Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.
This is Part 11 of the 70-part series.
In late April, WikiLeaks released its latest treasure trove of classified US documents, a set of 765 Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) from the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Compiled between 2002 and January 2009 by the Joint Task Force that has primary responsibility for the detention and interrogation of the prisoners, these detailed military assessments therefore provided new information relating to the majority of the 779 prisoners held in the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba throughout its long and inglorious history, including, for the first time, information about 84 of the first 201 prisoners released, which had never been made available before.
Superficially, the Detainee Assessment Briefs appear to contain allegations against numerous prisoners which purport to prove how dangerous they are or were, but in reality the majority of these statements were made by the prisoners’ fellow prisoners, in Kandahar or Bagram in Afghanistan prior to their arrival at Guantánamo, in Guantánamo itself, or in the CIA’s secret prisons, and in all three environments, torture and abuse were rife.
I ran through some of the dubious witnesses responsible for so many of the claims against the prisoners in the introduction to Part One of this new series, and, while this is of enormous importance in the cases of many of the men still held (and also in the cases of some of those released), it is not particularly relevant to the overwhelmingly insignificant prisoners released between 2002 and September 2004, whose detention was so pointless that the authorities didn’t even bother trying to build cases against them through the testimony of their fellow prisoners.
As a result, the stories of these prisoners are particularly important in demonstrating how many innocent men or insignificant foot soldiers for the Taliban, engaged in combat with the Northern Alliance before the 9/11 attacks, and unconnected with international terrorism, were held at Guantánamo (and specifically how this latter category included many unwilling Afghan recruits).
What is also worth bearing in mind (and which is not spelled out in these documents) is that many prisoners were pointlessly rounded up because the Bush administration ordered the military not to screen the prisoners on capture, leading to a dragnet of “Mickey Mouse” prisoners, as was noted by Maj. Gen, Michael Dunlavey, a commander of the prison in 2002, and also offered substantial bounty payments for Al-Qaida and Taliban suspects to the US military’s Afghan and Pakistani allies.
In a five-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” I began analyzing, transcribing and condensing the stories revealed in the documents released by WikiLeaks, looking at 84 stories of prisoners released between 2002 and September 2004 that had never been told before. The work of extracting information from the files and presenting it in edited form, with commentary based on my extensive research and experience, is a project that will take up the rest of the year. The next step is this ten-part series revisiting the stories of the 114 other prisoners released between 2002 and September 2004. That was the point at which the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) began, a military review process that, in turn, led to the first official release of documents relating to the prisoners in 2006, providing the material that I analyzed and transcribed for my book The Guantánamo Files.
While this ten-part project is underway, I also propose to begin examining closely the files relating to the 171 prisoners still held, supplementing the series of articles that I produced last fall, entitled, “Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo?” This is important not just because the remaining prisoners have largely been abandoned by the mainstream media, even though 89 of the 171 have been cleared for release, and only 36 were recommended for trials by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, but also because, in the US, attorneys for the prisoners have only just won the right to look at the files (and not to download, save or print them), and the media in general is unwilling to subject them to much scrutiny because of how they became public in the first place.
So with thanks to WikiLeaks — and whoever leaked these documents — the sixth part of my ten-part analysis of the 114 prisoners released between 2002 and September 2004 (in addition to the 84 stories covered in my previous series) is below. When lies and distortions are covered up on this scale, and an experimental prison built on torture and abuse remains open, even under a Democratic President who promised to close it, everyone who believes in justice should publicize what has been revealed, and, if you agree, I hope that you will share this information widely. Also see Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine and Part Ten of this series.
Mahmud Sadik (ISN 512, Afghanistan) Released July 2003
In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (9) – Seized in Pakistan (Part One),” I told the story of Mahmud Sadik, an Afghan who was 50 years old when he was seized, drawing on an interview Sadik (described as Mohammed Saduq) undertook in 2008 with Tom Lasseter of McClatchy Newspapers, who tracked him down as part of an investigation that included interviews with 66 released Guantánamo prisoners. Saduq told Lasseter that he “wasn’t surprised” when Pakistani troops came to his house to detain him, in the border town of Chaman, in late 2001. “I was a Taliban, so I didn’t bother asking why they arrested me,” he said. Held for three weeks in Pakistani custody, he was then transferred to American control, and was taken first to Bagram and then Kandahar.
Saduq explained that he had told US interrogators that he had been appointed to run an orphanage north of Kabul, and was not a major player in the Taliban, and this was confirmed by Shir Mohammed, the first governor of Helmand province under Hamid Karzai, who told Lasseter that he had arrested Saduq in the early days of the Taliban, but added, “He was not a military guy, he was not a minister, but he was someone the Taliban consulted with because he was seen as someone who understood politics.” As Lasseter explained, his relatively swift release “suggests that American interrogators didn’t consider him a threat or an important figure in the Taliban,” and that he “appears to be one more in a long line of detainees of little intelligence value,” who remained in US custody — often for three or four years — and were then released.
Speaking by phone from Chaman, Saduq told Lasseter that, at Bagram, the interrogators “seemed bored to hear about his job at the orphanage, but they perked up when he told them that on several occasions he’d met Mullah Omar,” even though he “had no idea where Mullah Omar could be hiding,” and was “also in the dark about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.” He added that even if he had had any information, he “wouldn’t have passed it along after the soldiers who guarded him on the plane from Pakistan punched and kicked him.”
