Kristin Bruke, president of the Sac State Amnesty International Club, said she is continuously looking for new members.
The organization writes letters to adopted prisoners and discuss current events at their weekly meetings, which are held on Tuesdays.
The club focuses on various issues such as torture, gun trafficking, the death penalty, refugees, and education.
Henry Gordon, a Sacramento county educator and member of the 283 local Sacramento Chapter of Amnesty International, was pleased to put on this event with the organization on campus.
“This is our first cooperative experience. We hope to continue.” Gordon said.
For more information on Amnesty International USA, visit www.aiusa.org.