Archive for July, 2009

As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat

Judge Ellen Segal HuvelleOn Thursday, in a long-anticipated ruling (PDF), Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the habeas corpus petition of Mohamed Jawad, an Afghan teenager seized after a grenade attack on a jeep containing two US soldiers and an Afghan translator in December 2002, and ordered the government to transfer him to the custody of the Afghan authorities, who have already stated that he will be released on arrival.

Even if the government accepts Judge Huvelle’s ruling, Jawad will not be released immediately, because, under the terms of legislation recently forced on the government by Congress, the administration will have to provide lawmakers with “an assessment of any risk to the national security” posed by Jawad before he can be freed, which, it said, would take 22 days.

However, even as Judge Huvelle delivered her ruling, the government announced that it has not entirely given up on Jawad’s case. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ian Gershengorn told the court that the government was still deciding whether to pursue a criminal case against Jawad, meaning that he could, conceivably, be transferred to the US mainland to stand trial in a federal court.

At Thursday’s ruling, Judge Huvelle acknowledged that the government had the right to file a criminal case, and gave lawyers three weeks to do so, but she urged them not to take this course of action. “After this horrible, long, tortured history, I hope the government will succeed in getting him back home,” she said. “Enough has been imposed on this young man to date.”

These may seem like harsh words, but they are nothing compared to the sustained scorn that Judge Huvelle poured on the government’s case in a hearing two weeks ago, and for those who have studied Jawad’s case in any detail, they are entirely appropriate, as the case against Jawad first collapsed nine months ago. It would not be an exaggeration to state that, if the Justice Department and the Defense Department decide to proceed with a criminal prosecution, it will demonstrate not only that they have, collectively, taken leave of their senses, but also that no one in a position of responsibility — President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder or defense secretary Robert Gates — has either the courage or the awareness to step in to prevent a clear message being sent out to the world that, far from addressing the excesses of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” the Obama administration is, instead, pursuing exactly the kind of cruel, unjust and incompetent policies that would bring a smile to the lips of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

To understand the significance of the decision facing the government, it is important to understand that the case against Jawad was always tenuous, as I reported in October 2007, when he was first put forward for a trial by Military Commission (the “terror trials” introduced by Dick Cheney in November 2001, and revived by Congress in 2006, after the Supreme Court ruled them illegal), and that it unraveled spectacularly last September, when the prosecutor in his proposed trial, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, resigned.

Lt. Col. Darrel VandeveldStating that he had once been a “true believer,” but had ended up feeling “truly deceived,” Lt. Col. Vandeveld explained, as I described it in an article two months ago, that he had come to regard the Commissions as “a dysfunctional system, which, both through accident and design, prevented the disclosure of evidence essential to the defense, thereby ensuring that no fair trial was possible.” He also “described how evidence proving that Jawad was a juvenile at the time of his capture, that he was tricked into joining an insurgent group and was drugged before the attack, and that two other men had confessed to the crime, had been deliberately suppressed.”

If a shred of credibility remained in the case, this dissolved in October and November, when, on two separate occasions, Jawad’s military judge, Army Col. Stephen Henley, ruled that the crux of the government’s case against Jawad — two “confessions” made on the day of his capture, the first in Afghan custody, and the second, just hours later, in US custody — were inadmissible because they had been obtained through treatment that constituted torture.

As I explained in my article two months ago,

On October 28 … [Col.] Henley found that there was “reason to believe Jawad was under the influence of drugs at the time of his capture and forced confession,” and also “accepted the accused’s account of how he was threatened, while armed senior Afghan officials allied with US forces watched his interrogation.” He stated that he believed Jawad’s account of an interrogator telling him, “You will be killed if you do not confess to the grenade attack. We will arrest your family and kill them if you do not confess.” He also made a point of stating that he was accepting Jawad’s account because the government had failed to provide “timely disclosure of evidence” for his trial, which was scheduled to begin on January 5, 2009. […]

Three weeks later, Col. Henley dealt another blow to the prosecution’s case by ruling that a second confession, made in US custody the day after his Afghan confession, was also inadmissible, because “the US interrogator used techniques to maintain ‘the shock and fearful state’ associated with his arrest by Afghan police, including blindfolding him and placing a hood over his head.” As Col. Henley explained in his ruling, “The military commission concludes the effect of the death threats which produced the accused’s first confession to the Afghan police had not dissipated by the second confession to the US. In other words, the subsequent confession was itself the product of the preceding death threats.”

When Col. Henley excluded Jawad’s first confession, Lt. Col. Vandeveld responded by stating that it was “among the most important evidence for his upcoming war crimes trial,” and adding, “To me, the case is not only eviscerated, it is now impossible to prosecute with any credibility.”

This really should have been the end of the whole sordid story, and Jawad should have been put on a plane and sent back to Afghanistan, but this didn’t happen, and, although Barack Obama suspended the Military Commissions for four months on his arrival in the White House on January 20, 2009, Jawad’s habeas corpus petition — one of hundreds allowed to proceed after a momentous Supreme Court ruling last June — reached a US District Court around the same time, accompanied by an even more scathing statement by Lt. Col. Vandeveld.

In an unparalleled dissection of the failures of the Military Commission system — and, in a wider sense, of the gathering of evidence in connection with the cases of all the Guantánamo prisoners — Lt. Col. Vandeveld described at length the “chaotic” state of the Prosecutors’ Office, and explained how he had discovered previously hidden evidence relating to Jawad’s abuse at Bagram and in Guantánamo, where he was subjected to a sleep deprivation program, which involved moving prisoners from cell to cell every few hours (over a two-week period, in Jawad’s case) and was known, euphemistically, as the “frequent flier program.” He also noted that Jawad’s continued detention was “something beyond a travesty,” and stated that he “should be released to resume his life in civil society, for his sake, and for our own sense of justice and perhaps to restore a measure of our basic humanity.”

A relative of Mohamed Jawad holds up photos of Jawad, taken shortly before his capture

A relative of Mohamed Jawad holds up photos of Jawad, taken just before his capture.

Given the glacial pace of most of the habeas reviews — primarily because of obstruction by the Justice Department, where officials have been behaving as though George W. Bush was still in power and Dick Cheney was still breathing down their necks — it took until June for Jawad’s case to reach a point where Judge Huvelle could finally confront the shattered remnants of the government’s supposed evidence. On that occasion, she indicated that the government would be in for a bumpy ride, declaring, “This case has been so thoroughly examined that it may be the one and only case not to be so difficult. This case is ready to go.”

However, few observers were prepared for the torrent of derision that Judge Huvelle subjected the government to just two weeks ago. In a 30-minute hearing on July 16 (PDF), Judge Huvelle’s patience was stretched to breaking point when the government responded to her ruling that every other confession made by Jawad at Guantánamo would also be excluded not by contesting the ruling (or, as would have made sense, by dropping the case outright), but by pleading that it needed more time to decide whether it could still build a case for a possible trial in federal court, or in a new Military Commission, based on what it described as new inculpatory evidence unearthed during a search of records.

Judge Huvelle’s criticisms were so sustained, and so damning of the government’s inability to recognize that it had no case, that I’m reproducing detailed excerpts in a separate article, but to pick out a few highlights, she repeatedly stressed that the government did not have a single reliable witness, and that the case was “lousy,” “in trouble,” “unbelievable,” and “riddled with holes.”

She also insisted that the government should have known that it had no case when Jawad’s proposed trial by Military Commission effectively collapsed last November, and repeatedly expressed her fears that the administration was planning some kind of underhand treachery to prevent her from granting Jawad’s habeas petition, stating, at one point, “I’m not going to wait to grant a habeas until you gear up a military commission. That’s what I’m afraid of. Let him out. Send him back to Afghanistan.” On another occasion, she stated, “If they [the government] think for one minute that I am going to delay this thing so they can come up with some other alternative to going forward with the habeas and pull this rug from under the Court at the last minute by saying, oh, he is going to the Southern District of New York, don’t bother — or whatever idea you come up with.”

To my mind, the very fact that a judge in a US District Court can, genuinely, fear that the government will attempt to usurp her authority spells out, succinctly, the dangers of the place in which the Obama administration finds itself, as it attempts to clear up the mess inherited from George W. Bush. I still have no firm idea why Obama and Holder have allowed the Justice Department to pursue unjustifiable and unwinnable cases in the habeas litigation, resulting, over the last few months, in humiliation after humiliation, first in the case of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, then in the case of Abdul Rahim al-Ginco, a young Syrian who was tortured by al-Qaeda, and now in the case of Mohamed Jawad.

However, it’s conceivable that, in its desire to fully comprehend the cases — and to “own” them, if you like — the administration has poured all its energies into the inter-departmental Task Force that is currently halfway through reviewing all the Guantánamo prisoners’ cases. This is, perhaps, understandable, but by neglecting to cast a genuinely critical eye on the habeas litigation, senior officials are committing three unforgivable errors:

  • firstly, they are treating the judiciary with scorn, even though the habeas litigation began five years ago on the orders of the Supreme Court, and the District Courts are, moreover, the only genuinely open forum for discussion of the Guantánamo cases;
  • secondly, they are demonstrating that, whatever fine words they may utter, they are, in practice, cleaving to the Bush administration’s insanely broad detention policies regarding “enemy combatants,” and are effectively failing to distinguish between genuine terrorist suspects (al-Qaeda) and low-level fighters in an inter-Muslim civil war that preceded 9/11 and had nothing to do with it (recruits for the Taliban);
  • and thirdly, by failing to understand how little “evidence” is actually credible, because it is the product of the dubious interrogations of other prisoners, or of intelligence procedures, designed to produce a “mosaic” of intelligence, which, in reality, cannot stand up to independent scrutiny, they are repeatedly pursuing cases that only end up embarrassing or humiliating the government, and are, yet again, reinforcing notions that they are essentially happy with the Bush administration’s unprecedented and unforgivable decision to create a category of prisoner that is neither a prisoner of war nor a criminal suspect.

The response to these errors is the same as it should have been on Day One of the Obama administration, when many of us thought that real change was coming: speed up the habeas cases; focus solely on issues relating to acts of terrorism or genuine support for terrorism; abandon every other case, especially those that look dubious or unwinnable; and prepare federal court trials for those regarded as genuinely dangerous, in the knowledge that federal courts have a proven track record of successful terrorist prosecutions, and that no jury will fail to convict if any real evidence is presented.

In addition, the administration needs to swear that, in future, anyone seized in wartime or in connection with terrorism will be treated either as a prisoner of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, or as a criminal suspect, to be prosecuted in a federal court, so that “lousy” and “unbelievable” cases like that of Mohamed Jawad become a thing of the past, consigned to history as securely as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the other architects of the unprecedented flight from the law that was initiated in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on the Huffington Post, CounterPunch, Antiwar.com and ZNet. Cross-posted on Common Dreams and uruknet.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Guantánamo habeas cases, see: Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: the most important habeas corpus case in modern history and Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: What Happened? (both December 2007), The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean? (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (Uighurs’ first court victory, June 2008), What’s Happening with the Guantánamo cases? (July 2008), Government Says Six Years Is Not Long Enough To Prepare Evidence (September 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims (November 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), The Top Ten Judges of 2008 (January 2009), No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo (January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (January 2009), How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo (January 2009), Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), The Nobodies Formerly Known As Enemy Combatants (March 2009), Farce at Guantánamo, as cleared prisoner’s habeas petition is denied (April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Judge Condemns “Mosaic” Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Obama’s Failure To Deliver Justice To The Last Tajik In Guantánamo (July 2009), Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think (July 2009), How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave (August 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker (August 2009). Also see: Justice extends to Bagram, Guantánamo’s Dark Mirror (April 2009), Judge Rules That Afghan “Rendered” To Bagram In 2002 Has No Rights (July 2009).

How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case

Judge Ellen Segal HuvelleOn Thursday, as I reported in a separate article, “As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat,” District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the habeas corpus petition of Mohamed Jawad, one of Guantánamo’s youngest prisoners, seized when he was just a teenager. That article provides detailed background on the shocking story of Jawad’s mistreatment and the refusal of both the Bush and Obama administrations to concede that there was — and is — no viable case against Jawad, but in this article I am reproducing highlights from a habeas hearing on July 16 (PDF), in which Judge Huvelle subjected Justice Department lawyers to one of the most sustained outpourings of derision in the whole sorry history of the Bush administration’s woefully inept detention policies in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. For some reason known only to itself, the Obama administration seems hell-bent on defending its predecessor’s policies in federal courts, even though all that awaits it, in the majority of cases, is humiliation, embarrassment and worldwide scorn.

The hearing began as follows:

Judge Huvelle: I have now suppressed every statement attributable to the defendant as the government has failed to oppose. The way I look at this is your books of material facts upon which you are proceeding. If I calculate it right, about 90 percent of it is statements attributable to the petitioner. So they’re out. So what is there to think about?

Kristina Wolfe (Justice Department): Well, there is other evidence in the factual return and in the statement of material facts that is not comprised of petitioner’s statements. At this juncture we’re consulting internally to determine how we’ll proceed.

Judge Huvelle: There are 11 statements attributed to Afghanistan officials and to the Americans. The Americans did not see anything and there may or may not be an Afghani who saw something. You can’t prevail here without a witness who saw it. I mean, let’s be frank. You can tell your superiors that. You can’t. There is no evidence otherwise. You have nothing here other than statements attributable — there are potentially three people. So that’s your only way to proceed. And I don’t see how you can do it. Who do you have to consult with about this? Who are the powers that be?

