More on the apparent suicide of the Saudi prisoner Abdul Rahman al-Amri duly surfaced yesterday. As well as taking part in a hunger strike before his death, it transpires, from a source cited by Arab News, that he had been a hunger striker during the mass hunger strike in 2005, and that, at the time of his death, he was suffering from hepatitis and stomach problems. Where, one wonders, was the much-vaunted medical care for “enemy combatants,” which, in 2005, Brigadier General Jay Hood, the commander of the Joint Task Force in Guantánamo, declared was “as good as or better than anything we would offer our own soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines”? The answer, as so many other Guantánamo prisoners have noted, is almost certainly that medical care is refused to prisoners who fail to cooperate with the authorities, and that, as one of the “least compliant” prisoners, al-Amri would have received little, if any medical care.
As I warned two days ago, the US authorities have also launched a propaganda campaign portraying al-Amri as a dangerous member of al-Qaeda. In a statement reported by Agence France Presse, US Southern Command claimed, “During his time as a foreign fighter in Afghanistan, he became a mid-level al-Qaeda operative with direct ties to higher-level members including meeting with Osama bin Laden. His associations included (bin Laden’s) bodyguards and al-Qaeda recruiters. He also ran al-Qaeda safe houses.” Quite how it was possible for al-Amri, who arrived in Afghanistan in September 2001, to become a “mid-level al-Qaeda operative” who “ran al-Qaeda safe houses” in the three months before his capture in December has not been explained, and nor is it likely that an explanation will be forthcoming. Far more probable is that these allegations were made by other prisoners –- either in Guantánamo, where bribery and coercion have both been used extensively, or in the CIA’s secret prisons. In both, prisoners were regularly shown a “family album” of Guantánamo prisoners, and were encouraged –- either through violence or the promise of better treatment –- to come up with allegations against those shown in the photos, which, however spurious, were subsequently treated as “evidence.”
As with so many Guantánamo prisoners, the contradictory allegations against al-Amri beggar belief. By his own admission, he traveled to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, having served in the Saudi army for nine years and four months. US Southern Command expanded on his activities as a Taliban recruit, claiming that, “by his own account,” he “volunteered to fight with local Taliban commander Mullah Abdul al-Hanan, and fought on the front lines north of Kabul”, and that he subsequently “fought US forces in November 2001 in the Tora Bora Mountains.” This may or may not be true, but it is at least within the realms of plausibility. Claiming that he ran al-Qaeda safe houses, on the other hand, is simply absurd, and should alert all sensible commentators to scrutinize with care the allegations made by the US authorities against the majority of those held in Guantánamo without charge or trial (I’ve studied all of them, and allegations that are either groundless or contradictory are shockingly prevalent).
If we are to believe this callous attempt to blacken the name of a man who, having apparently taken his life in desperation, appears to have made the mistake of traveling to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban at the wrong time, one question in particular needs answering: when, during the three months that al-Amri stayed in a guest house in Kabul, trained at a “school for jihad” in Kandahar, fought on the front lines, retreated to Tora Bora and crossed into Pakistan, was he supposed to have located the al-Qaeda safe houses that he was accused of running?
For more information on the suicides in Guantánamo, and the prevalence of false allegations, see my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.
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Thank you Andy and whoever has taken all pain in collecting all this information for these brave people who gave the pleasure of life in order to stand up against the evil and forgotten by us all but you worked hard to let their stories and names alive. May God keep you in good spirit and guide us all.
[…] after a fourth death at the prison, of Abdul Rahman al-Amri, a Saudi, on May 30, 2007 (see here and here), and I wrote my first commemoration of the men’s deaths on the second anniversary of their […]
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