Isolation in Guantánamo: a report on the plight of Isa al-Murbati

5.8.07

A brief insight into the dehumanizing isolation that is prevalent in Guantánamo is provided in a Gulf Daily News article by Geoffrey Bew, in which, following a recent visit, US lawyer Joshua Colangelo-Bryan explained that Isa al-Murbati –- the last Bahraini in Guantánamo following the release last month of joint Bahraini-Saudi national Juma al-Dossari –- is held in almost total isolation, and is regularly prevented from sleeping and from communicating with his fellow detainees.

Isa al-MurbatiAl-Murbati has been held for over six months in Camp 6, the newest of the prison blocks at Guantánamo, where detainees, including dozens who have been cleared for release, are kept in isolation for at least 22 hours a day. Colangelo-Bryan reported that the guards in Camp 6 “run large fans,” which “sound like jet engines and prevent captives from communicating and deprive them of sleep,” and explained, “In his cell, Isa cannot see other detainees and he can barely communicate with them. He told me that it is possible to speak with his brothers through an air conditioning vent in his cell. However, to reach the vent, Isa has to stand on his cement bunk. Most often if he tries to talk to others this way, guards tell him to get off his bunk. They also threaten to take away the few items that Isa has in his cell if he does not follow their directions,” which, as Bew described it, “forces him to crouch to talk under the door, for which he is also berated if caught.”

Like all the prisoners in Guantánamo, al-Murbati, who is now 41, has never been charged with a crime, but has, nevertheless, been treated with appalling brutality by the US military and by other government agents, both in Afghanistan and Guantánamo (as I explain in detail in The Guantánamo Files). Married with five children, he was working as a grocer before setting off for Pakistan to receive medical treatment in November 2001, and has steadfastly denied the US authorities’ allegations against him –- that he travelled to Afghanistan in November 2001 with the intention of fighting, and that he trained to use an AK-47 in Kabul –- and has repeatedly pointed out that he never set foot in Afghanistan, that he was arrested by the police on arrival in Pakistan (at a time when Arabs were already beginning to attract bounty payments from the US authorities), and that his passport, which is held by the US authorities, contains a medical visa –- dated 28 October 2001 and valid for one month –- which confirms that he travelled to Pakistan for medical treatment, and that he was not planning to stay for more than a month.

Andy Worthington is the author of 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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