Kristina Wolfe: The relevant decision-makers, Your Honor, are both within our client agencies and well as within the Department of Justice.

Judge Huvelle: It is a very short trial, you don’t have any witnesses. Without a witness, I don’t understand this case.

When the Justice Department proposed submitting “an amended statement of material facts” on August 7, two days after Judge Huvelle’s scheduled trial date, she reacted as follows:

Judge Huvelle: I’m not putting it off. This guy has been there seven years, seven years. He might have been taken there at the age of 12, 13, 14, 15 years old. I don’t know what he is doing there. Without his statements, I don’t understand your case. I really don’t. You cannot expect an eyewitness time of account to rely on the kind of hearsay you have here … You should have figured this out months ago, years ago frankly in the military commission, but be that as it may — the answer is we’re going forward full-blown on the fifth. You can participate or not. You have the burden here.

Daniel Barish (Justice Department): Your Honor, again, as explained, we need time to evaluate how to proceed. We need to do a motion to amend the statement of facts.

Judge Huvelle: It’s granted.

Daniel Barish: We’ve not done it yet, Your Honor.

Judge Huvelle: Sir, the facts can only get smaller, not bigger.

Daniel Barish: That’s not correct, Your Honor. There is additional evidence that we’ve identified that we wish to include in an amended statement of facts if that’s how we choose to do so.

Judge Huvelle: Then you’ll have to move faster than you are planning. I’m not the least bit apologetic. We’re going forward. When can you file your statement of facts? They have a right to have this habeas decided. If you are not relying on this gentleman’s statements anymore, face it, this case is in trouble. I’m not going to wait to grant a habeas until you gear up a military commission. That’s what I’m afraid of. Let him out. Send him back to Afghanistan.

After explaining to the Justice Department lawyers that the government’s case “has been gutted,” Judge Huvelle tore into them again:

Judge Huvelle: I don’t know what evidence you are putting in front of me. I’m very interested to know. I’m baffled. This is a case unlike any other case. You have an eyewitness account. You can’t rely on the petitioner. So, either there is a witness who is going to put this guy there subject to a real cross-examination like a real case instead of all this intelligence and attributing it to people who are either cooperators, unknown, unidentified … There’s not a problem. The real people can show up. You can bring them to me in whatever form. If you have to go to Afghanistan to take a deposition, fine. But seven years and this case is riddled with holes. And you know it. I don’t mean you. The United States government knows it is lousy. If you can’t rely on the guy’s statements, you have a lousy case.

Daniel Barish: Your Honor, this is a wartime habeas proceeding. So it is not a normal situation where you call live witnesses.

Judge Huvelle: Fine, don’t.

Daniel Barish: There are immense burdens involved. These are intelligence reports we rely on. We don’t want to argue the merits here. But I think you underestimate, with all due respect, the burdens involved in having to call witnesses, remove people off the battlefield and from Afghanistan.

Judge Huvelle: There is nobody on the battlefield. The only people that you can dredge up here are Afghanistan people. There is nobody else. I’m not aware of you having an American that could conceivably offer real testimony. Maybe I’m missing something.

Daniel Barish: Your Honor, if I could have a moment.

Judge Huvelle: You are welcome to try. I’m telling you to discuss this case quickly among your superiors. There is a problem with this case. You’ve known about it for years. You’ve known about it since — when was the military commission? If that didn’t wake anybody up there. Then I get this report, I hope it is not classified. This July 1, is it under seal?

Kristina Wolfe: Your Honor, that was submitted ex parte and cannot be discussed in these proceedings.

Judge Huvelle: Okay. Fine. I’m going forward on the fifth. Take it to the Court of Appeals. Let’s hear from you. Do you have any live witnesses? We have procedures if you want to call your client and all that, we have to be in a special courtroom. The government will have a — we’ll find out if they have any evidence. This is an unbelievable case.

After an exchange with Jonathan Hafetz of the ACLU (for Jawad), in which Judge Huvelle described the case as a “shambles,” she responded to a description by Hafetz of the government’s case being “total nonsense,” by exclaiming, in what appeared to be a rhetorical outburst of despair, “I don’t have time for nonsense. I have another trial. You didn’t do it in a timely fashion. Why should I have to put up with this?”

And then, after focusing again on what the government’s supposed new evidence might be, Judge Huvelle seemed to be struck by another wave of angry incredulity. “This is the most discovered case in the world,” she said. “The idea that you should think that you have new and different [evidence] that you want to put in front of everybody is shocking to me, absolutely shocking. There is not one fact about this guy’s statements that are new to the government. If they think for one minute that I am going to delay this thing so they can come up with some other alternative to going forward with the habeas and pull this rug from under the Court at the last minute by saying, oh, he is going to the Southern District of New York, don’t bother — or whatever idea you come up with.”

After Kristina Wolfe explained that, “during our Court-ordered task force search discovery, we did discover some inculpatory evidence that you yourself acknowledged that that is something that could have occurred any time you do additional discovery in these cases,” and then explained that she would not be able to submit the new material immediately because she was going on vacation, Judge Huvelle exploded again:

Judge Huvelle: Then somebody will have to step in. This case is an outrage to me. I’m sorry. This is an outrage. I’m not going to sit up here and wait for you to come up with new evidence at this late hour. There is only one question here: did the guy throw a grenade or didn’t he throw a grenade? That’s the issue. Right? If he didn’t do that, you can’t win. I’m not going to have people running around trying to figure out a way to get this case out of the Court’s jurisdiction for some other reason. You have to come to grips with your cases. This guy, my understanding is the Afghanistan courts want him back. And nobody here objects. That’s his home. That’s where he’s from. They wouldn’t take a minute to get him back to where he came from. So somebody has to decide. I don’t know what your inculpatory evidence is but somebody has looked at it at least before July 1. So, either you can do it in a timely fashion or you can’t.

Daniel Barish: Your Honor, just so you understand, the additional inculpatory evidence that Ms. Wolfe referred to, our understanding is that is evidence that has already been received in the military commission case by defense counsel, Mr. Frakt. So it is not going to be some surprise.

Judge Huvelle: Great. So then you should have no trouble making a motion here to tell me why you want to amend. You did a statement here, which is a pretty good argument you just made for why you shouldn’t be able to [make an] amendment. You made a filing where you listed your evidence. So, that was done, your statement of material facts was done way back. And you are telling me that whatever you knew, you knew before that. You didn’t include it. So why should we have to put up with this now? Give me one good reason.

Kristina Wolfe: Your Honor, we discovered the inculpatory information during our Court-ordered search of the task force materials.

Judge Huvelle: That’s not what you just said. You mean because you didn’t discover it, but —

Kristina Wolfe: I’m not employed by the Office of Military Commission. I do not have access to their files. We, Mr. Barish and myself discovered this information during our Court-ordered search of the task force materials.

Judge Huvelle: I want an affidavit to indicate that you discovered it after June 1. That’s when you filed the statement of facts. June 1, respondent’s statement of material facts on which they intend to reply. 90 percent of that is his statements. So the time has come to face the music.

After running through the implications of Judge Henley’s rulings, and setting dates for submissions, Judge Huvelle then pointed out, “This is a case unlike all the rest of them. This does not involve intelligence. This does not involve any particular high-level government agency doing the intelligence at all. Did anybody see him do it or didn’t they see him do it?”

She then returned to the question of new inculpatory evidence, and the hearing closed with the following exchanges:

Judge Huvelle: And as part of this, I want to know exactly when the people who are seated here learned about this because it is clear that the military commission — I don’t know what kind of government we have that the military commission produces the stuff back in — when was the hearing down there? Was it in ’08?

Jonathan Hafetz: The hearing was all in ’08 …

Judge Huvelle: They, over here, the government doesn’t — the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. I want to know what the right hand knew as of June 1 when they filed this thing. They’re telling me they didn’t know, “they,” the prosecutors here, or the counsel for the respondents. So as part of this, if they want me to consider something, I’d like to know who knew what, when? You know the question: Who knew what, when?

Jonathan Hafetz: Yes, Your Honor. There is one government holding Mr. Jawad. In addition, even after the material was produced, there was no motion to amend at that point. Now, it’s only when they realize that their statements are inadmissible that they’re now trying to drum up new reasons …

Judge Huvelle: It appears that all they’re relying on is stuff that the military people knew. And they’re saying we didn’t know about it, Ms. Wolfe and Mr. Barish. That’s hardly compelling. It better be good evidence. But the level of trustworthiness of a piece of evidence is going to be determined. It is not my job to give advice but I think you’d better go consult real quick with the powers that be, because this is a case that’s been screaming to everybody for years. I only learned about it when it was transferred to me from Judge Urbina. But the US government has certainly known about the problems through the military commission. That was months ago. There are no surprises to some people, including — there is a prosecutor from the military commission [Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld] who quit and wrote a 20-page affidavit. He investigated. They had defense counsel for the military [Maj. David Frakt], who investigated and wrote affidavits, appeared at the military commission. Astounding kinds of things happened at that military commission. I read all of this because I thought we were having a Motion to Suppress. So I read every piece of paper before today. I mean, the idea that people would go to the military commission and say, “I’ll only testify if you put a hood on me” is unbelievable. This is our government.

Your case fell apart back then. So now, somebody ought to face the music and figure out how you can make a case. How can you do it? Boumediene [the Supreme Court ruling granting the prisoners habeas rights] says you have to make a case. You’ve got the burden, you’ll have to satisfy the standard — which is not as high as a criminal case — that you have a basis to continue to detain a young person for more than seven years based on, I don’t know what, people who say that they didn’t see what they said they saw. I mean, it’s time.

Sorry about — I don’t mean to impose a great burden personally. But there are thousands of people within the Department of Justice. Find one of them to so something about this case … We work hard, and so do you. If you need me to call your superiors to wake them up to this case — I don’t understand. It is awful. There are reports in the press all the time. It looks like this case is being ignored in some way. It is not being ignored. It is not that — I only got it recently. Have you read the blogs on this case? It’s just — everything is public. Everybody knows about it.

Fine. You can file you opposition to this. But I’m much more interested in the case and not this other stuff. Is there anything further at this time? I realize it is going to be a difficult time to get together. But if the government is forced to do something, lo and behold, they often look at it and come to the right conclusion, sooner than later. It is now the time to figure out whether you can actually go forward with the habeas. I’d be surprised.

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Guantánamo habeas cases, see: Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: the most important habeas corpus case in modern history and Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: What Happened? (both December 2007), The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean? (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (Uighurs’ first court victory, June 2008), What’s Happening with the Guantánamo cases? (July 2008), Government Says Six Years Is Not Long Enough To Prepare Evidence (September 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims (November 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), The Top Ten Judges of 2008 (January 2009), No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo (January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (January 2009), How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo (January 2009), Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), The Nobodies Formerly Known As Enemy Combatants (March 2009), Farce at Guantánamo, as cleared prisoner’s habeas petition is denied (April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Judge Condemns “Mosaic” Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Obama’s Failure To Deliver Justice To The Last Tajik In Guantánamo (July 2009), Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think (July 2009), As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave (August 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker (August 2009). Also see: Justice extends to Bagram, Guantánamo’s Dark Mirror (April 2009), Judge Rules That Afghan “Rendered” To Bagram In 2002 Has No Rights (July 2009).

US Torture Under Scrutiny In British Courts

The Guantanamo FilesAndy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, reports on three important court cases in the UK this week, focusing on “extraordinary rendition” and torture in the “War on Terror.” These cases have implications not only for the complicity of the British government in the Bush administration’s flight from the law, but also for the Obama administration, which, on a number of fronts, appears to be doing all in its power to either maintain Bush-era policies or to shield the previous administration from accountability for its actions.

Binyam Mohamed and Jeppesen, “The CIA’s Travel Agent”

Last weekend, lawyers for Binyam Mohamed, the British resident and former Guantánamo prisoner who was subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and tortured in Morocco and in the “Dark Prison,” a CIA prison in Afghanistan, secured what may be a significant victory in their campaign to hold to account those who took part in the rendition program, when the Sussex-based Jeppesen UK, a division of Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. (which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing), “dropped its opposition to a case against it being heard in court,” as the Guardian explained.

In the United States, as I explained in an article in May, “Obama’s First 100 Days: Mixed Messages On Torture,” the Obama administration’s Justice Department has resisted attempts by the ACLU to hold Jeppesen accountable for its role as “The CIA’s Travel Agent” (as Jane Mayer described the company in an article for the New Yorker) in the cases of five prisoners: Binyam Mohamed, Ahmed Agiza, Abou Elkassim Britel, Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah and Bisher al-Rawi (profiled here). This was in spite of the fact that Sean Belcher, a former Jeppesen employee, stated that Bob Overby, the director of Jeppesen International Trip Planning Services, told him, “We do all the extraordinary rendition flights,” which he also referred to as “the torture flights” or “spook flights.” Belcher also stated that “there were some employees who were not comfortable with that aspect of Jeppesen’s business” because they knew “some of these flights end up” with the passengers being tortured, but added that Overby explained, “that’s just the way it is, we’re doing them” because “the rendition flights paid very well.”

