Archive for August, 2009

Never Forget: The Bombing Of Hiroshima, 64 Years Ago Today

I developed a lifelong opposition to war at the age of ten, when “The World At War” was broadcast by ITV, and today’s anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima has brought those feelings back. To mark this most distressing of anniversaries, I’m posting a commentary from the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture,” plus a few photographs.

From the Boston Globe:

August 6th marks 64 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan by the United States at the end of World War II. Targeted for military reasons and for its terrain (flat for easier assessment of the aftermath), Hiroshima was home to approximately 250,000 people at the time of the bombing. The US B-29 Superfortress bomber “Enola Gay” took off from Tinian Island very early on the morning of August 6th, carrying a single 4,000 kg (8,900 lb) uranium bomb codenamed “Little Boy.” At 8:15 am, “Little Boy” was dropped from 9,400 m (31,000 ft) above the city, freefalling for 57 seconds while a complicated series of fuse triggers looked for a target height of 600 m (2,000 ft) above the ground. At the moment of detonation, a small explosive initiated a super-critical mass in 64 kg (141 lbs) of uranium. Of that 64 kg, only 0.7 kg (1.5 lbs) underwent fission, and of that mass, only 600 milligrams was converted into energy — an explosive energy that seared everything within a few miles, flattened the city below with a massive shockwave, set off a raging firestorm and bathed every living thing in deadly radiation. Nearly 70,000 people are believed to have been killed immediately, with possibly another 70,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950. Today, Hiroshima houses a Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum near ground zero, promoting a hope to end the existence of all nuclear weapons.

The aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, autumn 1945

A view of Hiroshima and outlying hills, seen in the autumn of 1945, from the ruins of the Red Cross building, less than one mile from the hypocenter (US National Archives).

The aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

The Hiroshima Fire Department’s main fire station, destroyed by the blast and fire of the atomic bomb, 1,200 m (4,000 ft) from ground zero (US National Archives).

A "shadow" of a hand valve wheel created by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

A “shadow” of a hand valve wheel on the painted wall of a gas storage tank after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Radiant heat instantly burned paint where the heat rays were not obstructed, 1,920 m (6,300 ft) from ground zero (US National Archives).

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.

A Profile of Rushan Abbas, The Guantánamo Uighurs’ Interpreter

I’m pleased to report that Rushan Abbas, someone I greatly admire for her practical efforts to mitigate the brutal effects of the “War on Terror,” is profiled today on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, in an article entitled, “The Go-Between: Interpreting Life in Bermuda for Freed Gitmo Prisoners.”

Rushan Abbas (right) with Abdullah Abdulqadir, in Bermuda, June 2009. AP photo.

Rushan Abbas (right) with Abdullah Abdulqadir, in Bermuda, June 2009. AP photo.

Since 2005, Rushan has been the interpreter for Guantánamo’s Uighurs (Muslims from China’s oppressed Xinjiang province, who were seized by opportunistic Pakistani tribesmen, and sold to the US military in December 2001), working first with the men’s lawyers, and, most recently, helping four of the men adjust to a new life of freedom in Bermuda, where they were finally released in June, years after the US government decided that they had been seized by mistake, and eight months after a District Court judge ordered their release into the United States, a ruling that was later overturned by the notoriously Conservative Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and supported by the Obama administration, in one of its most baleful displays of cowardice to date.

The WSJ article begins with an anecdote about the released Uighurs’ recent meeting with the Rev. Al Sharpton at Camden, the official residence of Bermuda’s premier. The visit by the well-known minister and activist “was a show of support for Bermuda’s government, which had caught political flak for accepting” the Uighurs, but, as Rushan explained, the men “really had no idea” who Sharpton was.

“I have to explain almost everything,” Rushan told the WSJ’s reporter, Paolo Prada, who wrote that, “In addition to interpreting,” she has “coordinated everything from meals to visits from Bermudan lawyers and government employees who are helping them find homes, English classes and work.” In a sign that the men are starting to find their feet, Rushan also explained that on Monday, they “began jobs as landscapers at the state-owned Port Royal Golf Course,” but even as they settled into their new lodgings, in a guesthouse by the ocean, she was still looking after them. As the WSJ explained, she “baked bread, fried flounder, and made halwa, a sweet confection.” Abdullah Abdulqadir, one of the four men, described as the “most jovial” by the WSJ, explained, “She’s our translator, our assistant, and our chef.”

A 42-year old mother of three, Rushan was born in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, which is still subject to a communications blackout by the Chinese government after violence erupted last month, prompting fears that large numbers of Uighurs are being rounded up by the authorities.

She came to the United States in 1989, after her father, a scientist, “befriended an American researcher who invited [her] to study in the US once she had finished a biology degree at Xinjiang University.” At Washington State University she studied plant pathology, met and married a professor and, over the next seven years, “had three children, became a US citizen and grew active in Uighur-American circles.”

In 1998, when Radio Free Asia, which “broadcasts news and information to listeners in Asian countries where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable,” launched a Uighur language service, she “became the sole female voice on the channel, communicating world news to western China and other Uighur areas.” She left the job in 2000, but, although she didn’t know it at the time, her presence had been noted, and would lead, in turn, to her being hired to work at Guantánamo, and to gaining the trust of the Uighur prisoners.

As she explained, one Saturday morning a few months after the 9/11 attacks, she received a phone call from an executive at Titan Corp., which provided interpreters for the US military. “I’ve been looking for you for weeks,” she was told. Within three weeks, she was at Guantánamo, working as an interpreter during the interrogations of the Uighurs. She soon found the interviews “fruitless and repetitive,” and resigned in 2002, but not before the Uighurs had befriended her. After an interview, one of the Uighur prisoners told interrogators he wanted to speak to her. “You are Rushan Abbas,” he said, explaining that he and other prisoners “recognized her voice from Radio Free Asia.”

After returning to Fresno, California, Rushan’s journey to providing enormous emotional and practical support to the Uighurs — triggered by those encounters in 2002 — began. In 2005, when, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, in Rasul v. Bush, that the prisoners had habeas corpus rights, a number of US law firms began working with the Uighurs, but “had trouble communicating” with them. One of the prisoners then gave them a simple piece of advice. “Get Rushan,” he said.

Since then, she has made over 20 visits to Guantánamo, and now works full-time as a freelancer for the law firms representing the prisoners — and ex-prisoners. She has shared highs and lows with the men — the court victories last year, the tantalizing promise that they would be rehoused in Washington D.C., the dashed hopes when Obama refused to intervene on their behalf — but once the news arrived that four of the men would be freed in Bermuda, she was responsible for explaining to them that they would, genuinely, be free men. “I thought we would still be wearing shackles,” one of the men, Salahidin Abdulahat, said, “recalling their surprise when they stepped into the chartered jet and saw couches, a phone and a microwave.”

Rushan stayed with the former prisoners for two weeks in Bermuda, helping them to readjust, before returning to the US. Now based in Washington, D.C., she is “on standby to fly to Palau,” in case a deal to rehouse the remaining 13 Uighurs in the tiny island nation in the Pacific (which has been mooted since June) comes to fruition. If it does — and the Associated Press is currently reporting that some of the men have overcome their initial trepidation about being within reach of the Chinese government — she will once more be on hand to help the last of her wrongly-imprisoned countrymen adjust to freedom in a strange land, acting once more as a “go-between,” fending off the kind of thoughtless critics who bought the Bush administration’s lies about Guantánamo’s “terrorists,” and who, in Bermuda, used the arrival of the Uighurs in an attempt to score political points.

