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Portugal’s personal connection to Gitmo

While other European countries have sharply criticized the U.S. torture of terrorist suspects but balked at the idea of taking in inmates from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Portugal’s government has enthusiastically backed the proposal. Time‘s Jeff Israely reports that this is a very personal issue for the country’s leaders, many of whom were victims ...

While other European countries have sharply criticized the U.S. torture of terrorist suspects but balked at the idea of taking in inmates from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Portugal’s government has enthusiastically backed the proposal.

Time‘s Jeff Israely reports that this is a very personal issue for the country’s leaders, many of whom were victims of torture themselves under the country’s mid-twentieth century dictatorship:

Former President Mario Soares, who was tortured and eventually exiled for his anti-fascist activities, remembers the interrogations and torture only too well. "I was made to go three days and three nights without sleep," he says of the kind of sleep deprivation tactics that have taken place at Guantanamo. Soares, now 83, has called Guantanamo "the scandal of all scandals" of the Bush administration, and says Europe must now help Obama close it. "Other countries must not be so egocentric," he says.

Domingos Santos a longstanding leader of Portugal’s Communist party, also knows what’s at stake. He was a victim of secret police beatings during the junta’s rule. Deprived of sleep and forced to spend days in a tiny windowless cell without a bed, Santos remains an outspoken critic of the U.S. base at Guantanamo. Terrorists need to be punished, he says, but torture is never justified. "We could take some [prisoners in Portugal] on grounds of human rights because of Guantanamo is a cancer which is afflicting society," he told TIME.

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