At Kandahar, Saduq said that he was “stripped naked and given new prison clothes, then was taken to the piece of plywood he would sleep on, underneath a plastic tarp,” and was again questioned about Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden. “During my fourth interrogation,” he said, “a man was asking me these same questions, and when I answered he became very angry. He said I was not telling the truth. He began insulting me; he shouted that he would let his soldiers rape me. He was punching the table.” Saduq added, however, that he was “never hit during interrogations but that guards often beat his head against a wall on the way there and back.”
At Guantánamo, it appeared that the interrogators had already given up on him. He said that he was interrogated every three or four weeks, but that he was questioned daily about his health before his release, as the authorities had discovered that he had tuberculosis, and he “figured that they were afraid he’d fall seriously ill after he got home.”
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated April 26, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” in which he was described as Mahmed Sadik, born in 1952, he provided further information about why he was seized, explaining that, although he did not know exactly why it was, he “assume[d] it was because he urged some acquaintances to advise Mullah Omar to give himself up before the US bombing campaign.” Apparently, he had “publicly told people to oppose Mullah Omar and his regime because it was hurting Afghanis.” This was obviously not a good reason for being sent to Guantánamo, but many Afghans who were opposed to the Taliban ended up at Guantánamo, often betrayed by rivals who succeeded in ingratiating themselves with the Americans, whose intelligence regarding the political situation in Afghanistan was almost non-existent.
Confirming his standing, the Task Force acknowledged that he had “a personal relationship with the former Governor of Kandahar, with whom he [had] shared a long friendship,” because “[b]oth men owned houses in Chaman and were introduced by Seik Mohammad who [was] the former governor’s best friend.” As the Task Force explained it, Sadik “wished to prevent a US invasion or bombing campaign, so he phoned a connection he had through the governor to tell him to call Mullah Omar and tell him to turn himself in.” He “then approached the former governor and asked him to advise Mullah Omar to get Osama bin Laden out of Afghanistan if he was still in the country (as was rumored), so that the bombing campaign could be avoided.” After speaking to the former governor, he “returned to his home in Pakistan,” and “[i]t was soon after the meeting that [he] was arrested and turned over to US custody” — presumably because someone he knew had betrayed him.
He was sent to Guantánamo on June 9, 2002, allegedly “because of his knowledge of personalities associated with the upper levels of the Taliban government ministries.” However, as I explained in my article, How to Read WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files (originally published on WikiLeaks’ website when the Guantánamo files were first published, as part of my work liaising between WikiLeaks and its media partners):
[T]he “Reasons for Transfer” included in the documents, which have been repeatedly cited by media outlets as an explanation of why the prisoners were transferred to Guantánamo, are, in fact, lies that were grafted onto the prisoners’ files after their arrival at Guantánamo. This is because, contrary to the impression given in the files, no significant screening process took place before the prisoners’ transfer. As a senior interrogator who worked in Afghanistan explained in a book that he wrote about his experiences, every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, even though the majority were not even seized by US forces, but were seized by their Afghan and Pakistani allies at a time when substantial bounty payments for al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects” were widespread.
In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee  is assessed as being neither affiliated with al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on all the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or its interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”
Israr Ul Haq (ISN 515, Pakistan) Released March 2004
As I explained in “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (8) – Captured in Afghanistan,” drawing on an interview Israr Ul Haq conducted in 2008 with Tom Lasseter for McClatchy Newspapers’ major series on 66 released Guantánamo prisoners, he was 21 years old at the time of his capture, and he came up with an unlikely-sounding story that he “went to Afghanistan in August of 2001 because he was having breathing problems, and a doctor suggested that he visit religious shrines to seek a cure.” As Tom Lasseter noted, however, “stranger things have happened in the lawless corners of Afghanistan.”
Whatever the truth, he was seized and then held by the Northern Alliance, along with Ehsanullah (ISN 523, see below), and around a dozen other men, “in a small room in a mud house for about three months,” before being sold to the Americans. Given the doubts about his story, Lasseter asked why he should be believed when he stated that the guards at Bagram “hit and kicked him, and picked him up several times and body-slammed him to the ground,” that the guards at Kandahar “often kicked the Koran across the floor of his tent, and at other times pressed their knees into his back as they pummeled him with their fists,” and that, in Guantánamo, when he protested about abuse of the Koran, the guards “sprayed him in the face with pepper spray, dragged him out, slapped and kicked him, then tied him to a chair and shaved his beard to humiliate him”?
The answer, of course, is that these claims are far from unusual, and are, in fact, so widespread — throughout all the different prisons used in the “War on Terror” — that there is no reason to doubt his story at all. However, what was unusual about his interview was that he complained, above all, that the interrogators at Guantánamo were dishonest. He said that they often told prisoners “that the men in the cells next to them had become informers, that they’d given up detailed information about the militant activities of other prisoners.” “They said the person in the cage next to me said he saw me with al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders,” he explained. ”But the interrogators were lying; no one had told them that. They lied to everybody. They told the men next to me that I had said they were in this battle or that one; but we talked with each other in our cages and realized they were making all of this up.”
