This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
After 10 months of ministering to Guantanamo Bay detainees, Army Chaplain James Yee looked forward to reuniting with his family for two weeks of rest and relaxation.
That September 2003 reunion never happened.
Instead, once stateside, Yee was accused of espionage and other charges worthy of the death penalty.
Blindfolded and shackled, he spent the next 76 days in solitary confinement.
His family learned of his imprisonment via TV news.
Ironically, just days before, a Sept. 8 Army report had praised Yee - a third-generation Chinese American who converted to Islam in 1991 - for authoring a policy to safeguard security at Guantanamo while showing respect for the Quran.
"Religion was used as a weapon there - Gitmo's secret weapon," Yee told University of Utah students during a Hinckley Forum Thursday.
Yee's role included advising Guantanamo's commander, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, about Islam. Miller later oversaw Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
"I heard their stories, complaints and concerns," Yee said of his interaction with detainees.
He found their accounts deeply disturbing.
"Interrogators would scream at detainees that Satan was their God now, not Allah," Yee said, describing how detainees were forced to assume a posture of prayer in a circle containing a pentagram.
Copies of the Quran were desecrated as well, Yee said. Such tactics led to detainee hunger strikes and suicide attempts.
Yee was held with other U.S. enemy combatants for several months before being cleared of criminal charges. After being reinstated to full duty at Fort Lewis, Wash., he tendered his resignation.
Yee later received a second Army Commendation medal for "exceptionally meritorious service."
However, his profound concerns about Guantanamo remain - in his view, potential war crimes were committed. He also believes that Geneva Conventions should apply to all human beings.
His hope? That Guantanamo can soon shut its doors.
"It would be a good step toward helping to restore our national reputation."
He affirmed his commitment to helping others understand Islam.
"Unless we win the hearts and minds, we can't win the war."