As Sabin Willett, one of the men’s lawyers, explained, “She got into this expecting vicious, throat-slitting terrorists. Now she’s helping to demythologize those men.” And in the process, of course, she’s doing a fine job of helping the world to understand that these men, who lost seven years of their life in Guantánamo, are human beings.

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), Three Uighurs Talk About Chinese Interrogation At Guantánamo (July 2009), House Threatens Obama Over Chinese Interrogation Of Uighurs In Guantánamo (July 2009), and the stories in the additional chapters of The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras 1, Website Extras 6 and Website Extras 9.

What The British Government Knew About The Torture Of Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed at the launch of the Guantanamo Justice Centre, July 30, 2009A year ago, two judges in the High Court, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones, first began probing government agents (identified only as Witnesses A and B) about their knowledge of the rendition and torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed, who was returned to the UK from Guantánamo in February this year, largely as the result of a futile attempt, by both the British and American governments, to put a lid on the endlessly leaking story of his torture.

Throughout that time, the British government has denied knowing that, three months after Mohamed’s capture in Pakistan in April 2002, he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco, where he was tortured for a year and a half in connection with a spurious “dirty bomb” plot, and has only admitted that the British intelligence services exchanged intelligence with their US counterparts from July 2002 until February 2003, even though they did not know where he was being held, and had no viable assurances that he was being treated humanely.

Despite this admission, however, the government has been so desperate not to reveal any actual details about what it knew and what it did that the foreign secretary, David Miliband, has spent the last eleven months fighting to persuade the judges in Mohamed’s case not to publicly reveal even a 25-line summary of the intelligence reports received from the Americans, despite the fact that numerous parties have cast doubts on Miliband’s supposed reason for doing so — because it would apparently cause an unhealable rift between the US and UK intelligence services — and even though the judges have poured scorn on this idea, suggesting instead that the government is invoking national security issues to protect itself from political embarrassment.

In the last few days, the government has come under renewed pressure to launch an independent inquiry into its complicity in torture, partly in response to a highly critical report on Tuesday by Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, which accused the government of a systematic determination “to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and accountability” over allegations of UK complicity in torture, partly because of the publicity surrounding wide-ranging allegations of British complicity in torture in countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan and the UAE, largely exposed by Ian Cobain in the Guardian and recently picked up on by David Davis MP, and partly because of critical amendments to the judgment in Binyam Mohamed’s case from August last year, which were released by the High Court on Friday (PDF).

The amendments to the judgment are enormously significant, as they reveal, for the first time in public (or in a setting of undisputed authority), some of the dark truths that the government has been trying to hide, regarding British knowledge of Mohamed’s treatment in Pakistan, the extent of cooperation between the British and American intelligence services throughout his detention in Morocco and beyond, and, most disturbingly of all, firm evidence that the British government not only knew that Mohamed was held in Morocco, but that they sent an agent to visit him while he was being held there.

In an email exchange, I discussed the significance of these amendments with Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represent Mohamed and 40 other current or former Guantánamo prisoners.

The hidden knowledge of Binyam Mohamed’s torture in Pakistan

In Paragraph 17 of the revised judgment, the judges stated that, since their hearing last summer, “further documents disclosed to us make clear that a composite document was prepared for sending to Witness B for his attention in Karachi; it contained a detailed briefing package which included questions he should ask of BM [Binyam Mohamed] and details of the reports provided by the United States authorities.”

The judges were referring to a 35-page memo, dated May 15, 2002, in which 32 pages were completely censored by the government. As Stafford Smith stated, this memo “was not previously provided to counsel for Binyam or to the media,” and was only made available last week (on July 28). The reason it had not surfaced earlier was obvious from some of the few words in the memo that were not censored, describing “details of the reports provided by the US,” which, as Stafford Smith explained, clearly “included the evidence that Binyam had been tortured — the evidence that is currently being kept from the media.”

A heavily redacted MI5 memo about Binyam Mohamed, dated May 15, 2002

The redacted memo, as obtained by the BBC. In it, MI5 refers to Mohamed as the “dirty bomber” and calls him a “committed Islamist.”

As Stafford Smith also explained, the belated disclosure of the memo causes problems for Witness B, whose interrogation of Mohamed, in Pakistani custody, took place just two days later, on May 17, 2002, as it “reflects false statements under oath by Witness B (and perhaps Witness A as well) on two issues — one, that all the materials had been turned over back in 2008; and two, that he did not know about the abuse.” Under the government’s rules of engagement at the time, Witness B was under no obligation in May 2002 to report the torture of a British resident held by the US to the government, but his apparent perjury last year, when questioned in the High Court, is another matter.

The section of the MI5 memo referring to Binyam Mohamed as a “committed Islamist” Moreover, in Paragraph 87 (vi) of the revised judgment, the judges stated, “it is now clear that the reports were studied by other desk officers” — in other words, by more senior officers — which prompted Stafford Smith to state, “One question that must be asked is: how high up in the British government did this sordid truth travel?”

The British government’s lies about the extent of its intelligence exchanges with the US

Previously, as the judges made clear in their judgment last August, the British government (and Witness B) admitted that the British intelligence agencies had continued to exchange information about Mohamed’s interrogations with their American counterparts between July 2002 and February 2003, even though they stated that they did not know where he was being held. This shocked the judges to such an extent that they declared that by “supplying information and questions for his interviews,” while he was being held in an unknown location, “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,” and they highlighted the significance of the “wrongdoing” by pointing out that it referred to torture, seizing on an admission, made on behalf of David Miliband, that Mohamed had “established an arguable case” that, until his transfer to Guantánamo in September 2004, “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.”

However, as the amended judgment revealed, the exchange of information did not come to an end in February 2003, meaning that, once again, Witness B lied to the court, and the government was content to hide behind these lies.

Paragraph 30 (iii) of the amended judgment revealed that five reports of Mohamed’s interrogations were provided in February 2003. This is within the timescale admitted by Witness B and the government, but, as Stafford Smith explained, “It is extraordinary that there were five reports. Previously, only one was mentioned, and only one turned over by the US in [habeas corpus] proceedings there [last autumn].” While Stafford Smith speculated that, in all probability, these reports “would reflect answers to the British questions, showing that Britain was gladly receiving on-going answers that had been tortured out of Binyam in Morocco,” further revelations in the amended judgment were even more damaging for Witness B and the government.

In Paragraph 30 (iv), for example, it was revealed that, “On 15 April 2003, the SyS [British intelligence] requested, in light of BM’s reported cooperation, a further interview by Witness B; a list of over 70 further questions was also sent.” As Stafford Smith explained, “This was perjury,” because the British government had stated (and Witnesses A and B had sworn under oath) that all contact ended in February 2003. Stafford Smith added, “Witness B must have known it, as he was the one who wanted to interrogate Binyam again.”

However, the discovery that everyone concerned had somehow omitted to mention these events builds up to something that much more closely resembles a conspiracy of silence with the revelation, in Paragraph 30 (v), that “Further information from debriefings of BM was supplied to the United Kingdom authorities by the United States authorities on 14 November 2003, 14 January 2004 and 15 March 2004.”

As Stafford Smith explained,

This is outrageous. Witnesses A and B swore under oath in court that all efforts to locate Binyam or have him answer questions ended in February 2003. This was perjury pure and simple. Now we know that further information was supplied at regular intervals through to March 2004. Binyam was rendered to the “Dark Prison” [near Kabul, Afghanistan] on January 21, 2004. This means that the UK was receiving the fruits of his torture both from Morocco and the “Dark Prison.” None of this has been provided to us in the habeas proceedings in the US. Where is this material and why is it being kept secret?

The British government’s lies about not knowing Binyam Mohamed was being held in Morocco

The government’s persistent claims that they did not know where Mohamed was being held after the CIA spirited him out of Pakistan in July 2002 have always provided them with some kind of a veil of deniability, however thin and insubstantial that veil may have been. This position should have been fatally undermined in May, when David Rose reported for the Mail on Sunday that a British citizen of Moroccan origin, known as Informant A, who was seized during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and persuaded to work as a spy for the British, had visited Mohamed while he was being held in Morocco. However, for some reason the story was generally ignored in the rest of the mainstream media, and when Clive Stafford Smith tried to tell the Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs about it, his testimony was spiked by an unidentified official in an unidentified government department, who invoked an inappropriate Commons rule to prevent him from talking about it.

However, although the amended judgment made no mention of Informant A, because the judges have never been presented with an opportunity to ask questions about his existence, other passages made clear that the British government was well aware of where Mohamed was being held. The first inkling that this was the case came in Paragraph 29 (v)(a), in which it was stated that, “By 19 August 2002, the SyS were aware that BM was being held in a covert location where he was being debriefed. Direct access was not possible, but the SyS were able to send questions to the US authorities to be put to him.” This was followed up, in Paragraph 87 (x), when the judges stated that the UK intelligence services “continued to supply information and questions … after September 2002 when they knew the circumstances related to his continued detention.” The key here is spelled out explicitly by the judges, as, in the initial judgment, they did not write that the British “knew” the circumstances in which Binyam was held, but wrote only that they “must also have appreciated” them.

Stafford Smith added that the use of the word “knew” was also critical “because it demonstrates that the judges probably believe that Witness B (and Witness A) committed perjury in their earlier testimony.” Even so, it is by no means the most important passage.

In Paragraph 35 (A), which is the most crucial of all the amendments, the judges stated:

It is clear from documents subsequently supplied to us that Witness B visited Morocco once in November 2002 and twice in February 2003. As no information about these visits was available at the hearing Witness B was not questioned in the open or closed sessions about these three visits or the document referred to in paragraph 30 (iv) [see above]. We have been informed that the SyS maintains that it did not know that BM was in Morocco in the period in question.

Ignoring for a moment the ludicrous, reality-defying claim that the intelligence services are still maintaining that they did not know that Binyam Mohamed was in Morocco, “This,” as Stafford Smith explained, “is the real shocker,” because the judges’ additions finally provide evidence that the government’s entire policy of denial regarding Mohamed’s long ordeal in Morocco has been undermined where it really counts: in the British High Court.

It is difficult to see how the government can worm its way out of the implications of this alarming revelation, particularly, as Stafford Smith explained, because the dates are so relevant to the probable sequence of events, involving Informant A, that has been established by Reprieve, which is as follows:

Informant A [also identified as MA], a British resident from Morocco, had been captured, badly injured, while fighting in Tora Bora. He told Tarek Dergoul [a British citizen released from Guantánamo in 2004] and Shaker Aamer [a British resident who is still held] in [the US prison at] Bagram [airbase in Afghanistan] that he was going to do whatever he had to do to get out of his scrape. He was not sent to Guantánamo — which is suspicious enough — but he was sent to Morocco, where the Moroccans told Binyam that he was cooperating with them.

Then, in September 2002, in order to show demonstrative evidence that they had told Binyam the truth, the Moroccans “exhibited” Informant A to Binyam. They knew each other from London. Informant A was then working with the UK, which is further evidenced by the fact that in early 2003 he was able to return to the UK — notwithstanding the fact that he had a criminal record, would not have been allowed into the country, and “should” have been in Guantánamo.

In October 2002, Witness B went to Morocco — almost certainly to talk to Informant A. In February 2003, Witness B went to Morocco twice, again likely to facilitate Informant A’s return to the UK. Informant A has made many statements to people in the UK that he has talked to the British intelligence agents since 2003 — yet no move has been made to remove him from the country. Informant A has told various people (since his return to the UK in 2003) that he saw Binyam in Morocco. It is inconceivable that he has not told this to the British intelligence agents. All this needs to be subject to examination under oath of Witnesses A and B, and Informant A.

The revelation that Witness B visited Mohamed in Morocco in October 2002 also explains the significance of Paragraph 30 (0) in the amended judgment, in which it was stated that “An agenda for a video conference on 23 October 2002 included an update by the US authorities on their continued interviewing of BM.”

As Stafford Smith explained, “The highly suspicious thing here, of course, is that no minutes of the meeting have been divulged,” and the presumption, therefore, is that “some highly incriminating information was passed at this meeting,” which very probably included discussions about Informant A.

In conclusion, Stafford Smith stated, “It is now obvious that the British authorities were not telling the truth when they denied knowing that Binyam was in Morocco. Again the question for the police and the public must be: how far up the political ladder did this knowledge go?”

As politicians continue to press the government to conduct an independent inquiry into Britain’s complicity in torture, they really do need to look in detail at the extraordinarily significant developments in Binyam Mohamed’s case since the story of Informant A first emerged in May, and the role that Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones have just played in bringing the murky story of Mohamed’s rendition and torture in Morocco into sharp focus; so sharp, in fact, that we are now obliged, as I hinted at above, to believe that, when Witness B and Informant A visited him in Morocco, neither they nor their bosses knew where he was being held, and they must therefore, have rolled up at Morocco’s notorious Témara prison as part of a Magical Mystery Torture Tour arranged by the CIA.

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 by Cageprisoners. Cross-posted on The Public Record.

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), US Torture Under Scrutiny In British Courts (July 2009), Former prisoners launch the Guantánamo Justice Centre in London (August 2009).

Secret evidence in the case of the North West 10 “terror suspects”

The statue of Justice on the Old BaileyThe following account of a hearing last week in SIAC (the Special Immigration Appeals Commission), regarding the bail hearings of seven Pakistani students seized in April as part of a round-up of twelve men in connection with a purported “terror plot,” was written by Maude Casey, a campaigner from Brighton, who was the only non-legal observer in the public gallery.

I am reproducing it unedited, as I believe that Maude, as a first-time visitor to SIAC, has captured perfectly the surreal imitation of justice that takes place in Britain’s secret terror court. I also believe it is important that a public account of the hearing is made available, as few major media outlets reported on the cases last week (exceptions were the Daily Telegraph, the Independent and Channel 4 News), even though no evidence has been produced to justify the hysteria that attended the announcement of the “plot” back in April (when Prime Minster Gordon Brown declared that it was “a very big terrorist plot”), and the men in question are being held on the basis of secret evidence that they are unable to challenge.

As with the cases of other “terror suspects,” held under control orders or on deportation bail, it appears that, in general, the British media is unconcerned that foreign nationals — and, in the cases of some of the control order detainees, British nationals — can be subjected to a secretive facsimile of justice that bears no resemblance to the rest of Britain’s legal system, so long as the magic words “Islam” and “terrorism” are invoked.