In April, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the government, demolishing the Justice Department’s assertions that it could invoke the little-used state secrets doctrine to prevent disclosure in the case. In a memorable ruling, the judges declared,

At base, the government argues … that state secrets form the subject matter of a lawsuit, and therefore require dismissal, any time a complaint contains allegations, the truth or falsity of which has been classified as secret by a government official. The district court [which sided with the government in a previous hearing] agreed, dismissing the case exclusively because it “involves allegations” about [secret] conduct by the CIA.” This sweeping characterization of the “very subject matter” bar has no logical limit — it would apply equally to suits by US citizens, not just foreign nationals; and to secret conduct committed on US soil, not just abroad. According to the government’s theory, the Judiciary should effectively cordon off all secret government actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the CIA and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.

The court’s ruling is currently the subject of an appeal by the government, but although it is difficult to see how the administration can prevail, the decision by Jeppesen’s UK division to drop its opposition to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Binyam Mohamed in the UK suggests that, whatever the outcome of the appeal in the US, the disclosure of documents in the UK will provide crucial evidence to bolster further claims against Jeppesen — and should, I believe, be regarded by the Obama administration as another example of the failure of its essentially indefensible policy of preventing scrutiny of Bush-era torture policies. As the Guardian noted, “Jeppesen UK’s decision to drop its opposition to fighting the case in a British court means a wealth of confidential information relating to the alleged rendition process will become public.”

As the Guardian also explained, “Jeppesen contends there is ‘no basis’ to the claims against it. But after Mohamed’s London lawyers, Leigh Day & Co, presented a large volume of evidence — running to 419 pages — which they claim proves the company’s involvement in the rendition process, the British arm of the firm withdrew its attempt to have the case struck out.”

In a letter to Leigh Day & Co., Jeppesen’s lawyers, Allen & Overy, explained the climb-down as follows: “Our client … has undertaken an extensive review of information in order to address and rebut your client’s evidence. During the course of this exercise it has become apparent that due to the scope and diffuse nature of the evidence … there is a real risk that the hearing of our client’s application will descend into a ‘mini-trial’ … In these circumstances, we consider that the most appropriate and proportionate course is for our client to withdraw its application and for the claim to proceed to trial in the normal way.”

This sounds very much like legal-speak for putting off the inevitable — and hoping, perhaps, that some new form of obstruction can be conjured up in the near future — but Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represented Mohamed in Guantánamo and continue to work on his behalf, was exultant. “Jeppesen’s embarrassing U-turn vindicates our fight to expose corporate collusion in torture,” he explained. “Binyam Mohamed, and perhaps many others, are one step nearer to making the directors of companies stop and think before they commit criminal acts for profit.”

Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni and rendition through Diego Garcia

Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, photographed in GuantanamoOn Tuesday, a second case — aimed primarily at the British government, but with implications for the US government too — was launched in London, when Reprieve announced, at a press conference, that it was commencing legal action against the British government for its role in the rendition to torture of the joint Pakistani-Egyptian national Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni.

I reported Madni’s story in my book The Guantánamo Files, and also revisited it last September, after his release from Guantánamo, in an article entitled, “Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo.” In addition, I was also the only journalist to cover Madni’s case in detail two months ago, in an article entitled, “Revealed: Identity Of Guantánamo Torture Victim Rendered Through Diego Garcia.”

The article in June followed the publication of a report in which Reprieve announced that it had discovered Madni’s identity by reading between the lines of the British government’s admissions, in 2008 (after long years of denials), that it had only just learned from the US government that two prisoners had been “rendered” through the British Overseas Territory of Diego Garcia, which was leased to the US in the 1960s. Although the government refused to provide the names of the rendered prisoners, Reprieve was able to work out, from the limited information made available, that one of the men was Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni.

At its press conference, Reprieve announced that it was suing the government because a letter to foreign secretary David Miliband, dated July 13, which set out Reprieve’s findings and asked Miliband to confirm that Madni was unlawfully transferred through British territory and to provide him with further details of UK knowledge and involvement in his “extraordinary rendition” and torture, had been “ignored.”

To coincide with Reprieve’s announcement, the BBC interviewed Madni for Radio 4’s File on 4 (with a short video available here), in which Madni ran through his story, explaining how he was kidnapped by the CIA during a trip to Indonesia on family business, and flown, via Diego Garcia, to Egypt, where he was tortured.

Madni told the BBC that he was “shackled tightly and packed in a wooden box on the flight,” and added, “When I arrived in Egypt I was blindfolded and left in a room … they interrogated me three times. Each was for 17 hours and they electrocuted me in my knees.” Madni also stated that “an American interrogator wrote down questions for others to ask,” and explained that he was “made to drink drugged tea.”

He also said that the interrogators “asked if I knew Osama Bin Laden or went to Afghanistan or if I met Richard Reid [the mentally-troubled and inept shoe bomber, who had been arrested shortly before Madni’s visit to Indonesia] or knew anything about a shoe bomb or future attacks.” The questions, as I have explained before, were based on a comment about shoe bombs that was allegedly made by Madni during a visit to a house in Jakarta that was bugged by the Indonesian security services, who subsequently tipped off the CIA. The last time I wrote about it, I explained that

his case “deserves to be more than a mere footnote in the history of the Bush administration’s vile and unprincipled policies of “extraordinary rendition” and torture,” as the suffering inflicted on the 24-year old Islamic scholar — which involved three months of torture in Egypt, followed by eleven months in the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and over five years in Guantánamo — was based not on detailed evidence that he was a terrorist, but on a single ill-advised comment picked up by the Indonesian intelligence services.

In a separate interview (available on video here), the BBC also spoke to Clive Stafford Smith, who explained, “The issue for Britain is that Diego Garcia is a British territory, we’re responsible for it and what happens on it … the Americans are meant to tell us what they are doing and we, as supervisor of Diego Garcia, have a responsibility to make sure that crimes do not happen on it.” He added, “I think particularly under the Blair administration there was an awful lot of playing the ostrich where the government knew what was going on but just buried its head in the sand. Now that’s just wrong.”

Addressing the question of the British government’s knowledge of the rendition flights, Stafford Smith said that, when challenged, “each time it [the government] has come forward and put its hands up and said, ‘Ah, well, two people did fly through Diego Garcia,’ they have refused to say who the victims are. To me that is utterly scandalous that you can commit an offence against an individual and then refuse [to reveal] the identity of that individual and refuse to let us at Reprieve help the poor guy get reunited with his legal rights. I think that is so wrong and our government cannot stand there and say they are doing everything they can against torture when they continue to refuse to admit who the victims are.”

Binyam Mohamed, Hillary Clinton and the British judges’ torture summary

Binyam Mohamed on his release from GuantanamoThe third case this week also involved Binyam Mohamed, and is part of his long-running attempt to oblige the British government to reveal information relating to its knowledge of his rendition and torture. This particular process began last April, and I have reported its twists and turns over the last 15 months, involving, in particular, a judicial review in the High Court, in which the judges — Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones — criticized the intelligence services for sending agents to interrogate Mohamed in May 2002, while he was being held illegally in Pakistan, and also for providing and receiving intelligence about him from July 2002 until February 2003, when they knew that he was being held incommunicado, and should not have been involved without receiving cast-iron assurances about his welfare.

In the judgment, they stated explicitly that, “by seeking to interview BM [Mohamed] in the circumstances found and supplying information and questions for his interviews, the relationship between the United Kingdom Government and the United States authorities went far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.” The judges also seized on an admission, made on behalf of the foreign secretary, David Miliband, that Mohamed had “established an arguable case” that, until his transfer to Guantánamo, “he was subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by or on behalf of the United States,” and was also “subject to torture during such detention by or on behalf of the United States,” and ordered the British government to hand over the evidence in its possession — 42 documents in total — to his lawyers.

I have no doubt that the scandal of Mohamed’s rendition and torture, which, last October, was being discussed in courtrooms on both sides of the Atlantic, led to Mohamed’s release from Guantánamo in February this year, when he essentially leapfrogged to the top of the Obama administration’s review of the Guantánamo prisoners’ cases, but the struggle to secure access to the 42 documents held by the British government — or, to be strictly accurate, to a seven-paragraph summary of that information, prepared by the judges and redacted from their initial judgment last August — has been taking place ever since, and shows no sign of being resolved any time soon.

From the outset, the British government has claimed that publication of the judges’ summary — which, as the Guardian explained, consists of “what the CIA knew, and what it told MI5 and MI6, about the treatment of Mohamed” — would damage the relationship between the British and American intelligence services, even though the judges have repeatedly stated that the summary contains nothing that could possibly be described as “highly sensitive classified US intelligence.” As they explained in February,

[I]n the light of the long history of the common law and democracy which we share with the United States, it was in our view difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported, as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters. Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials or officials of another State where the evidence was relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.

Two months ago, on the last occasion that the court convened for an update, I reported exclusively that exchanges in the court revealed that a letter from an unnamed Obama administration official, reiterating that disclosure could be damaging to the US-UK intelligence-sharing relationship, had almost certainly come from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and this was confirmed on Wednesday, in the latest hearing, when, in a written statement, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, referred to a meeting with Ms. Clinton in Washington on May 12,  and explained, as the Guardian described it, “that she ‘indicated’ that the disclosure of CIA evidence ‘would affect intelligence sharing.’ Pressed repeatedly by the judges on the claim yesterday, Karen Steyn, Miliband’s counsel, insisted that Clinton was indeed saying that if the seven-paragraph summary of CIA material was disclosed, the US would ‘reassess’ its intelligence relationship with the UK, a move that ‘would put lives at risk.’”

This was questioned both by Lord Justice Thomas, who asked, “Is it remotely credible that [the Obama administration] would stop intelligence-sharing?” and by Guy Vassall-Adams, representing the Guardian and other media groups, who have joined with Mohamed’s lawyers in seeking disclosure of the judges’ summary.

As the Guardian described it, Vassall-Adams “told the court that Miliband’s claims — including his account of his conversation with Clinton — ‘lack any credibility,’” and, as is by now familiar, he queried Miliband’s insistence that any material provided by a foreign government must always remain secret, regardless of whether there are any pressing reasons for such material to be released. “The ultimate decision as to where the balance of the public interest lies is a matter for the courts and not for the executive,” he said, “and any [foreign] country providing intelligence to the UK which understood otherwise would be labouring under a fundamental misapprehension.”

Lord Justice Thomas then spoke, saying, as the Guardian described it, “that the absolute control over intelligence material the UK and US governments were claiming was not based on any legal principle,” but was, in his words, “the exercise of naked political power.” He added that the most recent letter from the US government did not prove the foreign secretary’s assertions, but “merely demonstrated that the CIA would like the court to withhold from the public … findings about CIA wrongdoing.”

Whether this impasse will ever be broken remains to be seen, but it is noticeable that the judges’ language has become stronger over time, and that Lord Justice Thomas’s dislike of obstacles raised not to protect national security but to shield agencies and governments from embarrassment — or worse — has become more pronounced. I quoted above from the judges’ ruling in February, in which they were bewildered that a democracy governed by the rule of law could consider suppressing evidence that was “relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be,” and in this, the British judges would no doubt concur with the judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who, in a footnote to their ruling in the Jeppesen case in April, cited a 1953 letter to President Eisenhower from Attorney General Herbert Brownwell, in which Brownwell wrote that classification procedures were then “so broadly drawn … as to make it possible for government officials to cover up their own mistakes and even their wrongdoing under the guise of protecting national security.”

Fifty-six years later, it seems clear that one of the many baleful legacies of the Bush administration’s brutal and ill-conceived “War on Terror” is a similar approach to secrecy, in cases purportedly related to terrorism, in which both the US and its closest allies are regularly infuriating judges by hiding their errors — and, let us be clear, their crimes — behind spurious claims of “national security.” This is more understandable in the UK, where the same government that stood “shoulder to shoulder” with President Bush is still in power, than it is in the US, where the Obama administration’s repeated defence of its predecessors’ horrific policies is causing growing consternation amongst those who believed that Obama would reshape the US as a country founded on the rule of law, but in both countries it is time for the obstruction to stop, and for a true pursuit of truth and justice to prevail.

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 relating to Binyam Mohamed, see the following: Urgent appeal for British resident Binyam Mohamed, “close to suicide” in Guantánamo (December 2007), Guantánamo: Torture victim Binyam Mohamed sues British government for evidence (May 2008), Binyam Mohamed’s letter from Guantánamo to Gordon Brown (May 2008), Guantánamo trials: critical judge sacked, British torture victim charged (June 2008), Binyam Mohamed: UK court grants judicial review over torture allegations, as US files official charges (June 2008), Binyam Mohamed’s judicial review: judges grill British agent and question fairness of Guantánamo trials (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Guantánamo torture victim Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), In a plea from Guantánamo, Binyam Mohamed talks of “betrayal” by the UK (September 2008), US Justice Department drops “dirty bomb plot” allegation against Binyam Mohamed (October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), British torture victim Binyam Mohamed to be released from Guantánamo (January 2009), Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), The Betrayal of British Torture Victim Binyam Mohamed (February 2009), Hiding Torture And Freeing Binyam Mohamed From Guantánamo (February 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Coming Home From Guantánamo, As Torture Allegations Mount (February 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s statement on his release from Guantánamo (February 2009), Who Is Binyam Mohamed? (February 2009), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009), Guantánamo, Bagram and the “Dark Prison”: Binyam Mohamed talks to Moazzam Begg (March 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: Mixed Messages On Torture (May 2009), UK Government Lies Exposed; Spy Visited Binyam Mohamed In Morocco (May 2009), Daily Mail Pulls Story About Binyam Mohamed And British Spy (May 2009), Government Bans Testimony On Binyam Mohamed And The British Spy (May 2009), More twists in the tale of Binyam Mohamed (in the Guardian, May 2009), Outsourcing torture to foreign climes (in the Guardian, May 2009), Binyam Mohamed: Was Muhammad Salih’s Death In Guantánamo Suicide? (June 2009), Miliband Shows Leadership, Reveals Nothing About Torture To Parliamentary Committee (June 2009).

For another story discussing the use of torture in secret prisons, see: An unreported story from Guantánamo: the tale of Sanad al-Kazimi (August 2007). And for other stories discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported murders in the US prison at Bagram airbase (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), The Trials of Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s “child soldier” (November 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib (December 2007), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns “Chaotic” Trials in Case of Teenage Torture Victim (Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (Mohammed El-Gharani, January 2009), Bush Era Ends With Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Forgotten in Guantánamo: British Resident Shaker Aamer (March 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009) and the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.

Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think

Barack Obama signs the Executive Order relating to the closure of Guantanamo, January 2009When the Obama administration’s Detention Policy Task Force, established by Executive Order on the President’s second day in office, conceded last week that it would miss its six-month deadline to issue its recommendations about how to close Guantánamo, many observers focused on whether this meant that Obama would fail to meet his deadline of Jan 21, 2010 for the closure of the prison, and missed the bigger story, which was only revealed through close scrutiny of the Task Force’s five-page interim report (PDF).

Disturbingly, this document revealed that the Task Force envisages three options for dealing with the prisoners who will not be released from Guantánamo: trials in federal courts, trials by Military Commission (the “terror trials” introduced by former Vice President Dick Cheney in November 2001, and revived by Congress in 2006 after the Supreme Court ruled them illegal), and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

These proposals accord with plans outlined by the President in a major national security speech in May, but they are no more acceptable now than they were then, for one simple reason: they are designed not to secure justice, but to prevent any of the prisoners who fit into these three categories from being released; in other words, as Glenn Greenwald reported for Salon, “If they know they’ll convict you in a real court proceeding, they’ll give you one; if they think they might lose there, they’ll put you in a military commission; if they’re still not sure they will win, they’ll just indefinitely imprison you without any charges.”

The proposals put forward by the Task Force — and clearly endorsed by Obama — are bitterly disappointing, not only because they are so shamefully dismissive of the presumption of innocence, and because they reveal a desire to further turn the judicial system on its head by endorsing preventive detention, but also because they are cowardly in the extreme.

There is, to be blunt, no need for the administration to revive the widely reviled Commissions (criticized in the past by most leading Democrats, including Barack Obama), because the federal courts are more than capable of prosecuting terror suspects, having successfully done so on more than a hundred occasions in the last 15 years. The Task Force itself admitted in its interim report that “A broad range of terrorism offences with extraterritorial reach are available in the criminal code and procedures exist to protect classified information in federal court trial where necessary,” and also noted, “The evidentiary rules at trial are well-established, and experienced prosecutors can often find ways to overcome any challenges those rules may pose to [the] introduction of critical evidence in specific cases.”

In addition, as Glenn Greenwald also explained, “as a result of breathtakingly broad criminal laws in the US defining ‘material support for terrorism,’ there are few things easier than obtaining a criminal conviction in federal court against people accused of being terrorists.”

Moreover, given that successful prosecutions have taken place in cases where no evidence of actual terrorist activity is required, there is no excuse whatsoever for proposing to continue to hold some prisoners indefinitely, using a form of “preventive detention” for which Congressional approval will have to be sought. If, after seven and a half years, the government cannot even reach the low evidentiary hurdle required by a federal court, then it should stop pretending that it has grounds for believing that these particular prisoners are too dangerous to be released, and let them go.

For the Guantánamo prisoners, it is worrying enough that everyone involved in reviewing their cases for the government appears to have forgotten a number of crucial facts that tend to undermine the illusion that the prison still contains a significant number of terrorists: namely, that the majority of the prisoners were not seized on a battlefield, but were handed over by the US military’s Afghan and Pakistani allies, at a time when bounty payments, averaging $5,000 a head were widespread (PDF); that they were never screened according to the Geneva Conventions’ competent tribunals — held close to the time and place of capture — to establish whether they were actually combatants, or civilians caught up in the fog of war; that, subsequently, they were never adequately screened at Guantánamo, where the process instigated by the Pentagon — the Combatant Status Review Tribunals — was described by a former insider, Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, as a farce, in which most of the material put forward as evidence was “garbage,” and the entire process was designed to rubberstamp the Bush administration’s decision that they were all ”enemy combatants,” who could be held without charge or trial; and that the majority of the supposed evidence against the men has, indeed, been revealed as deeply untrustworthy when scrutinized by District Court judges.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer that the prisoners have habeas corpus rights, judges in the District Courts have, in 84 percent of the cases on which they have delivered a verdict, ruled that the government either had no case at all, or that its cases were based upon statements by unreliable witnesses, who were tortured, coerced or bribed, or had severe mental health problems. In addition, judges have also poured scorn on attempts to create a “mosaic” of intelligence from these and other sources that does not stand up to close examination.

The fact that the Task Force appears not to have fully understood the scale of the Bush administration’s incompetence regarding the capture and interrogation of the Guantánamo prisoners, and the manifold problems with the supposed evidence against them counts, in the end, as a distressing example of the sort of paranoia for which Dick Cheney is best known triumphing over the kind of common sense and dedication to the pursuit of justice for which Barack Obama seemed to stand just a few short months ago.

Moreover, the Task Force’s egregious errors are not confined just to the present, and to the question of what will happen to the Guantánamo prisoners. As the interim report states, “The Detention Policy Task Force has thus far focused much of its work on developing options for the lawful disposition of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. Important questions remain concerning our policies in the future regarding apprehension, detention, and treatment of suspected terrorists, as part of our broader strategy to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”

The authors of the report then indicate that they are involved in an ongoing analysis of a number of questions relating to the future, including “what the rules and boundaries should be for any future detention under the rule of war,” ignoring, both in the present, and in their deliberations about the future, that the answer has, in fact, been obvious all along, and that, as it appears from this hideous and worrying document, all the talk of alternative trial systems and preventive detention is nothing more than a conjuring trick to disguise policies that, essentially, cleave closely to the arrogant and lawless innovations conceived by senior officials in the Bush administration.

And the answer that has been obvious all along? It goes like this: If your enemy is a combatant, seized in wartime, then you hold him as a prisoner of war according to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit inhumane treatment and coerced interrogations, until the end of hostilities. And if your enemy is a terrorist, then you hand him over to interrogators who know how to get a man to talk without using torture, according him the procedural protections in the Bill of Rights, and you put him on trial in a federal court.

It really is that simple.

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Guantánamo habeas cases, see: Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: the most important habeas corpus case in modern history and Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: What Happened? (both December 2007), The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean? (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (Uighurs’ first court victory, June 2008), What’s Happening with the Guantánamo cases? (July 2008), Government Says Six Years Is Not Long Enough To Prepare Evidence (September 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims (November 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), The Top Ten Judges of 2008 (January 2009), No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo (January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (January 2009), How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo (January 2009), Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), The Nobodies Formerly Known As Enemy Combatants (March 2009), Farce at Guantánamo, as cleared prisoner’s habeas petition is denied (April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Judge Condemns “Mosaic” Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Obama’s Failure To Deliver Justice To The Last Tajik In Guantánamo (July 2009), How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave (August 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker (August 2009). Also see: Justice extends to Bagram, Guantánamo’s Dark Mirror (April 2009), Judge Rules That Afghan “Rendered” To Bagram In 2002 Has No Rights (July 2009).

Andy Worthington discusses the closure of Guantánamo on Al-Jazeera

Al-jazeeraYesterday I was delighted to be invited to take part in an edition of “Inside Story” on Al-Jazeera English, to discuss the closure of Guantánamo in light of the recent concession, by President Obama’s Detention Policy Task Force, that it had missed its six-month deadline to issue recommendations about how to close Guantánamo, which has made observers wonder if the President will now miss his deadline of January 21, 2010 for the closure of the prison.

This was a lively show, hosted by Hashem Ahelbarra in Doha, and also featuring Cori Crider, an attorney with the legal action charity Reprieve, whose lawyers represent over 40 current and former Guantánamo prisoners, and Nile Gardiner, the director of the Heritage Foundation’s implausibly-named Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. As you might expect, there was a certain amount of friction between Mr. Gardiner, channeling Dick Cheney, and Cori and I, whose knowledge of Guantánamo and its prisoners is based less on groundless rhetoric and rather more on research and first-hand experience.

A video of the show is available below (via YouTube):

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

An interview with Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files (July 2009)

The Guantanamo FilesLast week, I conducted an interview by email with Carlos Sardiňa Galache, a Spanish journalist, for a journalists’ organization in Spain dedicated to the pursuit of human rights, P+DH (periodismo + derechos humanos), which was published in two parts on Monday and today. The original version in English is published below.

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: Now that Obama is going to close Guantánamo, what will happen to its inmates? Could you explain briefly the different alternatives that the US government has worked out for them?

Andy Worthington: In a major national security speech on May 21, President Obama demonstrated an unnerving ability to keep too many options on the table by proposing five possible courses of action for the prisoners at Guantánamo: release or transfer, trials in federal courts, trials in a revamped version of the Military Commissions (the “terror trials” introduced by former Vice President Dick Cheney in November 2001), and indefinite detention.

As I explained after Obama’s speech, and the simultaneous announcement that one of Guantánamo’s “high-value detainees,” Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an alleged associate of the African embassy bombers, would be tried in a federal court in New York, “setting up a two-tier system — of federal courts on the one hand, and Military Commissions on the other — appears to be nothing but a recipe for disaster.” I was even more worried about the prospect of indefinite detention, writing that I “would urge anyone who believes in the fundamental right of human beings, in countries that purport to wear the cloak of civilization with pride, to live as free men and women unless arrested, charged, tried and convicted of a crime, to resist the notion that a form of ‘preventive detention’ is anything other than the most fundamental betrayal of our core values.”

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: Some sources in the Pentagon declared earlier this year that one in seven freed Guantánamo detainees “returned to terrorism”. Some people are using this supposed recidivism to argue against the closing of the prison and the liberation of the prisoners and there has been a great deal of controversy about the issue. What are your thoughts about this alleged recidivism?

Andy Worthington: As I explained in an article after the New York Times’ front-page story citing the “1 in 7” figure was published, “Critics — essentially, anyone aware of the Seton Hall Law School’s excellent work in debunking the Pentagon’s numerous ‘recidivism’ reports (PDF) — immediately denounced the story.” I also wrote, “On May 28, the Times allowed Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation to write an op-ed criticizing [Elisabeth] Bumiller’s [original] article in which they concluded, from an examination of the report (PDF) that a more probable figure for recidivism — based on the fact that there were ‘12 former detainees who can be independently confirmed to have taken part in terrorist acts directed at American targets, and eight others suspected of such acts’ — was ‘about 4 percent of the 534 men who have been released.’”

The Seton Hall Law School’s reports are, however, the best source for detailed debunking of the Pentagon’s myths, and I recommend their latest report (PDF) as providing conclusive proof that the Pentagon’s many reports over the years have been nothing more than propaganda. It was sad that the New York Times allowed itself to be fooled so easily.

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: Obama ordered Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, to review the conditions in Guantánamo to make sure that the center complies with the Geneva Conventions. The Pentagon issued a report which concluded that the prison effectively complies with the requirements of the Conventions. Journalists like Jeremy Scahill have shown that some brutal methods have not changed in Guantánamo since Obama made his promise of making it a more humane place. What has changed in Guantánamo since Obama took office?

Andy Worthington: There have been some positive changes. As I explained in an article in February, after the Pentagon’s report was published, “Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, noted that the authorities at Guantánamo had ‘recently increased detainees’ opportunities for recreation and social interaction,’ and her comments were endorsed by Candace Gorman, the lawyer for two prisoners, who described on her website, The Guantanamo Blog, a visit to her client, Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi, on February 4.”

Gorman wrote:

[I]n camp 6, they have now started “movie night.” Imagine my surprise when Mr. al-Ghizzawi mentioned a movie he was watching the week before my arrival. I actually stopped him in mid-thought and said, “Excuse me, movie night? When did that start?” He then explained that they have had movie nights once a week for a couple of weeks.

I of course asked if there was anything else that was new and he told me that the four cages that were the outdoor rec [recreation] area for Camp 6 were torn down and now there was one big cage and one little cage. Now eight men can go out together in the big cage and the small cage is for prisoners on punishment. How sad it is that this is a major improvement, but it is. It gives the men a chance to socialize, a chance to be a part of humanity, instead of being stuck in total isolation.

The last change he told me about was the opening of a new rec area, completely outside of Camp 6, a rec area where they can actually see the mountains in the distance, the trees, the sky, the sun (for four hours once every four or five days). The Camp 6 rec area is confined to the courtyard of Camp 6, so it is surrounded by the concrete facility that is several stories tall. All they could see in that outdoor area was the sand floor and the concrete building.

However, as I also noted, these changes “completely fail to address other outstanding problems with the treatment of the prisoners, which cannot be swept away by allowing them some limited respite from the prolonged isolation that has driven many of them to suffer severe mental health problems.” These problems, in particular, concern the chronic isolation in which the majority of the prisoners are still held, for most hours of the day, which is not regarded as “solitary confinement” by the authorities, and the cruel force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike (which I reported most recently here), as well as the violence reported by Jeremy Scahill.