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated September 27, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” he was described as Israr Al-Haq, born in 1981, and it was evident that, in Guantánamo, he had told the same story that he later told Tom Lasseter. The Task Force noted that he “stated that he traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan (AF) shortly after the 9/11 attacks to visit a religious shrine,” because “he was having health problems and wanted to pray at the shrine for better health.” He said that he “stayed in Kabul, AF for 35-40 days, praying each day at the shrine, which is a 20-minute taxi ride from where [he] lived near a bazaar in Kabul,” and “was arrested 3 days prior to the start of Ramadan (mid-November, 2001) because he was a Pakistani.” He added that “he was held for three months in an unknown location and beaten regularly,” and was “then transferred to US custody.” He was sent to Guantánamo on June 12, 2002 on the spurious basis that it was “because of his affiliation with the Taliban as a foreign fighter,” even though that was not something he had ever admitted.
However, the Task Force noted that his “creditability” [sic] was “considered poor and he [had] repeatedly changed his story,” and also because, in previous interviews, he had “admitted to traveling to Afghanistan to fight the Jihad against the US,” and had also stated that “he lived for more than a month at the former Taliban Defence Minister’s home while he waited to train, before going to the front lines” — a claim which, it should be noted, sounds distinctly untrustworthy.
Although he was “assessed as not being a member of Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader,” and was also assessed as being “of minimal intelligence value to the United States,” he was regarded as posing “a medium risk to the US, its interests or its allies,” primarily because he was “arrested after the fall of the Taliban and it [was] assessed that [he] intended to fight Jihad and may still pose the will to continue Jihad, if released.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.” It was also noted that the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) had “non-concurred [his] transfer on 10 September 2003,” because there was “an insufficient amount of information in [his] file to make an accurate threat assessment” at that time.
Ehssanullah (ISN 523, Afghanistan) Released May 2003
In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (8) – Captured in Afghanistan,” I told the story of Ehssanullah (described as Ehsanullah), a farmer who was 24 years old when he was seized, based on an interview he conducted with Tom Lasseter for McClatchy Newspapers’ major report, in June 2008, on 66 former Guantánamo prisoners. In a phone interview from Helmand province, where, he said, “Taliban militants would kill him if he met with a Westerner,” he explained that the Taliban had “made a lot of trouble for him during his life.”
Forcibly recruited as a conscript, like many others who ended up at Guantánamo, Ehsanullah said that he was sent to northern Afghanistan to fight the Northern Alliance without any training. “There was no training,” he explained. “They said, ‘This is the trigger; pull it.’” Describing the circumstances of his capture, he said that, as soon as he heard, in November 2001, that the Taliban government in Kabul had fallen, he tried to return home, but Alliance soldiers “stopped him in the capital and arrested him with a group of other fighters, some of them Pakistani militants who were trying to flee the country,” kept them “in a small room in a mud house for about three months,” and then sold them to US forces. “The commander told the Americans that he had arrested high-ranking Taliban and got $5,000 for each of us,” he added.
They were then flown to the US prison at Bagram airbase for a week, and then on to Kandahar where, he said, things were “rough.” “When the guards took me to interrogation they hit or kicked me,” he explained. “And when they searched our tent, they punched us.” He also said, like many other prisoners, that he had seen a soldier throw a Koran into a bucket that was used as a toilet, and that this was a transgression that infuriated him. “I was thinking,” he said, “that if I could arrest one of these soldiers I would cut a gram of flesh off his body every day.”
After five or six months, he was flown to Guantánamo, where, he said, life was “much easier,” as he was not physically abused, and was rarely interrogated. He added that his interrogators “seemed uninterested.” “They kept asking me why I was arrested,” he said. “They told me that the (Northern Alliance) commander had sold me to them, and they were trying to figure out what the truth was.” On his return to Afghanistan, Red Cross representatives in Kabul “gave him about $12 worth of Afghan currency, which got him to Kandahar but not all the way to his house in Helmand province,” and he explained that “[s]ome strangers at a bus stop gave him enough for the rest of the trip.” He added that he was now living as he had before his bizarre ordeal, growing wheat and opium poppies. “My only concern,” he said, “is how to feed my family.”
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated September 27, 2002, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” he was described as Aiysan Ollah, born in 1977, and the Task Force told, essentially, the same story that he later told Tom Lasseter. It was stated that he was a farmer who was forcibly conscripted by the Taliban, and served as a guard at a Taliban facility in Nahrin, in Baghlan province, for about three months. When Nahrin fell to the Northern Alliance, he fled and was captured by a Northern Alliance commander, and was then transferred to US forces, and sent to Guantánamo on June 13, 2002 on the spurious basis that it was “because of his knowledge of the Taliban leadership in Nahrin, Afghanistan, and about a Taliban staging area in the vicinity of Nahrin.”
In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee  is assessed as not affiliated with Al- Qaida, and as not being a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on all the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey, the commander of Guantánamo at the time, recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”
Mohammed Anwar (ISN 524, Pakistan) Released September 2004
In Chapter 9 of The Guantánamo Files, Mohammed Anwar was briefly mentioned as being 21 years old at the time of his capture, and I also noted that he was probably seized with two other recruits from villages in Sindh province — 20-year old Abid Raza (ISN 299), and 59-year old Mohammed Ilyas (ISN 144, see Part Three).
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated February 21, 2004, which was an “Update Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” it was noted that he was born in 1980 and had been “diagnosed with Hepatitis B and a left Orchiectomy for Testicular Cancer,” but was “otherwise in good health.” It was also noted that, on December 14, 2002, Maj. Gen. Miller had recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government,” based on anassessment that he “was not affiliated with Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader,” but that new information indicated that, in 1998, he was recruited by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT) and attended a training camp in Pakistan for three weeks, and that, in July 2001, he spent three months at Tarnak Farms, an Al-Qaida-affiliated training camp near Kandahar, “preparing food for Taliban forces.” No source was provided for either of these claims, which may, as a result, have been produced under unknown and dubious circumstances by Ansar’s fellow prisoners, along with another extraordinary allegation — that he had been “identified through sensitive reporting as a Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate agent”; in other words, as an agent for Pakistani’s largest and most notorious intelligence agency, which seems highly unlikely.
Noting that he was “non-compliant and belligerent” and had “not been forthcoming or cooperative during his detention at GTMO,” the Task Force assessed him as being “of medium intelligence value to the United States,” and as “a member of LT, which has been identified as a terrorist organization according to Executive Order 13224 and has been classified as [a] Tier 1 terrorist organization (defined as terrorist groups, especially those with state support, that have demonstrated the intention and the capability to attack US persons or interests).” It was also noted that he was “suspected of having attended advanced training at Tarnak Farms,” and that he posed “a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests or its allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “Retained in DoD control.” It appeared, however, that the Criminal Investigative task Force (CITF) did not agree with the Task Force’s assessment, as it was also noted that, “ln the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between the CITF and JTF GTMO Commanders CITF [would] defer to JTF GTMO’s assessment that [he] pose[d] a high risk.”
Abdul Hanan (ISN 531, Afghanistan) Released May 2003
As I explained in “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (8) – Captured in Afghanistan,” before the release of the Detainee Assessment Briefs by WikiLeaks, what little was known of Hanan, who was 44 years old when he was seized, came from a report in the Chicago Tribune, “Third Detainee Dies in US Custody in Afghanistan,” published on June 24, 2003. He explained that the time he spent imprisoned at Bagram and Kandahar before being transferred to Guantánamo was the worst part of his detention. “In five months in Kandahar, we didn’t wash our faces with water, and our nails were growing very long,” he said. “We didn’t have a right to talk to many people, and if we talked too much, we were forced to sit on our knees for 20 minutes or a half hour.” He also explained that he was seized while searching for his younger brother, a Taliban conscript, in northern Afghanistan in late 2001.
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated December 5, 2002, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” it was noted that he was born in 1958 and had been diagnosed with latent tuberculosis (in common with many of the prisoners), and also with “a recurrent major depressive disorder,” but was “otherwise in good health.” The Task Force also confirmed his own story, told briefly after his release, acknowledging that, on November 12, 2001, he “traveled to Kunduz, Afghanistan, to locate his brother, Manan, who was forcibly conscripted by the Taliban,” and adding that he “believe[d] that he himself was not conscripted because of his age and poor health.” He also explained that, “[a]fter twelve days of discreetly searching for his brother in Kunduz and getting no results, [he] decided to visit the bazaar to ask where he could contact the Taliban,” but, instead, “found Ghafar, a man who had also been conscripted from [his] village,” who “informed [him] that he was unable to provide information regarding Manan’s location because he and [Manan] had been separated shortly after arriving in Kunduz.” Abdul Hanan added that he “was reluctant to personally question the Taliban because he knew that they would not help him,” so he “decided to return home to Zabul, Afghanistan.”
After stopping in Pul-i-Khumri, in Baghlan province, where he “spent the night with a family whom he had met at the mosque,” he was seized by Northern Alliance soldiers and taken to the garrison, where, he said, “he remained for approximately three months because he refused to pay the $10,000 that they demanded for his release.” He was then transferred to US forces, and was sent to Guantánamo on June 7, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his possible knowledge of al-Qaida activities, as well as terrorist biographical and psychological information.”
In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee  is assessed as not affiliated with al-Qaida or as being a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on all the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.”
Tarek Dergoul (ISN 534, UK) Released March 2004
In Chapter 4 of The Guantánamo Files, drawing on an interview with David Rose that Tarek Dergoul conducted after his release, I explained how the British citizen, who was 24 years old at the time of his capture, spoke of his capture in Afghanistan and his treatment in US custody.
Prior to his horrendous experiences in US custody in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo, Dergoul described himself as a non-practicing Muslim, born to Moroccan parents in London’s Mile End, who had been a mini-cab driver and a carer in an old people’s home. He said that he went to Pakistan for a holiday in July 2001, intrigued by descriptions of the country provided by British friends whose parents were from Pakistan, and added that, having decided, with two Pakistani friends, to invest in property in Afghanistan in the hope that they could sell it for a profit after the war, the three men were close to securing a deal, and were spending the night in an empty villa in Jalalabad, when it was hit by an American bomb.
Dergoul said that his friends were killed, and that he was wounded and unable to walk, and he explained that he only survived for a week — until he was discovered by Northern Alliance soldiers — because a water tap was still working, and he had a few biscuits and raisins in his pockets. Although the soldiers treated him well, taking him to a hospital, where he had three operations on his left arm, which had been badly injured by shrapnel, they subsequently sold him to the Americans, who insisted that he had fought in Tora Bora and eventually forced a false confession out of him.
In Chapter 15, I included Dergoul’s comments about the Emergency Reaction Force (ERF) or Immediate Reaction Force (IRF) in Guantánamo, a group of five armed guards responsible for forced cell extractions, and also for punishment, in which he confirmed previous claims that their attacks were largely prompted by minor disciplinary infractions, and also described their actions as “an act of deliberate provocation.” Explaining what happened to him on one of the five occasions that he was ERFed — for refusing to agree to a third cell search in a day — he said:
They pepper-sprayed me in the face and I started vomiting; in all I must have brought up five cupfuls. They pinned me down and attacked me, poking their fingers in my eyes, and forced my head into the toilet pan and flushed. They tied me up like a beast and then they were kneeling on me, kicking and punching. Finally they dragged me out of the cell in chains, into the rec yard, and shaved my beard, my hair, my eyebrows.