Courts of injustice
By Maude Casey

Until last week, I had never been to the Royal Courts of Justice. In Britain, our justice system has long been a beacon to the world. Here, the most knotty legal conundrums are patiently untangled in a public chamber, in the clear light of reason before an impartial judge, and assessed by a jury which constitutes the ears, eyes and voice of our fellow citizens. These public chambers are freely accessible to members of the public: all have a public gallery where anyone can sit and listen to the proceedings. Everything is transparent; Justice is blind to the prejudices and unmotivated by the interests of either side in each particular case. I had often intended to come and see this for myself.

Certainly the building itself speaks of something like this, in a language of soaring stone and lofty oak. The highest court in the land, it is an edifice carved by rationality, etched by wisdom and gravitas. Voices are low here; the acoustics carry them far. This much was obvious as I waited at the enquiry desk while the helpful young attendant made call after call on his desk phone to find out which court he should direct me to.

I had decided to come to attend the bail appeals of seven young Pakistani students seized from their university libraries in April this year. I had been shocked by the sight of police in paramilitary uniforms, resembling nothing less than storm troopers, dragging students from the halls of academe. I had heard that Manchester Police had subsequently released all of the students without charge, the Chief Constable stating that he could find not a shred of evidence against them. Great was my subsequent astonishment therefore, when I heard that the Home Secretary had subsequently issued them with deportation orders, that their applications for bail had been refused and that they have been held as Category “A” prisoners ever since. And now their appeals for bail were to be heard in a special court: the Special Immigration Appeal Court, or SIAC.

One of the North West 10 "terror suspects" seized at gunpoint in Liverpool's John Moores University, April 2009

One of the North West 10 “terror suspects,” seized at gunpoint in Liverpool’s John Moores University in April 2009.

SIAC aren’t anything to do with us, the young man at the enquiry desk said. They just use our courts. And sometimes they close our courts to the public. It was difficult for him to find out where he should send me, or — rather alarmingly — whether in fact I was allowed to be there at all, but eventually, after many calls, he directed me to two possibilities: Court 28 on the ground floor, and Court 4 upstairs.

Court 28 was closed to the public; Court 4 was just reconvening after lunch. I was the only person in the public gallery. As I accustomed myself to being in this space which speaks of a closed world, with its walls of beautifully bound Law Reports, its oaken panelling, its flamboyantly carved lion, unicorn and regal coat of arms above the judge’s crimson velvet throne, I began to experience a most extraordinary welter of impressions, an eerie sense of witnessing a previously- scripted narrative unfold.

The solicitor of Shoaib Khan, one of the young men who was sitting in the prisoners’ cage in the company of two prison guards, was making a statement to Judge Mitting, as follows: “Your Honour, in regard to the Secretary of State’s assertion that my client is concerned in international Islamist activity, I will say that my client has a beard. He is a practising Muslim. He goes to prayer at the Mosque. He attends prayer meetings. He will continue these activities. He should not be penalised for practising normal Muslim activities.”

The evidence against the other young man in the dock, Abdul Wahab Khan, appeared equally ghostly. There are videos of him dancing and playing cricket: this means they were at a training camp. They went on a two-hour drive to a beach in Wales: this means they were involved in a terrorist plot. Another of the young men wrote emails to his girlfriend, in which the words “crystal clear” obviously refer to a bomb-making substance in code and “weak and difficult to convince” is code for a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide. And of course, as the Secretary of State has pointed out, they participate in activities carried out by a network of Islamists worldwide: they are room-mates; they pray, they meet other students; they have beards and brown skins.

I felt extremely uncomfortable listening to these arguments. I felt shocked by the resonance of racist rhetoric, amazed by the Alice in Wonderland tone of the absurd.  And I felt a sense of incredulity at the flavour of Orwellian double-speak. I could not believe I was hearing arguments like this go unchallenged in the supposedly rational spaces of a British court.

But then as I looked around and saw no jury, no judge gowned and bewigged like his colleagues in the adjacent court chambers, no proceedings in which defence is evenly balanced against prosecution, I realised that I was witnessing something new in a British court: a court which is not a court, a hearing in which voices speak but no one hears them, because, somewhere far away, minds have already been made up.

And the most menacing aspect of the proceedings was their air of apparent normality. Around the chamber, men chatted quietly and amicably, amiable with that sense of entitlement of men who stretch out their arms on the backs of seats in panelled rooms, sharing a language from which we are excluded. And as the Judge departed to examine evidence no one was allowed to see, no one stood up and asked, “Why? How can they defend themselves if they cannot see the evidence against them?”

The students are part of what Gordon Brown at the time declared to be “a very big terrorist plot,” and yet the Chief Constable of Manchester Police has stated that there was not a shred of evidence against them. At one point I even heard Judge Mitting himself say to the appellants’ solicitors that the strongest argument for their case is this: if there was a big plot to blow something up, how come, after all this time, there is no evidence of any explosives or planning?

The solicitors provided considerable evidence for the innocence of their clients: impeccable academic references; references from landlords; references from local cricket teams; from a UN-funded project in Pakistan; from family members in the US and UK willing to put up their businesses as surety and buy houses in Liverpool for the students to live in under any terms that the Secretary of State might decide. They are willing to wear tags. They will observe any curfew. They will satisfy any bail conditions the Secretary of State might impose.

Furthermore, the solicitors pointed out that as recently as last week the hearings of the original nine students were reduced to seven as two of them were released without explanation [although they are still “required to wear electronic tags as the Home Office still wants to deport them due to visa irregularities,” as the BBC reported]. If suddenly these two are not deemed a security risk, even though the evidence against them is shared by the remaining seven, then how come these remaining seven are considered to be so dangerous? If bail conditions of varying severity are containing these two released young men, why can’t they contain the remaining seven?

It was at this point that the proceedings became chilling, as they assumed the full appearance of a charade. In this court, which is somehow not a court, the Secretary of State’s solicitor made his position clear: The emails of appellant XC to his girlfriend proves that he is the lynchpin of a terrorist network. The other appellants are his associates. If the Secretary of State is right, and if the advice of the Secretary of State’s security advisers is right, we must continue to oppose bail as there has been no change in their assessment that these appellants continue to pose a grave security risk. In contrast to the appellants’ cases, no evidence was provided — apart from this spectral hypothetical. Am I alone in finding this shocking?

Simon Jackson QC mentioned further grounds to support the bail applications, including the letters from educational establishments. However, it emerged that the judge had not received these. Jackson said that they had been made available to Mr. McCullough, the Special Advocate appointed by the government. Am I alone in finding it shocking that this evidence had not been made available to the Judge? In the court, as photocopies were made, it felt even more like a charade, in which evidence was presented but not listened to, because the verdict had already been decided.

The Judge adjourned to see some evidence provided by the Secretary of State in a closed chamber. This evidence is so secret that neither the appellants nor their solicitors were allowed to see it. At this point, the group of lawyers from around the world, who had arrived in the public gallery during the afternoon’s proceedings, asked questions of each other and of me with great puzzlement: so is it really true that the defendants are not allowed to know what evidence is being held against them? In a British Court? But this would not be allowed in my country. This is very strange. Yes, I agreed, it is very strange.