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: In his presidential inaugural address, Obama said that he rejected “as false the choice between the safety and the ideals” and one of his most important promises during the campaign was to begin a new era of respect for the rule of law and human rights. But some developments might lead observers to think that Obama could be backtracking on this stance. His proposal of preventive detention, exposed in a speech in May, and the news that the White House is drafting an executive order “that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely” are especially disturbing. With regard to the treatment of the prisoners of the “war on terror”, what are the main differences and what are the main points of continuity between the Bush administration and the Obama administration?

Andy Worthington: There are, of course, many differences between the Bush and Obama administrations. President Obama, I have no doubt, is fully committed to closing Guantánamo by January 2010, and to upholding the ban on torture that was so shamefully manipulated and sidelined by the Bush administration, and I’m reasonably confident that the administration will have little difficulty deciding that over half of the remaining 229 prisoners should be repatriated or found new countries in which to live.

However, as discussed above, I am distressed that the administration is keeping too many options available, and is refusing to commit to the only acceptable policy: putting prisoners forward for federal court trials or releasing them. As I mentioned, I am horrified by plans to pass legislation endorsing “preventive detention” (as that is effectively what has been happening at Guantánamo for seven and a half years), and am also distressed that the administration and Congress seem determined to revive Military Commissions, as I explained in a detailed article here.

There are many other disappointments, to be honest, although I believe that the government is often moving in the right direction, and clearly has been left with a colossal headache by Bush and Cheney. To keep the list manageable, I’ll focus in particular on the administration’s refusal to accept a judge’s ruling that habeas corpus rights (the right to challenge the basis of your detention before a judge) apply to foreign prisoners “rendered” from other countries to the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, which I reported here and here, and the Justice Department’s apparent inability to alter its position regarding the habeas corpus appeals of the Guantánamo prisoners (as triggered by a crucial Supreme Court ruling last June) from that maintained by the Bush administration. This has led to some patently unwinnable cases going before the courts, as was recently demonstrated in the cases of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, one of around 17 prisoners seized in a university guest house in Pakistan, and Abdul Rahim al-Ginco, a Syrian who was tortured by al-Qaeda as a spy before being imprisoned by the Taliban, and “liberated” by US forces and sent to Guantánamo.

I must also mention that, overall, the Obama administration has not fundamentally challenged the basis of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” which was based on a deliberate blurring of the distinctions between the Taliban (a government, however despised) and al-Qaeda (a small terrorist group). Essentially, terrorists should be put forward for federal court trials as criminals, and soldiers should have been held as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, until the end of hostilities.

If this had been the case, we would now be discussing whether it is legitimate to continue holding prisoners in connection with a specific military mission — to oust the Taliban and install a new Afghan government — which was achieved years ago. As it stands, however, the Obama administration has dropped the use of the term “enemy combatants” for the “War on Terror” prisoners, but has not done away with the false rationale of holding prisoners neither as criminal suspects nor as prisoners of war, and it needs to do so, and also to make sure that it never happens again!

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: Obama temporarily suspended the military commissions designed by the previous administration to judge some suspected terrorists and he eventually decided to maintain them, albeit with some changes, despite the promises to close them he had made during his campaign. Why do you think he eventually decided to go ahead with the commissions? What are the differences between the commissions under the Obama administration and under the Bush days?

Andy Worthington: I believe I’ve largely answered this above, but to emphasize, the proposed changes are cosmetic, because they still allow some coerced testimony, and they also allow hearsay, and because the entire Commission system is irredeemably discredited and not fit for purpose. It’s cowardice on Obama’s part not to shut down the Commissions and trust the federal courts to do a job that they have been doing perfectly well for the last 15 years, when there have been over a hundred successful prosecutions of cases related to terrorism.

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: Of particular relevance here in Spain is the issue of the innocent Guantánamo inmates that will be liberated in third countries. The case of the Chinese Uighurs is perhaps the most famous and representative. The US Army long ago declared that they are not “enemy combatants”, but they can’t go back to China, where they would face torture or something even worse by the authorities. But the US government refuses to accept these and other cleared prisoners in the United States even after a judge ruled in 2008 that the remaining 17 Uighurs should be allowed entry to the United States, where there are communities willing to accept them. Why does the US government refuse so stubbornly to accept on its soil these prisoners whose innocence is beyond all reasonable doubt?

Andy Worthington: The judges who overturned the bold and just ruling by Judge Ricardo Urbina that you cited above are from the notoriously Conservative Court of Appeals, so it was no surprise that they overturned Urbina’s ruling. What’s disturbing about Obama’s position, however, is that it reveals, almost more than any other, how he has sometimes lacked courage when it was needed the most.

Instead of challenging the Court of Appeals and/or ordering the Uighurs’ release into the US when he had the opportunity, he hesitated, and allowed Dick Cheney and other serving politicians to wage a campaign of fearmongering and disinformation about the Guantánamo prisoners that not only made it impossible to bring the Uighurs into the US, and allowed politicians to impose conditions on Obama’s plans to close Guantánamo, but also led to Obama losing much of the initiative that he needed not only to sell his plans to close Guantánamo, but also to ensure that the American people were told the full extent of the Bush administration’s flawed policies, which involved lawlessly imprisoning nearly 800 men, most of whom had no connection to al-Qaeda or international terrorism whatsoever.

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: Could the US government face legal problems if these men entered the United States as free men and decided to seek justice in the American court system?

Andy Worthington: It doesn’t look like it’s going to come to that, but I would say that anyone released anywhere must be able, at some point, to seek compensation for what happened to them.

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: It is known that Spain will accept four or five former prisoners and they are from Tunisia and Algeria. It has been said that the prisoners liberated in Spain will enjoy freedom of movement, albeit monitored, within our country but won’t be able to travel abroad. What will be the legal situation of the prisoners liberated in third countries? What are the host country’s, and especially Spain’s, responsibilities towards them?

Andy Worthington: I would expect that no country is going to take cleared prisoners unless those countries’ governments can assure themselves that they are not dangerous. This is part of the problem at present, because the Obama administration is unwilling to concede, as it should, that it has not managed to prove that the majority of the men held at Guantánamo had any involvement with terrorism, because most of them were captured by their Afghan or Pakistani allies, at a time when bounty payments for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects,” averaging $5,000 a head, were widespread, and because most of the government’s so-called “evidence” against them comes from the interrogations of other prisoners, who, as the habeas appeals have been showing, were often tortured, coerced or bribed into making statements that are inherently unreliable.

Potential host countries need to understand these facts, to truly comprehend why intelligence officials, over the years, have stated that no more than two to three dozen of the prisoners had any involvement with terrorism, and they also need to remember that very few ex-prisoners have caused any problems, and that Western countries have not generally involved themselves in the pointless expense of keeping released prisoners under surveillance. I do still believe, however, that this process would be made much easier if the US accepted the responsibility for some of its own mistakes!

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: Are the host countries going to receive something from the US government in exchange?

Andy Worthington: I would expect that there will be deals behind the scenes …

Carlos Sardiňa Galache: In Spain, the principle of universal jurisdiction would allow the former prisoners to sue the American government, but these laws are going to be seriously curtailed due to diplomatic pressure, and that will make it impossible to take legal action against the US government. Do the liberated inmates have the possibility somewhere of taking legal action against the US government? Is there any treaty between the host countries and the US to prevent something like this from happening?

Andy Worthington: I’m no expert, but I understand that certain countries may be able to pursue cases against senior officials. However, what interests me more is whether the Obama administration — or, specifically, Attorney General Eric Holder, as it is his responsibility — will appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s crimes, as has been hinted at recently (see my article here).

We know Obama is reluctant to do so, but, as I say, it’s not ultimately his call, and the blunt truth is that, if Holder doesn’t investigate the Bush administration’s crimes (because torture is a crime in US law), he will have demonstrated that the most senior officials in the United States can break as many laws as they feel like, so long as they leave office at the end, and that’s simply not acceptable.

Note: For the interview in Spanish, see here and here.

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

Obama’s Failure To Deliver Justice To The Last Tajik In Guantánamo

Umar Abdulayev, photographed in Guantanamo by representatives of the International Committee of the Red CrossTwo weeks ago, the indefatigable Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, Guantánamo’s most dedicated reporter, outlined the story of Umar Abdulayev, the last Tajik prisoner in Guantánamo, who has been cleared for release from the prison on two occasions — once by a military review board under the Bush administration, and six weeks ago by the Obama administration’s inter-departmental Guantánamo Task Force, established by President Obama on his second day in office.

In what appeared to be a shining but all too uncommon example of practical behavior by the Obama administration’s Justice Department — which has generally been content to court humiliation by contesting unjust and unwinnable cases in front of District Court judges in habeas corpus hearings (as demonstrated here and here) — lawyers informed Judge Reggie Walton on June 3 that they “will no longer defend his detention, and want US diplomats to arrange to repatriate him.”

Obama suspends habeas corpus, Umar Abdulayev fears repatriation

However, as Abdulayev’s lawyers explained, there were two fundamental problems with this decision. The first, as Andrew Moss explained to me last week, is that the Task Force’s decision led immediately to a request from the Justice Department to indefinitely stay Abdulayev’s habeas appeal, on the basis that “there was now nothing more the court could do” for him. As Moss explained, “The court granted that request over our opposition,” which was based on the fact that the Task Force’s decision was “not a determination that [Abdulayev’s] detention was or was not lawful,” and that it therefore “does nothing towards removing the stigma of being held in Guantánamo or being accused of being a terrorist by the United States.”

The result, as Andrew Moss stated bluntly, is that the writ of habeas corpus, granted to the prisoners by the US Supreme Court last June, is “effectively suspended.”

This is a disturbing development, not only because it deprives Abdulayev of the opportunity to be cleared publicly by a court (as opposed to being cleared by an unaccountable Executive review that reaches its conclusions in private), but also because it does not address a second problem for Abdulayev; namely, that he is terrified of being returned to Tajikistan. As another of his lawyers, Matthew O’Hara explained, “he’s told us he’d rather stay another seven years in Guantánamo than go back to Tajikistan.” In court filings, as Carol Rosenberg explained, Abdulayev has claimed that he was visited at Guantánamo by Tajik intelligence agents who made him “a sinister offer: Spy on Muslim radicals in the former Soviet Republic in exchange for his release.” When he refused, he said, “the agents threatened retribution.”

Rosenberg noted that eleven Tajiks have already been repatriated from Guantánamo, and I can confirm that some were subsequently freed on their return to Tajikistan. One, Muhibullo Abdulkarim Umarov, was interviewed by McKenzie Funk for an extraordinary story in Mother Jones, “The Man Who Has Been To America,” in the fall of 2006, and another, Abdul-Karim Ergashev, announced in July 2007 that he intended to sue President Bush for his wrongful imprisonment.

Muqit Vohidov and Rukniddin Sharopov during thier trial in Tajikistan in 2007However, at least two former prisoners, Muqit Vohidov and Rukniddin Sharopov, who were repatriated in March 2007, received jail sentences of 17 years in “high-security penal colonies” (aka labor camps) for “serving as mercenaries in Afghanistan” — where they were accused of aiding the Taliban by fighting for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — and for taking part in “illegal border crossing,” and, as Rosenberg described it, Umar Abdulayev has claimed that they were actually imprisoned because, like him, they “rebuffed agents’ recruitment efforts.”

As a result, Matthew O’Hara told Rosenberg that Abdulayev doesn’t want to leave Guantánamo “unless a third country agrees to give him asylum,” and suggested that he was “twice cursed — not only because he rebuffed the overtures of the [Tajik] security forces but because he carries ‘the stigma of having been held at Guantánamo,’” although it is not yet clear whether the administration will respect his wishes. As Rosenberg explained, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd “refused to address Abdulayev’s specific claims,” but said that, broadly, speaking, “the United States doesn’t send foreigners with a credible fear of torture to another nation.” In a statement, he declared, “The US government is working to make appropriate arrangements to carry out these transfers in a manner consistent with national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, as well as US policies concerning humane treatment.”

Umar Abdulayev’s statements in Guantánamo

Certainly, no third country should have any fear of Umar Abdulayev. Now 30 years old, he has been “a cooperative captive” throughout his seven years in Guantánamo, and is now held in Camp 4, where prisoners who are not regarded as a threat are allowed to live communally. In addition, as Rosenberg explained, he “did not take part in hunger strikes that swept through the prison camps in the first few years,” and “consistently went before panels of senior officers to challenge the allegations against him.”

Throughout his long years in Guantánamo, these allegations have involved claims that, as Rosenberg put it, “he was in league with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and a Tajik terror movement,” but in response he has always claimed that he was “just a refugee who worked in construction.”

Abdulayev did not make the final cut of my book The Guantánamo Files, but I included his story in an additional online chapter, in which I explained that he “had left his war-torn country and moved to Afghanistan with his family in 1992, and had then moved to a refugee camp outside Peshawar in 2000.” At Guantánamo, he explained,

When we were in Afghanistan, no matter where we went, there were always wars. Since my father was killed, we always obeyed my mother; it was my mother’s decision to move to Pakistan because she said it was at least a peaceful country with no war going on. My father was killed a long, long time ago. Because of this, we have to listen to our mother; it is our culture.

He also explained that he was seized in a bazaar in December 2001 by operatives of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), who asked him for a bribe which he couldn’t pay, and then seized him and imprisoned him. It was at this point that his story became what I described as “particularly bizarre.”

