They call me Y. But I am more than a letter. I am a man. I’m Algerian, and am 39 years old.
It’s been such a long time since I experienced “normal life.”
My story is a bit confusing to follow. I’ll keep it simple.
I came to the UK because of its impressive human rights record. Well, that’s what everyone said. I had spoken out against human rights abuses at home and got into trouble for it, so I had to leave. Maybe I should have been like everyone else and not said anything. What would you have done?
Now I have a death sentence waiting for me in Algeria.
I was living in London, as a refugee, rebuilding my life, recovering from torture and finally overcoming the demons it leaves behind.
Things were going well, and then suddenly my life turned upside down. First I was arrested as part of the “ricin plot.” I spent 27 months in Belmarsh. There never was any ricin.
I was acquitted in 2005. I walked out of court a free man. You know, some of the jury members became my friends.
After 7/7 they came for me again. I had nothing to do with it. I was arrested, served with a deportation order to Algeria and taken to Long Lartin prison. No charge. No trial. I was there for 29 months.
And since last July I have been again on bail. I live alone on a housing estate, two hours outside London. A place arranged by the Home Office. It’s not easy to get to, and I don’t have many visitors. Sometimes I don’t speak to a human being, face-to-face, for nearly two weeks.
I feel watched all the time. “They” go everywhere I go. I don’t know what they want or what they are looking for.
It was a relief not to go back to prison last week. You know the only thing that scares me? It’s spending the rest of my life in prison. I don’t know why they keep trying to put me there. I want to know why, but they won’t tell me.
After ricin, I thought the nightmare was over, but it’s not. It has gone on and on. You know sometimes I think I’m going to wake up and this will have been just a dream.
I survived torture. It was some years ago, back in Algeria. It’s not an easy thing to go through. I wish none of you ever suffer it. But torture, it has to end. What is going on now has no end. This is slow torture.
My father died a few months ago, back home. It was a very hard time. I was all alone with my grief. I felt useless and worthless and hopeless. The thing he said he wanted most was to hold me again. I couldn’t even give him that.
My father was totally blind. I used to be his eyes.
Well, what else can I say? I feel so tired. I just want to stop thinking. I want to wake from this nightmare. All I have are dreams and hopes and wishes, but it’s hard to keep hold of these.
I just want to sleep.
I have to stay in the house for 20 hours a day. I wear a tag. It makes me feel like a slave.
I am not allowed outside my boundaries. I can’t go to the town centre, but I can go to two cemeteries if I want. Mostly I don’t want!
The only place I go to every day is Tesco’s. The security guards there are giving me funny looks now. I am there every day at the same time.
Why am I living like this? Why did I spend 56 months in prison? Why do they want to deport me to Algeria? Why do they say I’m a threat to national security? I am here like this today because of secret evidence.
With the permission of Detainee Y, this was read out, by the actor Honor Blackman, at “Britain’s Guantánamo? The use of secret evidence and evidence based on torture in the UK courts,” a parliamentary meeting in the House of Commons, chaired by Diane Abbott MP, on March 30, 2009. The script was written by Saleyha Ahsan, and the material used was carefully gathered through interviews.
This statement (the first of five) is part of a series of four articles and five statements examining the use of secret evidence in the British courts. For an introduction, see Britain’s Guantánamo: An Introduction, and for the first three articles, see Torture taints all our lives (published in the Guardian’s Comment is free), Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence and Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? For the other four statements, see: Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (2) Detainee BB, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (3) Detainee U, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (4) Hussain Al-Samamara and Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (5) Detainee Z.
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, deportations and extraditions, 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), 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 Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009).
Thanks for printing Y’s statement, Andy. Y is a dear friend who has suffered so much injustice and cruel treatment. I am hopeful that everyone attending the meeting in the House of Commons, will take Y’s words to heart and be motivated to do more to fight secret evidence and release him from the mental torture he is suffering. He has told me in the past about being tortured in Algeria but says that at least this sort of torture has an end where mental torture just goes on and on and on.
Thanks for the comment. I missed Honor reading it out, but founds Y’s words to be particularly powerful. It is extraordinary to me that someone cleared of the non-existent “ricin plot” should still be persecuted so relentlessly by the British government. Even Dick Cheney didn’t pursue prisoners once they were released from Guantanamo …
[…] of the meeting is available here, and the profiles of five prisoners are available by following this link, but I thought it was also worth addressing a question posed by the meeting’s title, and to ask […]
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. 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.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: