As one door opens, another, it seems, closes. While British resident Binyam Mohamed was on his was back to the UK from Guantánamo, Jarallah al-Marri, the Qatari national who was released from Guantánamo last July, was detained at Heathrow airport after flying into the UK on Sunday. He is being held at the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre.
This is both unpleasant and inexplicable, as Jarallah came to the UK without incident last month to take part in the UK tour — “Two Sides One Story” — which was organized by Cageprisoners, and featured released prisoner Moazzam Begg and former guard Chris Arendt. Standing in at the last minute for Sami al-Haj, the al-Jazeera journalist who was supposed to be the star of the show, but whose visa was refused by the British government, Jarallah travelled around the UK with Moazzam and Chris, explaining, in his softly-spoken manner, that he did not wish to talk about himself, but was, instead, devoted to publicizing the light of his brother Ali, a legal US resident, who has been held in the United States without charge or trial for over seven years, and has spent the last four years and eight months in horrendous solitary confinement as the only “enemy combatant” on the US mainland.
Moazzam Begg explained on Tuesday that, after the tour, Jarallah returned home but made plans to return on Sunday to discuss Ali’s case with solicitor Gareth Peirce, Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, and representatives of Amnesty International. Moazzam added that “even more relevant was his desire to meet Binyam Mohamed, with whom he was held for so many years,” and that he hoped to meet Binyam on Tuesday with Moazzam.
As Moazzam also explained, the reason for Jarallah’s detention and impending deportation, as he explained on the ‘phone from Colnbrook, was because he did not disclose on his visa form that he had been held in Guantánamo.
Moazzam said, “Considering this is his second time coming to the UK and in light of the very public nature of that visit, it seems astounding that he would be detained, and on the very day of Binyam’s release, at that.” In addition, it strikes me as appalling that Jarallah is being refused entry by the UK because, like all the Guantánamo prisoners, he is indelibly tainted by his association with that most notorious of prisons, even though he was never charged with a crime during the seven years that he was held in US custody, where he was abused and held in horrendous isolation.
As Jarallah stated in a telephone conversation with an Associated Press reporter, “They said, ‘We didn’t know you were in Guantánamo.’ All the world, they know. (The British government is) the last to know? It’s a shame.”
That was putting it mildly — but then, that’s typical of Jarallah.
Jarallah is being held at:
Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre
Telephone: 020 8607 5200 (phone lines open at 9 am)
Photos by Sarah Mirk. Visit her website Guantánamo Voices for more about the “Two Sides One Story” tour — and more on Jarallah.
UPDATE March 1: I’ve heard that Jarallah has now been returned to Qatar from the UK, but have no further news. I’ll add more details if I discover further information.
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.
For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportation and extradition, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009).
There is really no cruelty so petty that the U.S. and British governments won’t stoop to it where these men are concerned.
It’s an ugly feature of human beings: when they’re conscious of having hurt another, they start to project their guilt onto that person and treat them even worse.
This issue of “taint” is very serious. At a book talk and discussion I gave last month at a public library in suburban New York, one woman baldly admitted that she wouldn’t want the Guantanamo prisoners (hypothetically) re-settled in her community, even those who had done absolutely no wrong. She admitted it wasn’t rational, but it was something she felt strongly. None of the other attendees voiced any particular disagreement with her. Another woman talked about “limited psychic energy” to even embrace the issues around collective culpability and redress. The subject of restitution was also anathema–the concern of the group was squarely with the impact of the dismal economy on their own families and communities. The experience was illuminating in a rather dark way.
Nell and Frances,
Thank you both for your comments. In your own ways you have both, I think, illuminated what happens in society — and what has clearly happened since 9/11 — when we are encouraged to demonize and dehumanize the “other.” Obviously, this happens with prisoners who have been charged, tried and sentenced, who emerge from their imprisonment having supposedly paid their debt to society through the loss of their liberty, but who still find themselves stigmatized, because “we” as a whole prefer punishment to rehabilitation.
However, the demonization and dehumanization of “terror suspects” is clearly at another level — one, very disturbingly, that we saw in the States with the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II and that we still see in the legacy of slavery (despite Obama’s success), one that we saw in the UK in the 1970s and 80s with “The Troubles,” as the collective demonization of Irish people was euphemistically referred to, and one that, if we peer a little more closely (as we all should) we will see reflected in the genocidal impulses of Nazi Germany.
With “terror suspects,” such as those held in Guantanamo, who were released without charge or trial, the comments made by your audience member, Frances, are particularly disturbing because no avenue for rehabilitation remains open. Despite being brutalized outside the law, the Guantanamo prisoners are the permanent “other,” and once such a position is taken, the only way forward is into further darkness and division.
It’s getting cold in here …
[…] Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in […]
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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