Abdulayev stated that, after being beaten, he was forced to copy various documents including three hand-written notebooks containing information on weapons systems, counter-intelligence, chemistry and poisons. Following a close investigation of the publicly available documents relating to his case, it seemed probable to me that the notebooks were his own, because, at one point, he apparently admitted that he had copied the information while he was a student at a madrassa (a religious school), but while this may have reflected badly on the madrassa in question, indicating that it was training students for violent jihad, it was also clear that the US authorities had not managed to come up with any information to indicate that he was involved, in any way, with terrorist activities or any form of militancy against US forces.

It also seemed to me that the truth was probably stated by Abdulayev at his tribunal, when he said, “The Pakistanis are making business out of this war, including myself. The detainees are not being captured by US forces, but are being sold by the Pakistani government. They are making [up to] $10,000 to sell detainees to the US … they knew that the more evidence they created, the more dangerous they made me, the more money they would make from the Americans.”

Until recently, I was unaware that any further information about Abdulayev’s story was publicly available, but Carol Rosenberg’s article provided a link to a nine-page declaration by Abdulayev himself (PDF), which, presumably, played a major part in persuading the Obama administration not to contest his habeas appeal.

Umar Abdulayev’s story, in his own words

After reiterating that he fled the civil war in Tajikistan with his family in 1992, when he was 13 years old, Abdulayev explained that they lived in northern Afghanistan with other Tajik refugees, and added that, in 1994, his father was shot and killed on the Tajik-Afghan border, while attempting to “investigate the situation” in Tajikistan, having heard “pleas on the radio from the Tajik government, urging Tajik refugees to return home.”

For the next seven years, the rest of the family remained in Afghanistan, “relying upon aid from international refugee organizations,” but in early 2001, his mother took the whole family — Abdulayev and his two younger sisters and two younger brothers — to Pakistan, “in order to escape the escalating violence and unrest in Afghanistan.” They lived in “a government-sponsored refugee camp named Camp Babu,” near Peshawar, which “comprised mostly of families, and was principally for Afghan refugees.”

It was here, on November 25, 2001, that Abdulayev was seized by Pakistani police and handed over to Pakistani intelligence officials. In a gut-wrenching statement, Abdulayev said, “I never saw my family again, and to this day, I have not heard from them or been able to contact them.”

After repeating the story about being forced to copy “specific passages about weapons and explosives from books that the intelligence officials gave to me,” Abdulayev explained that, after about a month, he was told that he would be returned to his mother, but was taken instead to Kohat jail. From there he was flown, with 25 to 30 other men, to the US prison at Kandahar airport, where his ordeal in American custody began.

Recounting a story that is all too familiar from the accounts of other prisoners held at Kandahar, Abdulayev stated:

In Kandahar, we were abused by US soldiers, who beat us, pushed us, yelled at us, ridiculed us, and placed us under extremely bright lights during interrogations. We were forced to wear chains, handcuffs and leg irons and then made to run, which left scars on my ankles. While they did this, the American soldiers sometimes dragged us up against barbed wire. We were often forced to wear bags on our heads. On certain occasions, we were made to hold our arms out in front of us for lengthy periods of time. If we dropped our arms, we would be made to hold our arms out longer, or we were beaten. On one occasion, a soldier knocked us to the ground, and then he and other soldiers walked on our backs. The soldiers would make us kneel on the ground while we were chained; they would then pull our feet out from under us from behind so that our faces would smash into the ground. The soldiers would also pull our arms up while they were chained behind our backs, and repeat this tactic until a man would finally cry out in pain.

He also explained that, on one occasion, “a soldier grabbed the overalls I was given to wear, tore off the buttons in front, ripped off my overalls, and left me and other prisoners naked. The soldiers then yelled at us, took pictures of us, and beat us.” In addition, he said, “our sleep was constantly disrupted at night. Every thirty minutes or so, soldiers cam into where we were being held and screamed at us, searched us, and made us kneel in the cold in the open air. We were not given warm clothing, except for children’s-sized mittens and hats that the Red Cross brought us sometime much later after we arrived.”

He also reported that he and other prisoners were stripped naked before soldiers “forcibly shaved our hair and beards,” and that they were then “made to walk from one place to another while totally naked,” and also explained that “the soldiers made fun of our religion, and yelled and screamed at us when we prayed. We were also beaten while we prayed. The soldiers threw our Korans in the toilet where there was fecal matter. The soldiers also had dogs walk over our Korans.”

After a month in Kandahar, Abdulayev was flown to Guantánamo on February 11 or 12, 2002. He described conditions on the flight as “unbearable, as we sat on benches chained to the floor and wore very tight handcuffs.” He added, “We were made to wear blackened goggles over our eyes, headphones over our ears, and masks over our faces,” and also explained, “We were not permitted to use the bathroom, and some of the men who were prisoners had no choice but to urinate or defecate on themselves.”

Describing his time in Guantánamo, after his arrival, which involved further beatings, and being “made to kneel on the gravel in the very hot sun,” it was clear that he managed to avoid the worst of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were applied to numerous prisoners, particularly between 2002 and 2004, but it was also apparent that his seven-year imprisonment was brutally isolating. “I have been held in solitary confinement and required to remain in my cell for at least 22 hours a day,” he said. “I have been allowed very limited time for recreation, and that time is often held at night in small cages. There is no opportunity to interact with other prisoners other than at the limited recreation times and by shouting through cell doors. There is no opportunity to work, to receive any education, and there is no regular access to any reading materials other than a Koran.”

Abdulayev also spoke in detail about the visits from the Tajik agents, which took place on three separate occasions, between 2002 and 2005. “On these visits,” he said, “the Tajik agents threatened me with imprisonment, torture and death upon my return from Guantánamo to Tajikistan.” Explaining the offer to become a spy, he said, “In exchange for my service, the Tajik officials told me they would take care of me, give me money, get me a house, and find my family. I refused. The Tajik officials then told me that if I was not with them that I would have problems: they would imprison me, torture me, and even ‘get rid of’ me.”

It was on this first visit, he said, that the two prisoners who received 17-year sentences on their return to Tajikistan were also threatened, and he also added details about how he was threatened on the agents’ third visit. “They again asked if I wanted to work with them,” he said. “I refused again, and they told me I would see what would happen to me when I got back to Tajikistan.”

A bitter conclusion

Even leaving aside for a moment the disturbing evidence provided by Umar Abdulayev that — over the course of three years — agents were invited to visit him from a country that, although independent, has a poor human rights record and remains closely connected to Russia, the Obama administration’s refusal to allow him to clear his name in a habeas court and its refusal to rule out returning him to Tajikistan (described in the latest State Department advisory as “a nominally constitutional, democratic and secular republic”), is a sign that, despite over seven years of senseless imprisonment, the Obama administration is still shielding the Bush administration from clear demonstrations of the colossal failures of its “War on Terror” detention policies, and is committed to sidelining the courts in favor of its own Executive review, making a mockery of the prisoners’ Supreme Court-granted habeas rights along the way. In addition, as Andrew Moss explained to me, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Task Force’s decision to “approve” Abdulayev’s release is that the decision “does not effectuate release … there is no guarantee or indication that a transfer can be effectuated in a timely manner, or at all, for that matter.”

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Guantánamo habeas cases, see: Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: the most important habeas corpus case in modern history and Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: What Happened? (both December 2007), The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean? (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (Uighurs’ first court victory, June 2008), What’s Happening with the Guantánamo cases? (July 2008), Government Says Six Years Is Not Long Enough To Prepare Evidence (September 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims (November 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), The Top Ten Judges of 2008 (January 2009), No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo (January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (January 2009), How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo (January 2009), Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), The Nobodies Formerly Known As Enemy Combatants (March 2009), Farce at Guantánamo, as cleared prisoner’s habeas petition is denied (April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Judge Condemns “Mosaic” Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think (July 2009), How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave (August 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker (August 2009). Also see: Justice extends to Bagram, Guantánamo’s Dark Mirror (April 2009), Judge Rules That Afghan “Rendered” To Bagram In 2002 Has No Rights (July 2009).

House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo

The seal of the US House of RepresentativesLast Thursday, while most US media outlets were focused relentlessly on the marathon endurance test that was Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights And Oversight held a hearing to investigate why the Bush administration had allowed Chinese interrogators to visit Guantánamo to interrogate the prison’s 22 Uighur inmates in 2002.

Although 13 of the Uighurs are still held at Guantánamo (five were released in Albania in 2006, and four in Bermuda last month), all of the men — Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province, who had fled persecution in China — were cleared of being “enemy combatants” by the Bush administration and by the US courts. They were sold to the US military by opportunistic Pakistani villagers, after fleeing from a run-down settlement in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains, and should never have been held in the first place.

Thursday’s hearing involved some rather hard-hitting testimony about what those interrogations involved, about the complicity of the US military and of senior officials in Washington D.C., and, most disturbingly, about the political motivations of the visit, and led to questions from the subcommittee about why members of Congress are prohibited from meeting prisoners at Guantánamo when Chinese intelligence agents were not, and to a demonstration of evasion on the part of the government’s spokesman that was so thorough that one of the committee members threatened to declare him “in contempt of Congress” and to withdraw funding from his department.

The Associated Press reported that, in a written statement “that did not specifically mention the Uighurs” (PDF), Jay Alan Liotta, the Defense Department’s Principal Director in the Office of Detainee Policy, claimed that the Defense Department “provides safe, humane, transparent and legal custody for each detainee,” and that, when foreign governments are allowed access to a prisoner, it is “long-standing department policy that visiting foreign officials must agree that they will abide by all DoD policies, rules and procedures.”

During questioning, however, Liotta “referred most lawmakers’ at-times incredulous queries to the Justice Department, or claimed the answer they sought was a national secret and could not be shared in a public hearing” (as ABC News described it). He also attempted to explain two contradictory points of view held by the Pentagon: on the one hand, he said that “[w]ithout question the single greatest reason to limit access to detainees is to provide for [the] personal safety” of those who visit them — US politicians included — while on the other hand he stated that the Pentagon’s policy was also “built on a respect for the Geneva Conventions,” which “requires the United States to shield detainees from ‘public curiosity.’”

Dana RohrabacherThis infuriated members of the subcommittee. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Ca.), a long-time supporter of the Guantánamo Uighurs, who criticized Newt Gingrich for promoting “fear-mongering” about them back in May, was, as ABC News explained, “visibly upset by the Obama administration’s apparent decision to continue the Bush administration’s policy of barring detainee visits by lawmakers.” Rohrabacher stated, “I am being denied — all of us are being denied the same access that was denied during the last administration.” After referring to George W. Bush as “a horrible man, a horrible president!” Rohrabacher added, “these very same restrictions on us are being reaffirmed in today’s testimony by this administration.”

Rep. Jim MoranRep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) was even more annoyed. In what was described as “a series of rhetorical questions,” he said, “You allowed intelligence agents of a foreign country to interrogate [Uighur detainees], but you are concerned about their safety and that’s why you don’t allow United States members of Congress [to visit]?” and added, “You are concerned about ‘public curiosity’ — apparently you’re implying we’d be seeing them out of some public curiosity?”

When Liotta diverted questions to the Justice Department, or claimed that he could not answer because of national security issues, Moran grew even more angry. “My frustration continues to mount,” he said. “In order not to answer a question, you can suggest it be provided in classified form. That’s not acceptable. There is no classification of that answer. This is a manipulative, evasive tactic you are employing.” As ABC News described it, Moran suggested that Liotta “could be held in contempt of Congress, threatened to cut funding for the Office of Detainee Policy unless he got satisfactory answers, and said he thought Liotta ought to be fired,” and exclaimed, “To take up two hours of our time and not directly answer any of the relevant questions is an absolute insult to the United States Congress.”

Although Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Ma.), the chair of the subcommittee, had more sympathy for Liotta, explaining, “I understand that this is a difficult moment for you,” and adding, “I have no doubt that you have received instructions … You find yourself in a very awkward situation,” this was electrifying theater of an important kind. However, it was not the only shock of the day. The Uighurs’ lawyers have long contended that their clients were pawns in a diplomatic game, and in his testimony, one of the attorneys, Jason Pinney, spelled out this betrayal in stark terms (PDF).

“For the past four years, I have been part of a team at Bingham McCutchen that has represented — on a pro bono basis — as many as eleven of the twenty-two Uighur men at Guantánamo,” Pinney said. “None of these men are enemy combatants, and there has never been any justification for holding them. Thirteen Uighurs are still imprisoned at Guantánamo today. They remain there because no country — including our own — has the courage to stand up to the Chinese and offer them refuge.”

As I have explained in numerous articles in the last year, all of this is true — and is disturbing enough on its own terms, particularly regarding the ongoing opposition to resettling some of the men in the United States — but as Pinney continued, an even more disturbing truth became apparent:

The problem, however, goes far beyond our failure to resettle these men. An objective look at the evidence reveals that out country imprisoned the Uighurs as part of quid pro quo with China. China is one of five countries on the United Nations Security Council. In 2002 and 2003, we needed China’s support to invade Iraq. In exchange for Chinese acquiescence in our war plans, we agreed, among other things, to label the Uighurs as terrorists and house them at Guantánamo.

What’s more, we agreed to provide the Chinese with special and unprecedented access to the Uighur men. In September of 2002, we allowed a delegation from the Communist Chinese government to travel to Guantánamo and interrogate the Uighurs imprisoned there. The interrogations lasted for days. Our clients were forced into cells, alone, with the Chinese. No representative from the United States was present during these interrogations. In the history of our republic, I cannot think of another example where a Communist country was invited in to interrogate, unsupervised, prisoners in a United States detention facility.