Upon Judge Mitting’s return, he spoke very briefly. In none of these cases do we admit bail. The reasons will be given in writing. The appellants will return to their cells. We will hear all their cases together on 8th March next year.

So here are the facts: none of these seven young men has been charged with anything. If they decide to allow themselves to be deported, they will face the suspicion of terrorist activity in Pakistan, for, after all, if Britain, the cynosure of Justice globally, has found that they pose a grave security risk, then surely they must be terrorists. At worst they could face torture, at best: shame in their families and communities and the devastation of promising careers. They have missed all their lectures since April and they have been unable to sit their exams, despite the requests of their universities. Returned to jail until March as Category “A” prisoners, they are considered to pose the gravest danger to the country. They can be regularly strip-searched and locked up in solitary confinement; their visitors must be cleared by the Home Office, a process which can take months. Innocent of any charge, they are the victims of a hypothetical fantasy; they have been forced to enter a Kafkaesque maze of control from which there appears to be no escape.

Am I alone in believing that this is profoundly shocking? Am I alone in having a faint suspicion that these young men are in prison for the same reason that kept the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four incarcerated for sixteen years: to cover up a stupid mistake on the part of the security services and to enable powerful men to save face? Shame on a system that can decide that young men are guilty of something which no one is allowed to know, based on evidence which is so secret as to be invisible. And from being seven individual young men, they have somehow become fused together into a single unit.

The whole thing would be hilarious were it not for the terrifying fact that these young men really are locked up, right now, as you are reading this, and will continue to be so for the next 213 days, until the date of their next hearing. It would be hilarious were it not for the fact that Janas Khan, one of the students released before this hearing — for reasons which, from where I was sitting, had been concealed from his legal team — is now alone in a town in the north west of England, tagged and obliged to clock in with the private company which administers the tagging system several times a day. He has four assignments to complete for his university, as he could not complete them in prison. He is enduring a menacing system of control, contained by a curfew which eliminates the possibility of the normal social life to which every innocent human being is entitled.

And so they will remain, unless they leave Britain voluntarily, their names besmirched, their academic careers at an end, carrying the stigma of terrorism into a country whose human rights record gives cause for grave concern. They wish to remain here in order to obtain their degrees and to clear their names; they believed Britain’s justice system to be the best in the world, a system in which their cases would be heard impartially and openly, the evidence carefully weighed. Instead, what they are experiencing is this new system, where a hearing is not a hearing, because nobody listens, in a secret chamber which is no court of justice but a scandalous charade, in which the clear light of reason is clouded by shame. The time has come to remove this farce from the field of the normal and to see it for what it is: a sinister travesty against which our voices must be raised.

This is not a hearing: no one is listening. This is not justice: it is a one-sided charade.

Maude Casey is a campaigner with Brighton Against Guantánamo (formerly the Save Omar campaign). She wrote this article after we met last week, at the launch of the Guantánamo Justice Centre, and she explained that she had been the only non-legal observer during last week’s SIAC hearing. I then said that if she would like to write something, I would publish it on my website, as this is not the first time that the mainstream media has largely ignored the SIAC hearings, and also because I’m happy to use my website to host other people’s articles about the injustice of Britain’s anti-terror laws.

In a note accompanying the article, Maude also wrote:

While campaigning for Omar’s release, and then for Binyam’s [Omar Deghayes and Binyam Mohamed], I have become increasingly concerned at how many of our hard-won civil and human rights have been gradually eroded as part of this War of Terror. I attended Diane Abbott’s meeting on Secret Evidence in the House of Commons, but actually being present in a hearing really brings the injustice home to you. For all we know, these young men may indeed be guilty of organising a “big plot,” although I have to say that I doubt it, having heard the open evidence; however the fact is that in a just society they should have the opportunity of a fair trial and the right to clear their names. As a mother, I found it very easy to empathise with their worries about their studies and their reputations, and the thought of them being incarcerated under those conditions for over two hundred more days makes me unable to feel complacent.

Note: Please visit the website “Justice for the North West 10” for more information, and see here for a Channel 4 interview with Janas Khan, on July 19, in which C4 explained that, although Khan was told that “he was no longer considered a threat to national security … he is still being made to wear an electronic tag and is facing deportation.” For the background to the circumstances in which the raid in April took place, and the subsequent resignation of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism chief Bob Quick, who had been photographed arriving at Downing Street with “top secret” documents about the plot visible under his arm, see this report in the Guardian. For another analysis, see this Press Association report in the Independent. Also of interest are the remarks of Khaled Rahman, director of the Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad, in an interview with Radio France Internationale, after a row broke out between the British and Pakistani governments regarding the vetting of Pakistani students visiting the UK to study. Rahman said, “Pakistani people would like to have some really credible evidence available to them because the happenings so far have not been proved in any court of law in most of the cases.”

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), UK government issues travel document to control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh after horrific suicide attempt (July 2009).

Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker

Khalid al-MutairiBy sheer coincidence, I had just been alerted to the publication of a number of documents relating to the ongoing habeas corpus cases of the Guantánamo prisoners last Thursday, and was reading, with mounting disbelief, the government’s supposed case against Khalid al-Mutairi (PDF), one of the last four Kuwaiti prisoners, when I received an email notifying me that District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly had just granted his habeas petition and ordered the government to “take all necessary and appropriate steps to facilitate” his release “forthwith.”

The story received little attention in the media, partly because everyone was focused on the case of Mohamed Jawad, the Afghan whose release was also ordered last Thursday by Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, after Judge Huvelle had launched a blistering attack on the government’s cruelty and incompetence for pursuing a case in which the majority of the supposed evidence had been ruled as inadmissible because it was extracted through torture.

Another reason for the media’s failure to report Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling is that the full ruling is not yet available, but as it is apparent from the Amended Factual Return that I was reading last week that the government’s case against al-Mutairi was also “riddled with holes” (to quote Judge Huvelle’s opinion of the case against Jawad), I’m going to take this opportunity to dissect the case against Khalid al-Mutairi, for its reliance on dubious witnesses, its reliance on discredited connections between charities in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, and other unsubstantiated inferences about his activities, in much the same way that I expect Judge Kollar-Kotelly did last week.

Why the government’s own case indicates that Khalid al-Mutairi traveled to Afghanistan for charity work

Khalid al-Mutairi, an unmarried citizen of Kuwait, was 26 years old when he was seized crossing the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan, but has always maintained that he traveled to Afghanistan, a few days after the 9/11 attacks (and three and a half weeks before the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan) to fund the building of a mosque. Much of this is corroborated in the government’s own submission, in which it is stated that, after dropping out of high school, he worked as a clerk for the Ministry of the Interior from 1993 to 2000, and, in 1999, hired an Afghan carpenter “to build ‘a small room in the desert which he intended to use as a place to gather with his friends.” The government added that, during the completion of this project, he told the carpenter that “someday he would like to build a mosque in Afghanistan.”

In the spring of 2001, after the carpenter had returned to Afghanistan, “he contacted al-Mutairi and suggested that it would be a good time to build the mosque they had previously discussed since there was a large piece of land in [name of place redacted] that was not being used.” According to the US government, al-Mutairi “explained that building this mosque would bring him a ‘reward from God.’”