Dergoul was also the first released prisoner to point out that each ERF attack was filmed, by a sixth member of the team with a video camera, and this was confirmed by a spokesman for Guantánamo in 2004, who said that they were used to monitor whether or not excessive force had been used. He refused to discuss how many times the ERF had been used, but in July 2004 the Pentagon said that “only 32 hours” of the tapes showed the units using “excessive force.”
In Chapter 19, I reported Dergoul’s comments about an early hunger strike at Guantánamo, from “The Guantánamo Prisoner Hunger Strikes & Protests: February 2002 – August 2005,” an important report by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which was published in September 2005. The first large-scale hunger strike, involving 194 prisoners, had run from February to May 2002, and had become a protest against the prisoners’ indefinite detention and their harsh living conditions, ands a second mass hunger strike took place in October 2002. Dergoul reported that another strike — prompted by mistreatment of the Koran — began in December 2002 and continued for six weeks. “People were fainting left, right and center,” he said, adding, “I felt very weak and ill and could only do a hunger strike for three days at a time.”
In 2008, Tarek Dergoul was interviewed by Matthew Schofield for a major report by McClatchy Newspapers on 66 former Guantánamo prisoners, in which he told his story, beginning in June 2001 “as he was preparing to leave London, where Moroccan parents raised him.” There, as Schofield described it, “[h]e’d been a petty thief, hanging out with other petty thieves, smoking dope, losing his religion.” He told Schofield, “I decided I needed to get away, to make some money, clear my head. I was choosing between Pakistan and Australia. I know today that seems stupid, but this was before Sept. 11. I chose Pakistan. It was a bad mistake.”
As Schofield conceded, his story of how he ended up in Afghanistan sounded “improbable.” Dergoul said that he and a friend, with whom he was traveling, had slightly more than £10,000 ($16,000), which, they figured, would go “a lot farther in Afghanistan than it would in England.” In Pakistan, noticing “a steady stream of refugees fleeing the war” in Afghanistan, they apparently “decided they could make a lot of money in real estate by moving in during the chaos, buying property cheaply from Afghans eager to flee and reselling when Afghanistan was stable again.”
Shifting to the circumstances of his capture, and his wounding, Dergoul reiterated that he was in Jalalabad in October 2001, “looking over a villa he planned to buy, when a bomb landed.” His two friends in “the real estate scheme” were killed, and he was “buried under the rubble.” When locals saved him and took him to hospital, doctors had to amputate his left arm. While recuperating, he noticed that an armed guard was stationed outside his room, but it was not until afterwards that he realized that this was because he had already been designated for US custody.
Once he recovered sufficiently to be moved, he said, “he was put in an ambulance and driven to a flat, open area outside town where a helicopter with a US flag had landed. He said he overheard the American and Afghan guards mention the sum of $5,000, and that he thought that was the bounty paid for him.” With “his shoulder screaming in pain,” he ended up at Bagram, “on the freezing floor of a large prison cell,” where “he remembered hearing screams, sporadic gunfire and the harsh voices of the guards, who he said threatened him if he talked to a neighbor or moved.” He added that guards “took him into an interrogation room at gunpoint and asked where he’d last seen Osama bin Laden. When he said he didn’t know bin Laden, they said he was lying.”
He also explained that, although he “begged for medical attention and told his captors that he needed antibiotics and that his feet hurt and were freezing,” the guards “laughed at him until a medical officer came by, looked at his surgical wounds and determined that his right foot, which he said was oozing by this time, needed immediate attention.” This was followed by “what he called ‘the oddest’ experience”:
He claimed that he was taken into a medical room where a medical trainee was being instructed in how to amputate his toe. He claimed that he wasn’t given anesthesia for the operation. Instead, he said, he was given just enough painkiller to stop the pain from being overwhelming, but not so much that he couldn’t answer interrogators when they started asking questions again.
“It was unreal,” he said. “A doctor was telling a nurse how to hack off my toe — I could feel him cutting on me — while a guy is asking me, ‘Where is Osama bin Laden?’ I pretended I was too out of it to understand.”
From Bagram, Dergoul was taken to the US prison at Kandahar airport, and from there to Guantánamo on May 1, 2002. Reiterating the episode in which guards “held his head in the toilet, flushed it and punched him,” he described the totality of his experience in Guantánamo as “torture light,” stating that the guards “deprived him of food, sleep, light, exercise, conversation,” and that he “frequently was pepper-sprayed,” which he described as “a common response to unruly prisoners.”
In response, Dergoul said, he “turned to religion.” He told Matthew Schofield, “It wasn’t really until I was in Guantánamo that I learned the importance of my faith. As everything around me was going crazy, I turned inwards, and to the Quran.” He added that this was “the positive side of his experience.”
