Afghan who died at Guantánamo was anti-Taliban hero

5.2.08

The Guantanamo FilesToday the New York Times runs an exclusive front page article by Carlotta Gall and myself, Time Runs Out for an Afghan Held by the U.S., relating the story of Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, a 68-year old detainee who died of cancer at Guantánamo on December 30, after being held for five years without charge or trial.

Described on his death as “an experienced jihadist with command responsibilities,” who “was assessed to have had multiple links to anti-coalition forces,” Mr. Hekmati had persistently presented a different story in his military tribunals and review boards at Guantánamo.

I had come across Mr. Hekmati’s story during my research for The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and was delighted to work with Carlotta on this significant story. Please visit the New York Times website for the article.

Note: For commentary on the Hekmati story, please see the following articles by Scott Horton at Harper’s, Daniel Politi at Slate, and Chris Floyd at Atlantic Free Press and CounterPunch.

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, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s another piece, placing Hekmati’s capture in the context of the US military’s relationship with Sher Mohammed Akhundzada: http://bushmeister0.tripod.com/bushmeister0/index.blog/1787290/the-gwot-gets-a-little-harder-impossible-in-afghanistan/

    And here’s a comment from the Montreal Gazette, following up on the story:
    http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/editorial/story.html?id=e45c8a5f-1338-4fa8-a64b-fbf46efeba7a

    This (plus lively comments) is from WE Blog, the blog of the Wichita Eagle’s editorial board:
    http://blogs.kansas.com/weblog/2008/02/a-death-at-guantanamo-observed/

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Today’s New York Times (February 9) runs the following letter from Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA:

    Where’s Our Disgust?

    “Time Runs Out for an Afghan Held by U.S.” (front page, Feb. 5) sheds new light on the human rights violations the United States government continues to perpetrate in Guantánamo Bay.

    In the meantime, our nation’s political leadership and citizens in whose name this continuing outrage is carried out barely emit a whimper of disgust.

    Imagine our reaction if this were a story about an American citizen who was apprehended by another government, spirited out of the country and held for more than five years without any meaningful opportunity to challenge the dubious accusations against him while dying a slow death.

    We’d rightly condemn such behavior as inhumane and barbaric, which is what the rest of the world sees in Guantánamo Bay. American values?

    Larry Cox
    Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
    New York, Feb. 5, 2008

    Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/09/opinion/lweb10gitmo.html?ref=opinion

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    I was thinking about Abdul Razzaq Hekmati today, and remembered that, on the day the New York Times story mentioned above was published, I had published a brief article here publicizing it, which I had then been asked to amend by the Times‘ foreign editor. The amended version is above, but I suddenly thought I’d search for the oroginal, which I knew Maryam Hassan of Cageprisoners had cross-posted almost immediately. So here it is:

    Today the New York Times runs an exclusive article by Carlotta Gall and myself, Time Runs Out for an Afghan Held by the U.S., exposing the bitter truth about Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, a 68-year old detainee who died of cancer at Guantánamo on December 30, after being held for five years without charge or trial.

    Described on his death as “an experienced jihadist with command responsibilities,” who “was assessed to have had multiple links to anti-coalition forces,” the truth, as Mr. Hekmati persistently pointed out in Guantánamo, was far different.

    I had come across Mr. Hekmati’s story during my research for The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and was able to verify his claim that, with his son, he had actually been responsible for freeing three senior anti-Taliban leaders — including current energy minister Ismail Khan — from the Taliban’s political jail in Kandahar in 1999, and had then been forced to live in exile in Iran. My source for this verification was an interview with his son, Hekmatullah, that was conducted by Carlotta Gall a year before Abdul Razzaq Hekmati was delivered to US forces by a rival — or several rivals — who told them a pack of lies about his purported connections with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

    In Afghanistan, Carlotta was able to secure additional proof that Mr. Hekmati’s story was true, and our article therefore provides a much-needed epitaph for a man who, even in death, was slandered by the US military.

    What it also demonstrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the chronic and deliberate ineptitude of the tribunal process at Guantanamo. I was able to demonstrate this in The Guantánamo Files, and it was also confirmed in a report by the Seton Hall Law School (PDF), who, like me, analyzed in detail the documents relating to the detainees, which were released by the Pentagon in 2005 and 2006.

    It was also confirmed by Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, the first former insider to step forward to complain publicly about the tribunal process, who, as Carlotta and I mention in the article, explained that he was “not aware of any realistic attempts” to “identify or even attempt to bring before the tribunal witnesses or their statements,” and concluded that the whole process “was designed to conduct tribunals without witnesses other than the accused detainee.”

    I hope the justices of the Supreme Court are reading the New York Times today.

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