He subsequently made arrangements to fly out to Afghanistan, arriving just a few days after the 9/11 attacks. The US government tried to make this sound suspicious, stating that he “claimed he had no prior knowledge of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and that the fact that he made his travel arrangements to Afghanistan shortly after the attacks was a coincidence,” but as there is not a single shred of evidence to indicate that al-Mutairi should have had any reason to have “prior knowledge” of the 9/11 attacks, this statement serves only as an attempt to conjure up suspicions out of nowhere.

After traveling to Afghanistan via Iran, where he took a taxi to the border, al-Mutairi met up with the Afghan carpenter, and explained that, because he had brought $15,000, and was told that the mosque would only cost $9,000 to build, his friend suggested that they travel to Kabul “to visit the al-Wafa organization in order to donate some of the remaining money to one of their charitable projects.” He stated that he gave $2,000 to the organization, which, his friend said, would be used “to buy food and clothing to distribute to refugees,” and then, presumably shaken by the declining sense of security in Afghanistan (although this was not stated in the government’s submission), decided to return home, but was told that the borders had already been sealed.

He then explained that he stayed in Kabul, at the house of a friend of the carpenter, for another three weeks, “at which point his bag with his passport and some money was stolen,” and then hired an Afghan guide to take him to the border with Pakistan, which was where, after asking to be taken to the Kuwaiti embassy, he was “instead taken to a Pakistani jail.”

Although there were doubts about the exact sequence of events surrounding al-Mutairi’s departure from Afghanistan (the government noted that, in April 2002, he said that he was seized while being treated for frostbite in a Pakistani hospital, and, in April 2007, “contended that the Pakistani authorities took his passport and did not return it”), there was nothing in the narrative to indicate that, as the government claimed, al-Mutairi was “a member of and has supported al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and is thus an enemy of the United States.”

The government’s futile case against the Al-Wafa organization

This assertion by the government relied almost exclusively on al-Mutairi’s brief involvement with the Saudi charity al-Wafa in Kabul, and what makes it so problematical is that, although al-Wafa was “named by the President as a Specially Designated Global terrorist” on October 26, 2001,” because of its supposed connections to al-Qaeda, the US government has failed to establish that any of the several dozen prisoners held at Guantánamo over the years because of their connections with al-Wafa was involved in terrorism or any kind of militancy whatsoever. The majority, who, like al-Mutairi, had some involvement in the organization’s demonstrable work providing humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, were released from Guantánamo in 2006 and 2007, and even those in positions of authority — Abdul Aziz al-Matrafi, the organization’s founder and director, and Ayman Batarfi, a Yemeni doctor — have seen the cases against them collapse. Al-Matrafi was repatriated in December 2007, and, after a series of stormy habeas hearings earlier this year, in which the government suffered severe criticism for its failure to provide necessary information to the defense team, Batarfi was cleared for release by President Obama’s own Guantánamo Task Force in March.

Despite this, the government’s submission in Khalid al-Mutairi’s case continued to rely on the unsubstantiated rumors of al-Wafa’s involvement with terrorism. It was noted that al-Mutairi had met Batarfi in Kabul, and that Batarfi “worked for Osama bin Laden procuring medical supplies, and, pursuant to bin Laden’s request, treating wounded al-Qaeda fighters during the al-Qaeda retreat from Tora Bora,” even though the government clearly accepted in March that Batarfi procured medical supplies for medical reasons alone (and did not do it for bin Laden) and that he was only caught up in the Tora Bora campaign by accident.

In fact, the government noted in its submission in al-Mutairi’s case that Batarfi “claimed that al-Wafa did not support al-Qaeda,” and its allegations about the significance of Abdul Aziz al-Matrafi were also discredited, not only because of al-Matrafi’s repatriation, but also because, in statements that appear to be attributed to him in al-Mutairi’s Amended Factual Return, he told US interrogators that there was “no relationship between al-Qaeda and al-Wafa, and that al-Qaeda disliked al-Wafa and thought that Arabs in Afghanistan should be fighting the jihad instead of conducting humanitarian issues with al-Wafa.” Al-Matrafi also explained that, although he had met with bin Laden as part of his work in Afghanistan, he told him that “al-Wafa’s position was to be in Afghanistan to assist the Afghani people only and was not there for political reasons.”

Unsubstantiated rumors and hearsay masquerading as evidence

The rest of the government’s case against Khalid al-Mutairi was equally risible. In one of many redacted passages in the Amended Factual Return, it was asserted that another prisoner in Guantánamo had claimed that he “came to Afghanistan for Jihad.” Although the passage relating to this claim was censored, it was apparent from al-Mutairi’s response, in which he “contended that he had angry words” with the prisoner responsible for making the allegation, and “claimed that not everything [he] said about other detainees was true.” He was probably referring to one of several well-known liars in Guantánamo, whose allegations have been dismissed by judges in previous habeas cases (see, for example, the cases of Mohammed El-Gharani and Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed).

Another spurious witness alleged that al-Mutairi was involved with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the Pakistani terrorist group whose focus is primarily on the conflict in Kashmir, but as this allegation comes from a single source, and bears no relation whatsoever to al-Mutairi’s own movements, as acknowledged by the government, it seems certain that this was also dismissed, in a brusque manner, by Judge Kollar-Kotelly. This supposed witness, who, according to the government, “participated in 21 days of training at a Lashkar-e-Tayyiba training camp in Pakistan, reported that Petitioner has ties to LeT, attended their annual meeting in Punjab, Pakistan, and has a point of contact at the LeT headquarters in Pakistan.”

The final part of the government’s feeble “mosaic” of intelligence regarding al-Mutairi concerned the fact that his name and personal details were found on various websites, including one described as al-Qaeda’s official website, “which contained information regarding the capture of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters who crossed the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan.” Unfortunately for the government, it does not take much investigation to realize that such claims are worthless, and that there is no way of establishing whether this proves membership of al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban, or whether it merely proves that details of the prisoners were leaked after their capture, and that eager propagandists, like those of al-Qaeda, manipulated the information with as little regard for the actual circumstances of the men’s capture as that demonstrated by the US military.

It is time for the Justice Department to behave with courage and responsibility

Judhe Colleen Kollar-KotellyI hope that, when Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling is published in full, the rest of the media will pay attention to the dismal case put forward by the government. It may be rather less dramatic than the case of Mohamed Jawad, but it provides a succinct and alarmingly clear example of how, six months after taking power, the Obama administration has failed to do anything to prevent Bush-era lawyers in the Justice Department from continuing not only to build cases against prisoners based on nothing more than post-capture innuendo, hearsay and exaggeration, but also to put these cases in front of judges who then dismiss them with a clearly articulated sense of scorn and incredulity that tarnishes the Justice Department’s credibility.

Since the Supreme Court ruled last June that the prisoners had constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, 33 cases have been ruled on by judges, in spite of the persistent obstruction by Justice Department officials, under both the Bush and the Obama administrations, and in 28 of those cases they have decided that the government has failed to establish, “by a preponderance of the evidence,” that it had any justification for holding the prisoners.

This success rate for the prisoners — 85 percent — is a demoralizing statistic for anyone foolish enough to cling to the Bush administration’s claims that Guantánamo held “the worst of the worst,” but for those of us who have been explaining for years that the truth is far different, and that, in fact, the majority of the prisoners were bought for bounty payments and were never adequately screened to ascertain whether or not they were actually combatants of any kind, the District Court judges are providing compelling evidence of this shameful truth.