Schofield also noted that Dergoul “isn’t considered dangerous or high risk in England,” although this was not how he was perceived by the US authorities at Guantánamo. In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated October 28, 2003, which was a “Recommendation to Retain under DoD Control,” it was noted that he was born in 1977 and it was claimed that, in July 2001, he had spoken with a Bangladeshi friend about “going to Afghanistan and participating in Jihad.” In this version of events, he and his friend stayed in a guesthouse in Kabul in August 2001, where Dergoul “underwent weapons training.” He then traveled to Jalalabad in September 2001, where he stayed for two months in a village or small town outside the city, and then, in November, was wounded while he was in the Tora Bora mountains, where, according to the Task Force, he “spent 19 days hiding in the caves,” and was “taken into custody by the Pakistanis after he fled Tora Bora into Pakistan,” subsequently being “turned over to the Americans.” He was sent to Guantánamo on May 2, 2002 on the spurious basis that it was “because of his affiliation with White Chapel mosque [sic] and its role in facilitating recruits to fight on behalf of the Taliban and Al-Qaida.”
In its assessment, the Task Force claimed that Dergoul had “not been cooperative or forthright during his detention.” He was also “assessed as having been recruited to fight on behalf of the Taliban” and as having “probable Al-Qaida affiliations and links with known Al-Qaida supporters in the UK.” As a result, he was regarded as being “of moderate intelligence value to the United States,” and also as posing “a high threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” so that Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “retained under DoD control.” Five months later, however, he was a free man.
For further information, see this interview with Cageprisoners, from 2004.
Mohammed Omar (ISN 540, Pakistan) Released September 2004
In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (8) – Captured in Afghanistan,” and also in my November 2008 article, “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo,” I drew on an interview that Omar had conducted in 2008 with Tom Lasseter for a major review by McClatchy Newspapers of the stories of 66 former Guantánamo prisoners.
In that interview, Omar, who was 17 at the time of his capture, told Tom Lasseter that in October 2001 he had become fed up with his madrassa (religious school), which his father had forced him to attend, and that as a result he decided to run away. He claimed that he had told an older man at the madrassa about his plans, and that this man had “offered to take [him] with him to an acting academy,” which, for Omar, who was “always watching Indian movies … sounded like a dream.” He stated, however, that the man had tricked him, and that he was handed over to a group of men who “pushed him into a car and took him to Herat, Afghanistan.” “They said you are in Afghanistan and the Taliban are in charge here,” Omar explained. “I told them I wanted to go home. They had lied to me. They made a fool of me.” Despite Omar’s youth, he explained that the interrogators at Kandahar “kept asking me where Mullah Omar was,” and “if I was on a jihad mission, where I got my training.”
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated May 31, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” it was stated that he was born in 1986, and was, therefore, just 15 years old when he was seized, but it was also stated that he had been subjected to a “bone density scan,” which had established that he was “19 years old +/- 15 months”; in other words, that “when he was in-processed in Guantánamo Bay, June 2002, the youngest he could have been was 16 years and 9 months.” It was also stated that “[a]nother very significant factor [was] that his long bone growth plates [were] fully mature indicating that he ‘[was] an adult, anatomically.” Even if this was the case, Omar would still have been a juvenile at the time of his capture, and should have been rehabilitated rather than punished under the terms of the UN Optional Protocol to the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, in which juvenile prisoners are defined as those who are under 18 at the time that their alleged crimes took place.
In analyzing his story, the Task Force claimed that a student at his madrassa, Hussain, spoke to him about “running way to Afghanistan to receive combat training,” which he “understood … to be hand to hand combat training as he had seen in movies.” It was also noted, reinforcing Omar’s evident youth and naivety, that he “believe[d] a jihad is when a person travels to a foreign land and is separated from his family,” and that, “while Hussain had mentioned the Taliban it was not a major issue discussed.” The two students then traveled to Quetta, where they waited 10-14 days for “Taliban guidance in entering Afghanistan.”
Hussain then fled, but Omar “continued with four other Pakistanis,” reportedly traveling to the Tarnak Farms training camp near Kandahar, where he stayed for approximately one week, but was unable to communicate as he did not speak Pashtu. He then apparently managed to convey his desire to receive combat training, and was flown to Mazar-e-Sharif, and then taken to Faryab (a province in north western Afghanistan), but he was unable to train “due to two weeks of constant, heavy air bombardment of the area.” He then decided to return to Pakistan and “took a ride with a vehicle full of Taliban members fleeing the area,” but when a group of Afghans in Golran (in Herat province) offered them food, they imprisoned them instead, holding them for two months in “a large hall-like room.” He was then transferred to US custody, and held in Kandahar until on or about June 11, 2002, when he was sent to Guantánamo, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his knowledge of a training camp (Tarnak Farms) located outside Kandahar city limits.”
In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee  is assessed as neither affiliated with al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on all the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.”
Mahmud Nuri Mert (ISN 543, Turkey) Released March 2004
In Chapter 10 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Mahmud Nuri Mert, a 30-year old Turk (released in March 2004), was married with four children and had been working as a lottery agent in Turkey. When the job came to an end he left the country in search of work, traveling first to Iran and then Afghanistan, where he was captured by the Taliban and imprisoned in Herat for three months before being handed over to US forces.
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated August 16, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” he was described as Mahmud Nuri Marti, born in 1971, and it was also stated that he had been “diagnozed with Panic Disorder without Agoraphobia,” but was “otherwise in good health.” In relating his story, the Task Force essentially reinforced what he claimed after his release, noting that he “stated that he was a ‘small business’ man doing odd jobs, while also buying and reselling various items he would acquire by barter,” and that, “[a]fter taking a loan of approximately $10,000,” which “he was unable to repay,” he “was forced to flee across the Afghani-Turkish border in order to avoid being caught by the people he owed money to,” and “traveled around Afghanistan (AF), in the Herat area, doing odd jobs,” until he was “arrested by the Taliban and imprisoned in November 2001 because they suspected he was a spy.” Held in a prison near Herat “until Northern Alliance forces took control of the prison,” he was then turned over to the US. He was apparently not sent to Guantánamo until January 2003, and the spurious reason given for his transfer was that it was because he was “suspected of being a foreign fighter.”
