On October 9, as I reported here, two prisoners were released from Guantánamo, several months after they had successfully challenged the basis of their detention through habeas corpus petitions in the US courts. One, Khalid al-Mutairi, was repatriated to Kuwait, while the other, who was not identified, was released to begin a new life in Belgium.
On Sunday, the Belgian foreign ministry released the following statement from the unidentified prisoner, in which he briefly explained his long suffering and asked the press to respect his privacy while he attempts to rebuild his shattered life. It is for this reason that I shall refrain from identifying him, and I hope, instead, that he is provided with the care and support that he needs to come to terms with his bitter and damaging experiences in US custody, and that one day he will feel secure enough — both mentally and materially — to tell the world his story in his own words.
A statement by the former Guantánamo prisoner released in Belgium
I was held for seven years in the prison at Guantánamo. I didn’t have any connection to any terrorist acts. The American judicial system confirmed that in a ruling earlier this year. I was nothing more than a student who was trying to find his way in life. I found myself in a bad place at a bad time and my life took a dramatic turn for the worse. In an atmosphere of menace and fear, I was a victim of people who did not want to listen to me and I suffered enormously as a result, both mentally that physically.
I am grateful to the Belgian government for giving me the opportunity to make a new start in my life. I really hope to be able to seize this chance to have possibilities in my life again. It is for this reason that I ask the press to respect my anonymity so that I have time to come to terms with all these events. As a result, I do not wish, at the moment, to have any contact with journalists.
The original version of this statement, in French, can be found 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 I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash, launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
Best of luck to the newest resident of Belgium. And best of luck with his wish for anonymity.
The simultaneous lobbying of European nations to solve America’s mess for it for “foreign consumption” (too many members of Congress would take to the fainting couches should any of those terrrrrrorists ever set foot on our sacred and holy shores) coupled with the continued demonization of “the worst of the worst” for “domestic consumption” continues to be maddening.
Change we can believe in, and all.
Yes indeed, TD. I too am having a hard time getting over how faint US lawmakers become at the mere mention of the word “turrst.” I think that was one of the great British cartoonist Steve Bell’s choice Bushisms — although my favorite, forever, is Bush talking about spreading “freeman moxy.” Just say it over and over in a Bush stylee …
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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