It is depressing for America’s reputation that, in some cases — like that of Khalid al-Mutairi — it has taken over seven and a half years for anyone in a position of authority to point this out, but what is even more depressing is that the Justice Department shows no sign of waking up to its repeated humiliations, by casting even a faintly objective eye over its tissue-thin evidence, and dropping pending cases before it is humiliated still further.

I understand that this reluctance may have something to do with not wanting to play into the hands of Republicans, who are eager to portray the Obama administration as weak on national security, but sometimes the government should have the courage to face its detractors and to stand up and state, unambiguously, that it respects the rule of law and that the Bush administration’s failure to abide by existing laws not only endangered America by stirring up hatred against its innovative detention policies in the “War on Terror,” but also that these detention policies were a failure on a colossal scale. Like the courts, the government should be prepared to stand up and be counted, and to say that it is unforgivable that, nearly eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the United States is still holding men who had nothing to do with terrorism whatsoever.

As a reminder, these men include the Uighurs, Chinese prisoners whose only “crime” was to oppose the oppression of the Chinese Communist government; Mohammed El-Gharani, seized in a random raid on a mosque in Pakistan at the age of 14; Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, seized from a student house in Pakistan; Abdul Rahim al-Ginco, who was tortured by al-Qaeda and imprisoned by the Taliban as a spy: Mohamed Jawad, also a teenager when seized, whose confessions were extracted through the use of torture; and finally — for now — Khalid al-Mutairi, a charity worker caught up on the fringes of a non-existent plot involving a Saudi charity and al-Qaeda.

There are more cases like this, of men still held in Guantánamo, and it is time for the Justice Department to spare a thought for them, and to stop defending the policies of one of the most useless, inept and arrogant governments in the whole of American history.

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. Cross-posted on The Public Record.

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), 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). 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).

Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave

Prisoners at Guantanamo (photo by Brennan Linsley/AP)Imagine if you were imprisoned for seven years without charge or trial, and then a judge ruled that the government’s case against you consisted solely of unreliable allegations made by other prisoners who were tortured, coerced, bribed or suffering from mental health issues, and a “mosaic” of intelligence, purporting to rise to the level of evidence, which actually relied, to an intolerable degree, on second- or third-hand hearsay, guilt by association and unsupportable suppositions, and stated that the government “should take all necessary diplomatic steps to facilitate“ your release.

Now imagine that, instead of being freed, you continued to be held because the government refused to send you home, stating that it would not release you unless you first passed through a rehabilitation center in your home country, or, preferably, in a third country.

You would, I think, be pretty depressed about your situation, and would conclude that the United States’ much-vaunted justice system was a farce. And yet, this is exactly the problem that currently faces Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, a Yemeni prisoner in Guantánamo, whose habeas corpus petition was granted in May by Judge Gladys Kessler.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that, although “The government’s deadline for appealing Ahmed’s release has run out,” he continues to be held because the of the government’s refusal to send him home without first putting him through a rehabilitation center, preferably in Saudi Arabia, which, unlike its impoverished neighbor, has established rehabilitation centers that have processed thousands of former and would-be jihadists in the last few years, including dozens of Saudi prisoners repatriated from Guantánamo (some of whom, it should be noted, were not in Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, but had visited as missionaries or charity workers).

In the AP’s report, the US government’s refusal to free Ali Ahmed outright was dressed up as part of a wider policy on the government’s part to put an unspecified number of the remaining 100 or so Yemeni prisoners, “who officials say probably will be freed,” through a rehabilitation center “before they are released to make sure they pose no threat to Americans.”

However, in the case of Ali Ahmed, and two other Yemeni prisoners — Yasim Basardah, whose habeas petition was granted in March, and Ayman Batarfi, a doctor whose release was approved by the government’s own Detention Policy Task Force at the same time — this makes no sense, as either the courts or the government itself have already concluded that they “pose no threat to Americans.”

These cases are not the only examples of inexplicable obstruction on the part of the administration. Although 15 other prisoners cleared by the courts — 13 Uighurs, Sabir Lahmar, an Algerian, and Abdul Rahim al-Ginco, a Syrian — are awaiting new homes, because of fears that they will face torture — or worse — if returned to their homelands, the government has also approved “more than 50” other prisoners for release, after their cases were reviewed by the inter-departmental Detention Policy Task Force (established by Executive Order on Obama’s second day in office), which, as ABC News explained, has, for the last six months, involved 65 representatives “from agencies like the FBI, Pentagon, the CIA, and attorneys from the Justice Department” meeting up once a week “on a secure floor within a secure facility to discuss the review.”

Sadly, in a demonstration of the executive secrecy that was such a hallmark of the Bush administration, officials in the Obama administration have not revealed the identities of any of these men (other than Ayman Batarfi, Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who was hastily released in February to avoid a Transatlantic torture scandal, and Umar Abdulayev, a Tajik, cleared in June, who was seized by opportunistic Pakistani intelligence agents from a refugee camp), but it seems, from the limited information made available — rumors that three Tunisians will be transferred to Italy and that some Tunisians and Algerians will be rehoused in Spain, and the recent news that Belgium will take some prisoners and Ireland will accept two Uzbeks — that the decisions on who to release correspond broadly with those made by military review boards at Guantánamo under the Bush administration.

Although hundreds of the 544 prisoners freed from Guantánamo were released after military review boards concluded that they no longer posed a threat to the United States and/or no longer had ongoing intelligence value, 58 of these prisoners were still held when George W. Bush left office, even though some had been approved for release in 2006. Excluding the Uighurs (four of whom were finally released in Bermuda in June) and three Saudis released in the same month (see here and here), this leaves a total of 38 prisoners still at Guantánamo whose transfer from Guantánamo was approved by the Bush administration.

20 of these men — five Algerians, an Egyptian, a Libyan, eight Tunisians, four Uzbeks and Umar Abdulayev, who was cleared for release under George W. Bush before this decision was repeated by Obama’s Task Force — could not be repatriated by the Bush administration because of fears that they would be tortured on their return, and three are Palestinians, and are therefore effectively stateless, as the Israeli government has no desire to facilitate their return.

However, there appears to be no good reason why the remaining 15 men could not be repatriated tomorrow. Three are Saudis, and the other 12 are Yemenis, and, just to reiterate, in case anyone missed it the first time round, some of these men were approved for transfer from Guantánamo over three years ago.

I don’t mean to complain unnecessarily, but when the government has a genuine problem finding homes for at least 35 prisoners cleared for release by the Bush administration, by the US courts, or by its own Detention Policy Task Force, it seems inexplicable that 18 others — also cleared for release by either the Bush administration, the courts or Obama’s Task Force — cannot simply be flown home tomorrow, bringing to an end this farcical situation in which, as my Hotel California analogy was meant to signify, prisoners who do not face ill-treatment on their return to their homelands are still held no matter how many times their release is approved by various representatives of the US government.

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, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch and AlterNet. 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), As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat (Mohamed Jawad, July 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).