In its assessment, the Task Force stated that he was “assessed as not being affiliated with any extremist group,” and described him as being “of low intelligence value to the United States,” and of posing “a low threat to the US, its interests and its allies.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer.”
Sajin Urayman (ISN 545, Pakistan) Released July 2003
In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (8) – Captured in Afghanistan,” and also in my November 2008 article, “The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo,” I drew on an interview that Urayman had conducted in 2008 with Tom Lasseter for a major review by McClatchy Newspapers of the stories of 66 former Guantánamo prisoners.
Urayman, described as Saji Ur Rahman, who was just 15 at the time of his capture, told Lasseter that he and four friends had decided to go to Afghanistan “as tourists,” to “see what the Taliban regime was like and to visit the graves of Islamic scholars.” “We were very into the adventure of it,” he said. “We had handicams with us; we had cameras. The richer friend had a Thuraya,” a satellite phone. Like Mohammed Omar (described above), Rahman said that he ended up in Herat, where both added that they were seized and imprisoned in Herat’s central jail for three months, and then transferred to Kandahar for five to six months before Guantánamo.
Rahman also described the monotony of the US interrogators’ questions. “The questions were always the same,” he said. “Why did you come to Afghanistan? Who did you meet in Afghanistan? Where did you hide your weapons?” As I explained in my previous account, “These were, of course, questions to which every single prisoner was subjected, and it’s impossible to know how long it took the authorities to realize that he and Mohammed Omar knew nothing whatsoever about the Taliban or al-Qaeda, even as they ignored, or failed to acknowledge the fact that they were too young to be held as ‘terror suspects’ in an insanely novel form of detention without charge or trial.”
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated January 25, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” in which it was claimed that he was born in 1984 rather than 1986 (but would still have been under 18 when seized), the Task Force found no reason to doubt his story, stating that, on or around October 10, 2001, Urayman and two friends took a bus to Kandahar, and, from there, “flew to Mazar-e-Sharif to visit holy shrines for about one month.” After Mazar fell to the Northern Alliance, he “became separated from his two friends and fled the city on a pickup truck,” but was seized by Farsi-speaking Afghans outside Herat, who imprisoned him for 12 days in Gulran before transferring him to official Afghan custody. He was then held for approximately three months before being handed over to US forces, and was sent to Guantánamo on June 13, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his general knowledge of conflict in the region.”
In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee  is assessed as neither affiliated with al-Qaida nor as being a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes. [He] has not expressed thoughts of violence nor made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. Based on all the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or US interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.”
It was also stated that,”During a visit to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 3 to 10 August 2002, Pakistani Intelligence officers interrogated [ISN 545] and concluded that he had little or no intelligence value. They stated that their government would accept custody of [him] if released by the US government.”
Bader Zaman Bader (ISN 559, Afghanistan) Released September 2004
In Chapter 12 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Bader (who was 31 years old and married with three children) and his brother Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost (who was 41 years old, and married with nine children) were seized at Muslim Dost’s house in Peshawar on November 17, 2001, and also explained:
Both were talented and capable men: journalists and gemstone dealers, Bader was also a university professor and Muslim Dost operated eight non-Islamist schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Held in solitary confinement in Pakistan for three months, while the ISI cooked up charges against them and offered them the opportunity to bribe their way to freedom — which they refused on principle, as they had done nothing wrong — they were then sold to the US authorities, who accused Muslim Dost of serving as an al-Qaeda contact in Herat, which he had never even visited. Released in 2004 and 2005, they were, without doubt, picked up by the ISI and sold to the Americans because, although they had been living in Pakistan since their family fled Afghanistan in 1982, they had published several satirical magazines and had written newspaper articles in which they not only criticized the Taliban but also pointed out the role of the ISI in creating and supporting the regime.
On his release, Bader explained more about the reasons that he and others were sold to the Americans, describing it as a common practice in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur. For the ISI, he said, “it was just a question of keeping the Americans busy with false suspects. They never stopped playing the international community.” In his specific case, he added, “I spent two months and twenty-two days in Peshawar prison, fourteen days at Bagram, two months and eight days in Kandahar and two years and four months in Guantánamo, solely because I denounced their practices.” He also told the story of a taxi driver in Guantánamo, who was sold for $5,000. “The Pakistanis had just made a raid to find Arabs close to al-Qaeda and hadn’t found anybody, so they arrested him,” he said. “The officer who sold him to the Americans told him, ‘Look here, it’s worth it to sell people like you to keep the Americans from coming to make war on Pakistan.’”
In an article in Newsday, in October 2005, Bader explained more about how the US authorities had failed to understand who they were, or why they had been seized. “For months,” the article stated, “grim interrogators grilled them over a satirical article Dost had written in 1998, when the Clinton administration offered a $5-million reward for Osama bin Laden. Dost responded that Afghans put up 5 million Afghanis — equivalent to $113 — for the arrest of President Bill Clinton.” Bader added, “It was a lampoon … of the poor Afghan economy” under the Taliban, and explained that the article “carefully instructed Afghans how to identify Clinton if they stumbled upon him,” stating that “he was clean-shaven, had light-colored eyes and he had been seen involved in a scandal with Monica Lewinsky.” He added that “the interrogators, some flown down from Washington, didn’t get the joke,” and explained, “Again and again, they were asking questions about this article. We had to explain that this was a satire. It was really pathetic.”