In a timeline of events, Jason Pinney spelled out more clearly how the Uighurs were used. On December 6, 2001, for example, the State Department refused to designate the East Turkestan Independence Movement (the Uighur separatist movement, to which the Uighurs in Guantánamo were falsely alleged to belong) as a terrorist group. However, on August 26, 2002, as Pinney described it, “US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage [met] with senior Chinese officials in Beijing to discuss the invasion of Iraq and immediately announce[d] that [ETIM would] be placed on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.” The month after, the Chinese interrogators arrived at Guantánamo.

Jason Pinney also highlighted the double standards in the position taken by the Bush administration, and maintained by the Obama administration in the instructions given to Jay Alan Liotta:

Despite our best efforts, no one has been permitted to meet with our clients. The United Nations has been barred from meeting with the Uighurs. So have several human rights groups. The press has been denied permission to speak with the men, or to publish their pictures. Even the members of this Subcommittee have been denied access to the Uighurs, despite the blessing of counsel. The answer has always been the same. No contact has been allowed. The exception to this rule? The Communist Chinese government.

In a separate article, I reproduce in full the testimony of three of the Uighur prisoners, describing their interrogations by the Chinese agents, but what is particularly disturbing about their testimony — beyond the threats made by the agents — is the extent to which the US military helped out, “softening the men up” by routinely waking them up at 15-minute intervals the night before (as a Justice Department report explained last year), short-shackling them in painfully cold rooms in between interrogations, holding them in isolation for between five and 20 days after the interrogations, and physically forcing them to have their photos taken after they refused to cooperate. As Ablikim Turahun, one of the four men released in Bermuda last month, explained:

They attempted to take my picture; however, I did not agree to this. They called for American soldiers and ordered them to hold me, so that my picture could be taken. The soldiers grabbed me, pulling my beard, pressing on my throat, twisting my hands behind my back, and as a result my picture was taken by force.

Most disturbing of all, however, was the betrayal of the Uighurs’ personal details. Abu Bakker Qassim, one of the five Uighurs released in Albania in May 2006, explained, “When we were first interrogated at the Kandahar prison, we told the Americans that we would tell them everything if they would keep our materials confidential. They promised not to give our materials to the Chinese, or to hand us over to [the] Chinese.” At Guantánamo, however, “When some Uighur detainees refused to give their names, the Chinese interrogators said that the Americans they trusted had already provided them with their photos, full names and addresses.”

Qassim explained that the danger was that “the Chinese could now randomly oppress our family members,” but when he “asked the interrogators why they released all of our materials to the Chinese even though they promised to keep our information confidential,” they “did not feel a bit ashamed about it. They apologized by saying that someone in Washington gave our materials to the Chinese.”

Rep. Bill DelahuntAs a result of the hearing, the subcommittee pledged to continue its attempts to hold the Bush administration accountable for its actions. “I want to know who was to blame for that decision,” Dana Rohrabacher said of the Chinese interrogations, and Bill Delahunt made clear (PDF) that it was the subcommittee’s “intention to provide a venue, whether here in Washington or elsewhere, for these men — who have fled Chinese persecution — to come forward and testify so that our colleagues and the American people can have an opportunity to hear them — first-hand — and make their own judgment.”

Delahunt remained appalled that the Committee’s request to visit the Uighurs had been denied by the Bush administration, and that “we never received a satisfactory explanation for why our visit was refused,” and his response to the only explanation he did receive, via a Fox News broadcast in which the DoD stated, “no Congressman can interrogate or question detainees because it is not part of their oversight responsibilities,” was an unwavering assertion of Congressional powers:

Let me first address the issue of oversight responsibility. I want to be very clear — there was no Congressional oversight during the Bush-Cheney Administration. It simply did not exist. As former Senator Chuck Hagel said, the Bush-Cheney Administration treated Congress “like a Constitutional nuisance.” I reject any suggestion that the Executive can define what constitutes the Congressional oversight. It is not the prerogative of the Executive to determine the role of the first branch of government. I am confident this position is shared by most, if not all, members of Congress.

Delahunt also quoted George Washington’s hope that America “might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong,” and maintained that the US still had an obligation to “parole and resettle at least some of the Uighurs at Guantánamo into the United States.” He announced his intention to send a letter to this effect to President Obama and defense secretary Robert Gates in the near future, and, in conclusion, I can only hope that it meets with success.

Accepting some, or all of the remaining Uighurs into the United States would not only help to encourage other countries to accept cleared Guantánamo prisoners, but would also send a clear signal that Obama regrets sending Jay Alan Liotta to the House hearing to provide “an absolute insult to the United States Congress,” and is, moreover, determined to establish without a doubt that he repudiates the terrible effects of the Bush administration’s almost indiscriminate detention policies in the “War on Terror.”

Note: For further testimony — from Bruce Fein, Principal, The Litchfield Group, and from Tom Parker, Policy Director, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Amnesty International USA — click here.

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on the Huffington Post, CounterPunch, Antiwar.com and ZNet. Cross-posted on Common Dreams and uruknet.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Uighurs in Guantánamo, see: The Guantánamo whistleblower, a Libyan shopkeeper, some Chinese Muslims and a desperate government (July 2007), Guantánamo’s Uyghurs: Stranded in Albania (October 2007), Former Guantánamo detainee seeks asylum in Sweden (November 2007), A transcript of Sabin Willett’s speech in Stockholm (November 2007), Support for ex-Guantánamo detainee’s Swedish asylum claim (January 2008), A Chinese Muslim’s desperate plea from Guantánamo (March 2008), Former Guantánamo prisoner denied asylum in Sweden (June 2008), Six Years Late, Court Throws Out Guantánamo Case (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (July 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), A Pastor’s Plea for the Guantánamo Uyghurs (October 2008), Guantánamo: Justice Delayed or Justice Denied? (October 2008), Sabin Willett’s letter to the Justice Department (November 2008), Will Europe Take The Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), Guantanamo’s refugees (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), A Letter To Barack Obama From A Guantánamo Uighur (March 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Real Uyghur Slams Newt Gingrich’s Racist Stupidity (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Who Are The Four Guantánamo Uighurs Sent To Bermuda? (June 2009), Guantánamo’s Uighurs In Bermuda: Interviews And New Photos (June 2009), Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo on Democracy Now! (June 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Is The World Ignoring A Massacre of Uighurs In China? (July 2009), Chair Of The American Conservative Union Supports The Guantánamo Uighurs (July 2009), and the stories in the additional chapters of The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras 1, Website Extras 6 and Website Extras 9.

Three Uighurs Talk About Chinese Interrogation At Guantánamo

These accounts, from three Uighur prisoners released from Guantánamo, were submitted to a hearing last Thursday of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight. For a report on the hearing, see “House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo.”

Statement of Abu Bakker Qassim

Abu Bakker QassimI would like to provide you with a detailed story of how the Chinese Communists went to Guantánamo.

Sometime in October 2002, Chinese security personnel came to Guantánamo. A few months before their arrival, the US military had informed us that the Chinese would come. When we said that the US had promised us to keep our identity confidential and asked how come the Chinese were coming, they responded that everything about us would be kept confidential. Chinese would be there only to have a discussion with their citizens in accordance to the international law, we could choose to speak or not to speak, they would observe the meeting from distance and we should not be worried about it.

Those Uighurs who were brought to the Chinese before me did not speak a word even after eight or nine hours of Chinese interrogation. The Chinese did not give them food or water; they kept the Uighurs sitting in a cold room for a long time; they used certain tactics and forcefully took photos of them. After learning this, I decided to openly talk to them because I had a bladder control problem and I could not stand sitting in a cold room for a long period.

They brought me out around evening time and started their interrogation. When I told them my full name and that I was from East Turkestan [the Uighurs’ name for their homeland before it was taken over by China in 1949], two Chinese policemen stood up from their seats and said that there was no such country. I said to them I fully knew an existence of such a country though they did not know it well. I further expressed to them how they had been oppressing Uighurs for the last 60 years. I also told them that I would not go back to China.

They tactically said that they were there to bring me back to China; and they would force me to confess after arriving in Urumqi [the capital of Xinjiang province, formerly East Turkestan] if I refused to confess about my terrorist activities.

I said that I would rather talk after they brought me to Urumqi. They started an ideological work. They spoke good Uighur. There were two Uighurs and three Chinese.

I spoke up frankly. I told them I applied for a political asylum according to the international law and I would never go back. I stopped the conversation by saying that they could do whatever they want to bring me back.

Those Chinese told some Uighur detainees that the Americans had asked them to bring us back because they could not afford us due to their declining economy. They also told some other Uighurs that the Americans were hard to understand and how naïve to allow praying and fasting while fighting terrorism.

When some Uighur detainees refused to give their names, the Chinese interrogators said that the Americans they trusted had already provided them with their photos, full names and addresses. They also showed the Uighurs the materials that were given by Americans.

When we were first interrogated at the Kandahar prison, we told the Americans that we would tell them everything if they would keep our materials confidential. They promised not to give our materials to the Chinese, or to hand us over to Chinese.

After I refused to answer any more questions, the Chinese interrogators failed to proceed further. They brought out their camera to take a picture. I refused to be photographed. One Chinese interrogator went outside and brought in two American soldiers. These two soldiers held me tight and the Chinese forcefully took a picture of me.

I had never thought that American soldiers would work with Chinese and treat us like this. Then I was locked up in a cold dark steel prison cell for five days. I was released to a regular prison cell after the Chinese left. During the five days when I was in the cold dark cell, while thinking about the Chinese’s harsh treatments towards us in a US prison, I felt sick with the American soldiers.

After the Chinese had left, during an interrogation, I asked the interrogators why they released all of our materials to the Chinese even though they promised to keep our information confidential; the Chinese could now randomly oppress our family members.

The interrogators did not feel a bit ashamed about it. They apologized by saying that someone in Washington gave our materials to the Chinese.

Since then, I started suspecting my trust with the American soldiers in Guantánamo because of their awful images that belong to a nation claiming to spread democracy around the world. According to what I know, soldiers of a nation represent their nation’s reputation. Looking at its soldiers, anyone should be able to make a judgment about a country.

Through an interpreter, I told some soldiers that we were not America’s enemies; they were America’s enemies instead since they broke the law and oppressed us randomly.

This is one part of the stories regarding the Chinese oppression while they were in Guantánamo. You may contact me if there is anything that is not clear.

Abu Bakker Qassim currently lives in Tirana, Albania. In March 2005, a Combatant Status Review Tribunal determined that he was not an enemy combatant. The US government nevertheless continued to imprison him for another 14 months, until May 2006, when, with four others, he was sent to Albania one day before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit was to hear oral argument in his case.

Statement of Khalil Mamut

I was taken to Cuba in 2002, on 10th June. I stayed in Kilo Block, cell number 28. In the beginning of autumn 2002, a delegation from China representing the Chinese government arrived. It was afternoon when I was informed by one of the MPs that I was to get ready for an appointment. I was later escorted by two military soldiers to the interrogation room. Once I arrived there, two men came in. One was from the American government, and the other was from the Chinese Communist government. The American spoke in Chinese, saying I am from the American government, and we have an agreement with the Chinese government, therefore we have allowed them to come here to interrogate you. The Uighur man translated the American man’s instructions into our language. After the introduction, they departed. Following their departure, two different men arrived. One looked Uighur, and the other Chinese.

Once they arrived, they began their interrogation process, asking, “where are you from, what is your address?” I refused to answer any of their questions, because I was informed by the Americans that I did not have to answer any of their questions, as they have not been provided with any information, and have not seen my file. They abused me by telling me that they would take me by force when I returned to China, and that I would be beaten, and eventually killed. I informed them that I do not wish to go back to China. Then they became angrier, and they attempted to take my picture. I refused to allow them to do this. However, they were eventually able to take some pictures as I was shackled and chained. Then the two men ordered the American soldiers to take me to another room. Once I arrived at this new location, the air conditioning unit was turned on to full blast, and I was left in this room for seven straight hours. In this room I once again had shackles on my feet, with my hand also chained. In the evening I was returned to my cell.

On the second day, two soldiers came and took me back to the interrogation room. When I arrived, there were again two men. One was a Uighur, and the other was Chinese. They once again started to interrogate me, asking for my address, and again I did not answer their questions. They informed me that they will take me back to China by force, and once I arrived I would be tortured, and beaten. If I was to return to China on my own, they would inform the general of my decision, and once I arrived there “I would be allowed to be free.” (Really, not so). If I refused to return to China, I would face a military court, which would mean that I would stay in prison for a very long time. I told them that I do not want to go back to China, and I do not want China. After this they called the MPs, and instructed them to tighten the chains and take me to another room. I was taken by the MPs to this other room where I found another Chinese man that I had not seen before. This man began to mentally abuse me by telling me that the uncomfortable position I was in was my punishment. In addition, he turned the air conditioner on to very high, and I remained in this room for seven hours. I almost collapsed because it was so very cold. My hands and feet were swollen, as a result of the chain being tightened earlier. In the late evening I was returned to my cell.

Khalil Mamut currently lives in Bermuda. The US military cleared him for release in 2005. It formally conceded that he was not an enemy combatant in September 2008. The following month, a US District Court judge found that his imprisonment — like that of every other Uighur man at Guantánamo — was illegal (“Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detention without just cause, this court rules that the government’s continued detention of the prisoners is unlawful”). This was overruled in February 2009, and at the time of writing a petition for certiorari was pending with the Supreme Court. Mr. Mamut was imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay until June 11, 2009, when he was released to Bermuda.