Former prisoners launch the Guantánamo Justice Centre in London

The US flag at GuantanamoOn Thursday, at the Frontline Club in London, former Guantánamo prisoners Sami al-Haj, Binyam Mohamed, Jamil El-Banna, Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg spoke at the launch of the Guantánamo Justice Centre, a non-profit organization, based in Geneva, with an office in London and others to follow in other countries. The GLC has been established by a number of former prisoners “to seek positive and peaceful resolutions to the plight of those who remain in the notorious Cuban prison, as well as other secret prisons around the world,” and it describes its goals as follows:

  • To help coordinate assistance to prisoners who remain beyond the rule of law, who are often subjected to torture and abuse;
  • To assist former prisoners to reintegrate into society in a positive and peaceable manner, many of them in countries with limited available resources, and with governments hostile to human rights;
  • To assist the family members of those being held.

The launch was trailed on Wednesday, when Sami al-Haj, the al-Jazeera cameraman released in May 2008, who now heads the Human Rights Desk at al-Jazeera in Qatar, told the Associated Press that the Centre “aims to help over 500 men who have been released from the prison get medical and psychological treatment and find jobs.” Al-Haj explained that “only one in 20 former inmates has a job, and many have received no psychological or medical assistance,” and stated, “If you lock someone up in a normal prison for six months they need help. These people have been in jail for more than six years in an institution that’s much worse than a normal jail.”

He added that released prisoners “have received no explanation or apology, despite having never been charged with a crime,” and also explained that the organization will “lobby for the release or court trial of the 229 remaining inmates,” and, in the longer term, will “explore ways” of suing Bush administration officials for ordering the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantánamo.

At the launch itself, which was extremely well-attended, Moazzam Begg began by explaining that returning British ex-prisoners had support from families, activists, community members and individuals, but that those returning to developing countries had little help. “Whether they are in Bermuda, Morocco, Mauritania or Yemen, the story is pretty much the same,” he said, as Reuters described it. “Where is the welfare for the people who have been tortured? Where is the support system for people who have endured cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment? The fact of the matter is — rarely does it exist.”

Adding that former prisoners face the stigma of having been held at Guantánamo every single day, Begg said, “How do you remove that from your head? How do you tell people that I am not a criminal, but I endured criminality? How do you explain that to anybody? When Guantánamo, by its definition, means that you must have been guilty of something because the world’s most powerful democracy could not have got it wrong. Even though we know it has got it wrong, we still carry that stigma with us, every single one of us.”

Describing the extent of the stigma, Sami al-Haj added, “My son does not deal with me as a normal father and even my wife and our close family like brothers and sisters and even our friends are keeping away from me because they do not want to put themselves in trouble.”

Binyam Mohamed, speaking for the first time in public since his release from Guantánamo in February, explained that he was not involved with the GJC “to win compensation,” and asked, “How much money can you give me that would make me forget the seven years I have gone through?” He also explained to reporters that, during an interrogation in Karachi shortly after he was seized at the airport in April 2002, his US captors explained how the US approach to the law had changed after 9/11. They told me, “You are guilty until you are proven innocent,” he said.

Describing his difficulties in readjusting to life after Guantánamo, and “at times struggling to control his emotions,” as the BBC described it, he said that he would “automatically” treat ordinary questions as an “interrogation,” and explained, “You have to live it to explain it. It’s very hard. If I enter a room and the light turns off for some reason I wonder if I’m back in the ‘Dark Prison.’” Mohamed was referring to the secret CIA prison near Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was held for several months in 2004 after being tortured in Morocco for 18 months on behalf of the US authorities.

He also said, “What the world doesn’t understand is that most people love to hear about torture stories — somebody hanged here, beaten there, blood over here, blood over there, but that’s physical torture. What remains [on release] is, each time you see a rope, you always go back to the time you were hung. That doesn’t go away.”

Adding, “I cannot fit into society,” he described the opening of the Guantánamo Justice Centre as “an important event” for the former prisoners, saying, “We are here and we are living in torture — a world of torture,” and, insisting that it was not a political organization, stated bluntly, “From my point of view, there’s a mess that has been done and someone has to fix it.”

Like all the other ex-prisoners, Mohamed was concerned not primarily with relating his own difficulties adjusting to freedom, and the ghosts of torture that still haunt him, but with the plight of others. He explained that he had recently spoken on the phone to Mohammed El-Gharani, the Chadian national — just 14 years old when he was seized in Pakistan — who was released from Guantánamo in June, and that El-Gharani was now “sleeping on the streets, rejected by his family, branded as a terrorist although he was released by the US and cleared of any wrong-doing.” “I realized that he can not talk to others, like his lawyers, as he can to me,” Mohamed said. “So I have to speak out for him here.”

Returning briefly to his own ordeal, he explained, “No one knows that what stays after torture is the memories. Lawyers speak about my rights in court, but I can only think about Military Commissions and about having no rights. After four years I can only think of things in terms of Guantánamo. No institution or medical foundation in the world can change how I feel.” He then added, poignantly, “And how about in Chad, where there is nothing to help El-Gharani?”

This was a theme reiterated by Jamil El-Banna, released in December 2007, who also spoke for the first time in public since his release. El-Banna explained, “The only people who can help are those who went through this,” and, as Victoria Brittain described it in the Guardian, “told the story of Ahmed Hassan, a Jordanian who lost most of both sight and hearing from torture in Guantánamo. He spoke of the moment when Hassan trusted him as they spoke on the phone and he was able to tell him he had found a doctor here who will help him. Hassan had previously found no material or medical support in Jordan, but only promises, which disappeared into thin air. El-Banna emphasized that Hassan’s was just one of many, many stories of deep disappointment on release.”

Moazzam Begg also spoke on this theme, explaining that the Yemenis, who make up the largest single group of remaining prisoners in Guantánamo (about a hundred of the remaining 229), were of particular concern to the new organization because Yemen lacked the facilities necessary to care for people traumatized by their long and brutal imprisonment.

He explained that former prisoners from Western countries were suffering too, and described how two men now living in London “were unable even to communicate with other people due to psychological and physical damage.” “One of them lives in a room that is so tiny it is close to the size of his cell where he spent five years. That is the difficulty in the UK,” he said, but he added, “Our own situation is much better than the vast majority of people who were held there.”

The former prisoners also read out messages of support from other ex-prisoners. Ahmed Errachidi, a Moroccan who had lived for nearly 20 years in the UK, and was repatriated from Guantánamo in March 2007, wrote that “the life of ex-detainees is simply a life on pause,” and from Qatar Jarallah al-Marri (released in July 2008) explained, “Freedom is more than walking away from a world of cells, shackles and beatings. It is a state of mind, a state of being that takes time to develop.”

As the meeting wound up, Moazzam Begg added further details about the Centre’s aims, explaining that it would partner with NGOs in the Middle East and in African countries who were well placed to deliver care on the ground, and that it was looking for funds from sources in the Gulf, Europe and elsewhere, and Ramzi Kassem, a US lawyer who represents prisoners in Guantánamo and in the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, described the prisoners of George Bush’s “War on Terror” as the “victims of an ill-conceived policy” and criticized the Obama administration for retaining the system of Military Commissions introduced by its predecessor. “They only exist for one reason and that’s to whitewash torture,” he said, adding — in a sign that the GJC’s work will not be solely concerned with Guantánamo — that the estimated 600 prisoners in Bagram, unlike those in Guantánamo, are still being denied the right to challenge their detention in court.

For a short interview with Binyam Mohamed, see this BBC video, and see below for two reports on the GJC’s launch, from Al-Jazeera and Press TV (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.

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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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