Khalil Mamut (right) and Ablikim Turahun (left) enjoy their freedom in Bermuda with Salahidin Abdulahad (center)

Khalil Mamut (right) and Ablikim Turahun (left) enjoy their freedom in Bermuda with Salahidin Abdulahad (center).

Statement of Ablikim Turahun

I was taken to Cuba on 3 May, 2002. Once I arrived, I was placed in Hotel Block. After a few months, a delegation arrived from the Chinese government, during the first part of October 2002. One day in the afternoon, one of the MPs arrived to inform me that I have an appointment right now, and that I should get ready. Two American soldiers arrived to take me to the interrogation room. Once I arrived in the room, two men entered. One was from the American government, and the other was from the Chinese government. The American man started to speak in Chinese language, saying, “I am from the American government. I have to inform you beforehand, that we have an agreement with the Chinese government to allow the Chinese to interrogate you.” The other man from China translated what the American said into the Uighur language. After a while, they departed, and two different men from China arrived. One of them was Uighur, and the other was Chinese. Both men attempted to interrogate me, but I refused to speak to them, as the Americans had informed us prior that we do not have to speak to the Chinese if we didn’t want to speak to them, as they have not been provided with any information on us. They attempted to take my picture; however, I did not agree to this. They called for American soldiers and ordered them to hold me, so that my picture could be taken. The soldiers grabbed me, pulling my beard, pressing on my throat, twisting my hands behind my back, and as a result my picture was taken by force.

The air conditioner in the room was placed on high, making the room very cold. I was left in this room for six hours. As a result of the room being so very cold, I felt somewhat frozen at times. After this six-hour period, I was placed in an isolation room that was made of metal, and measured 6’ x 8’. There I remained for 20 days in isolation. The room was so very cold, and dark. I was not able to see daylight, or any other person. During the 20 days, it was very difficult to sleep, because I was not given any blankets or sheets by which to cover myself in this isolation room. I spent those days suffering. I requested to speak to the Uighur interpreter so that he could translate to the guard commander. I wanted to speak to the commander asking him why have I been placed there. The commander replied that it was not his decision, but that of the Chinese delegation who instructed that I should be put in isolation. Following this, the interpreter and guard commander departed. I remained there for the remainder of my 20 days. During this time my ears became blocked, and I was unable to hear. This was a result of the extreme cold. I demanded to see a doctor, but no one honored my request. However, although I was refused the first time, I continued to ask if I could see a doctor. After two months, I was taken to see a doctor, after which I received medical attention, and there was some recovery of my hearing.

Ablikim Turahun currently lives in Bermuda. Under the name Huzaifa Parhat, he was the petitioner in the lead Detainee Treatment Action case, Parhat v. Gates. At a time when his and every other habeas case was stayed, Mr. Turahun moved for a summary determination under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 that he had not been properly classified as an “enemy combatant,” even under the US Department of Defense’s overbroad definition of that term. After extensive briefing and oral argument, the DC Circuit unanimously held for Mr. Turahun. The court vacated his classification as an enemy combatant because it was neither supported by reliable evidence, nor consistent with DoD regulations governing the Combatant Status Review Tribunal process. The Court ordered the government to “release him, to transfer him, or to expeditiously convene a new CSRT.” Although the government subsequently waived its re-CSRT option, and conceded that Mr. Turahun was not an enemy combatant, it imprisoned him for another year, until releasing him to Bermuda on June 11, 2009.

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Uighurs in Guantánamo, see: The Guantánamo whistleblower, a Libyan shopkeeper, some Chinese Muslims and a desperate government (July 2007), Guantánamo’s Uyghurs: Stranded in Albania (October 2007), Former Guantánamo detainee seeks asylum in Sweden (November 2007), A transcript of Sabin Willett’s speech in Stockholm (November 2007), Support for ex-Guantánamo detainee’s Swedish asylum claim (January 2008), A Chinese Muslim’s desperate plea from Guantánamo (March 2008), Former Guantánamo prisoner denied asylum in Sweden (June 2008), Six Years Late, Court Throws Out Guantánamo Case (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (July 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), A Pastor’s Plea for the Guantánamo Uyghurs (October 2008), Guantánamo: Justice Delayed or Justice Denied? (October 2008), Sabin Willett’s letter to the Justice Department (November 2008), Will Europe Take The Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), Guantanamo’s refugees (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), A Letter To Barack Obama From A Guantánamo Uighur (March 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Real Uyghur Slams Newt Gingrich’s Racist Stupidity (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Who Are The Four Guantánamo Uighurs Sent To Bermuda? (June 2009), Guantánamo’s Uighurs In Bermuda: Interviews And New Photos (June 2009), Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo on Democracy Now! (June 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Is The World Ignoring A Massacre of Uighurs In China? (July 2009), Chair Of The American Conservative Union Supports The Guantánamo Uighurs (July 2009), and the stories in the additional chapters of The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras 1, Website Extras 6 and Website Extras 9.

UK government issues travel document to control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh after horrific suicide attempt

Mahmoud Abu RidehToday, I received disturbing news from the British human rights organization Cageprisoners, which announced that, on July 18, Mahmoud Abu Rideh, the stateless Palestinian who has been imprisoned without charge or trial or held under a control order for seven and a half years, “was taken to hospital having severely self-harmed.” The press release continued, “The repeated, horrific slashing of his left arm with a razor this weekend demonstrates the desperation this man feels at having been detained for so long on the basis of secret evidence and being denied the ability to leave the United Kingdom. Cageprisoners urges the Home Office to immediately grant Mr. Abu Rideh with a travel document which will allow him to finally find solace abroad and be reunited with his family after years of suffering.” Note: The Cageprisoners report contains disturbing images.

In a statement, Moazzam Begg, the Director of Cageprisoners, said, “Mahmoud Abu Rideh has been driven to attempting suicide several times over the past eight agonising years. Two days ago he nearly succeeded. He’s been barred from contact with ordinary human beings — except for the two or three cleared by the Home Office. He is man who is not permitted to communicate with me because I told his story on the Cageprisoners website. But, if I am not allowed to give him words of comfort and prevent him from further self-harm, then I urge everyone who can, to request clearance from the authorities to go and visit this poor, stateless, Palestinian Muslim, who has never been charged with a crime — here or abroad — and visit him before it’s too late.”

Just hours after the press release was issued, Cageprisoners was notified that Mahmoud Abu Rideh had just received the travel document from the Home Office that was promised him two weeks ago, and added that it was “clearly issued on Friday, but despite telephone calls requesting notification, his solicitors were not informed on Friday nor on Monday until the Treasury Solicitors were pressed.” In the meantime, as the Muslim Prisoner Support Group explained, Mr. Abu Rideh’s despair at what he regarded as his betrayal by the Home Office led to his suicide attempt at the weekend. The MPSG noted that he said he felt the room spinning and heard voices saying, “The Home Office will never let you leave; they are just going to keep you driving around in circles.”

Mr. Abu Rideh is now in a position to attempt to obtain a visa to leave the country, and, he hopes, to be reunited with his British wife and children, who could not cope any longer with the stress, and left the country in May to live with his wife’s family in Jordan.

Supporters are attempting to stay with Mr. Abu Rideh until his departure from the UK is assured, and I hope, given the fragility of his mental state, that this will be the case. I must add, however, that, although the death of Mr. Abu Rideh would have been the most appalling condemnation of the effects of the government’s novel and cruel experiment in detaining supposed “terror suspects” without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence, in defiance of all the established norms of British law, even if he manages to depart these shores safely the reputation of the British government for fairness and justice will be forever tainted by its treatment of Mr. Abu Rideh.

Perhaps some readers believe that Mahmoud Abu Rideh somehow “deserved” this treatment, and if this is so then I can only suggest that those interested in his supposed “crimes,” for which he could not be charged, according to the British government, should read “Suspicion of Terrorism,” written by Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, who has represented Mr. Abu Rideh. Scott-Moncrieff is a solicitor who represents patients detained under the Mental Health Act, and the article, which she wrote for the London Review of Books in August 2004, is available here.

In a devastating analysis of Mahmoud Abu Rideh’s case, the article peers behind the veil of secrecy that obscures the government’s general ignorance about Mr. Abu Rideh and about his mental health. As Scott-Moncrieff noted at one point, “If it had known about his mental illness it might have known, too, that he’s an unlikely terrorist because he finds it impossible not to talk about what is on his mind.”

The article also tackled the government’s spurious reliance on guilt by association, and its inability to recognize that Mr. Abu Rideh’s fundraising was not for terrorism but “to build and run orphanages in Afghanistan; to build and run schools (for girls as well as boys) in Afghanistan; to dig wells in remote villages; to provide sewing machines for widows to make a living; and to provide livestock and food.”

I urge you to read the whole article, but found the following passage, from a session of the Special Immigration Appeal Court (SIAC) — in which much of the evidence takes place in closed sessions, with the defendants represented by special advocates who are prevented from discussing any of the closed evidence with their clients — to be particularly revealing (and bear in mind that the session in discussion took place six years ago, but appears to have made no difference whatsoever to the government, which seems to regard its initial suspicions as something akin to an immutable truth).

The exchange was between Witness B, for the government, and Mr. Abu Rideh’s barrister, Ben Emmerson QC. Scott-Moncrieff introduced the exchange by explaining, “The Home Office argued that ‘some of the work in which Abu Rideh was engaged (including fundraising) may have been legitimate,’ but ‘the secretary of state assesses (from the totality of the open and closed evidence) that some of Abu Rideh’s activities were for terrorist purposes.’ We know nothing about the closed evidence, and the defence lawyers didn’t manage to find out much in the open sessions.” She added, “Witness B appeared to invoke the closed sessions as a way to avoid answering questions, or admitting that he didn’t know the answers to them.”

Emmerson: You accept, do you, that the account he gives of the various activities he was involved with and the various projects for which he was raising money is a truthful account?

Witness B: We are obviously not in a position to confirm everything he says. We accept that the — I say, some of the work that he was engaged in was for charitable purposes and some of the money he collected may have been for charitable purposes. There is another comment that I could make there specifically to answer that question in closed [session], which I can’t make here.

Emmerson: Did you know about these activities before he was certified?

Witness B: I am afraid, again, that’s a question which I can only answer in the closed session, but obviously we formed our assessments on the basis of all the information that we had available and maintain our assessment that he was at least in part fund-raising for terrorist purposes.

Emmerson: That is not the way in which it was put in the original witness statement, Witness B … As it was originally drafted that statement read: “Abu Rideh is actively involved in fund-raising” — yes?

Witness B: Yes.

Emmerson: “The security service assesses that the funds are used to finance terrorist training.” Is that right? Is that how it originally read?

Mr. Justice Collins: I have got in my bundle the deleted original. Paragraph 20 reads as follows: “Abu Rideh is actively involved in raising funds which the security services assess are used to finance terrorist training operations, procurement in countries such as Afghanistan and Chechnya.” That is what it originally read.

Emmerson: The original form of the allegation makes no mention of the possibility that he is raising funds for charitable or other purposes and describes the funds that he has raised as being, in the assessment of the security services, funds that are intended for training operations and procurement for terrorism.

Witness B: Yes.

Emmerson: All I want to know is this: At the time that the assessment was originally made, were the security services aware that Mr. Abu Rideh was engaged in projects, for example, the funding of wells and schools in Afghanistan?

Witness B: Well, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be awkward, but that is a question that I can answer in closed; I can’t answer it here.

Lucy Scott Moncrieff added, “It seems that the commissioners were not very happy with Witness B’s evasiveness, because after going into closed session, Witness B came back to the open session to answer Emmerson’s question and to confirm that the final assessment offered in the second statement to the effect that we accept that some of the money which Abu Rideh raised may have been for charitable purposes, was at least in part the result of a reassessment based on a range of information, including all the information that was available to us, which is in the closed evidence but also including his own statement.”

She also explained, “I think Witness B is saying that the security services did not know about Abu Rideh’s charitable activities, or considered them insignificant, until evidence of them was provided by Abu Rideh’s lawyers.”

And that, I believe, demonstrates succinctly why claims made by the security services, regarding the fate of men imprisoned or held under control orders or deportation bail on the basis of secret evidence, need to be able to be challenged. Otherwise, it is all too easy for well-meaning public servants to succumb to one particular viewpoint, without being obliged to take on board any other information that may undermine it.

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), Torture taints all our lives (published in the Guardian’s Comment is free), Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (1) Detainee Y, 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, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (5) Detainee Z, Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? and URGENT APPEAL on British terror laws: Get your MP to support Diane Abbott’s Early Day Motion on the use of secret evidence (all April 2009), and Taking liberties with our justice system and Death in Libya, betrayal in the West (both for the Guardian), Law Lords Condemn UK’s Use of Secret Evidence And Control Orders (June 2009), Miliband Shows Leadership, Reveals Nothing About Torture To Parliamentary Committee (June 2009), Britain’s Torture Troubles: What Tony Blair Knew (June 2009), Seven years of madness: the harrowing tale of Mahmoud Abu Rideh and Britain’s anti-terror laws, Would you be able to cope?: Letters by the children of control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh, Control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh to be allowed to leave the UK (all June 2009), Testing control orders and Dismantle the secret state (for the Guardian).

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Andy Worthington

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.
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