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated April 14, 2004, which was an “Update Recommendation [for] Release or Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention (TR),” in which he was described as Abdul Badr Mannan, born in November 1970 (and was also described as Badruzzan Badr), it was noted that he had been “diagnosed with Anxiety disorder,” but was “otherwise in good health.” It was also noted that, in an assessment on November 11, 2003, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “retained in DoD control,” based on an assessment that he “may be affiliated with Al-Qaida or another Islamic extremist group.” However, under “New Information,” extensive evidence was provided demonstrating that he and Muslim Dost had been seized by mistake.
The Task Force explained that “[f]urther exploitation” had “determined, with a high degree of certainty, that [he had] no ascertainable linkage to Al-Qaida,” and that, although he was “thought to have some affiliation with the Jama’at Ul Dawa Al Qurani (JDQ) group,” it transpired that he “may have been writing a book (detainee and his brother are published authors) concerning Islamic extremism and had merely established contacts to further his research and writing.” It was also noted that, in his writings, he had been “extremely critical of the Pakistan Intelligence Service and their overt connections to extremism and Al-Qaida,” and that, as a result, the brothers “may have been arrested on that pretense and turned over to US authorities, who were misled as to [their] affiliations.” It was also noted that the Pakistani government had “never provided any information concerning [Bader's] alleged Al-Qaida affiliations,” and that “[n]o established membership link [had] been found between [Bader] and any other extremist group.” In addition, it was noted that, “while in detention, [he had] provided a great deal of information willingly, and some of the information [had] been successfully corroborated,” and also that he had “consistently maintained his innocence and [had] provided evidence to substantiate his claims.”
After declaring that his intelligence value had been “fully exploited,” the Task Force noted that he was assessed as “not a member of Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader,” and that he posed “a low risk, as he [was] unlikely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” As a result, Brig. Gen. Mitchell Leclaire, who signed the memo, recommended that he be “released or transferred to the control of another country for continued detention” — even though there was no basis for recommending him for continued detention. It was also noted that JTF GTMO notified the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) of this recommendation on 29 March 2004,” and that “CITF was unable to make a risk assessment on 10 November 2003.”
Despite the fact that he was, essentially, cleared thoroughly of any suspicion of involvement in wrongdoing before his release, the US authorities refused to acknowledge that they had done anything wrong. The Newsday article mentioned above explained that, in summer 2005, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico, declared that “there was no mistake” in the brothers’ detention because it “was directly related to their combat activities [or support] as determined by an appropriate Department of Defense official.” This was a clear example of how, in Guantánamo, the normal rules — of guilt and innocence, and of right and wrong — simply did not apply.
In July 2006, Bader and Muslim Dost released a 453-page book, Da Guantánamo Maatai Zawlanai (Broken Chains of Guantánamo), recounting their experiences. Afterwards, Muslim Dost was once more arrested by Pakistani forces.
Rustam Akhmyarov (ISN 573, Russia) Released February 2004
In Chapter 16 of The Guantánamo Files, I referred to Rustam Akhmyarov, although all I knew about him at the time (apart from his date of birth, place of birth and release date) was that he had spoken about the joint Pakistani-Egyptian national, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, an innocent man who was seized in Indonesia and rendered to torture in Egypt, before being sent to Bagram and then Guantánamo.
Madni told Akhmyarov of his time “in an underground cell in Egypt, where he never saw the sun and where he was tortured until he confessed to working with Osama bin Laden,” and added that he “recalled how he was interrogated by both Egyptian and US agents in Egypt and that he was blindfolded, tortured with electric shocks, beaten and hung from the ceiling.” Akhmyarov also said that Madni was in a particularly bad mental and physical state in Guantánamo, where he “was passing blood in his feces,” and recalled that he overheard US officials telling him, “we will let you go if you tell the world everything was fine here.”
In “The Battle for Guantánamo,” a New York Times article by Tim Golden, discussing the prison-wide hunger strike in 2005, Akhmyarov (described as Rustam Akhmiarov, a 26-year-old Russian who was arrested in Pakistan and ended up in Guantánamo) told Golden, “Every country has its own way of torturing people. In Russia, they beat you up; they break you straightaway. But the Americans had their own way, which is to make you go mad over a period of time. Every day they thought of new ways to make you feel worse.”
In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated December 5, 2002, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” he was described as Rutan Solekhyanovich Akhmerob, born in 1979, and it was also noted that he left Russia in December 2001 to study at an Islamic university in Karachi, which he achieved by flying first to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he stayed with a friend, Yessin, for ten days, until the two men traveled to an unknown village, where they “spent one night before crossing into Afghanistan by digging under barbed wire.” They then took a taxi to the Pakistani border, and continued to Karachi by bus. They then stayed with one of Yessin’s friends for three days, and were then taken to a guesthouse, where they stayed for another three weeks until they were seized by the Pakistani authorities on or about February 13, 2002. Akhmyarov was sent to Guantánamo on June 13, 2002 on the spurious basis that it was because of “his knowledge of a Pakistani-run guesthouse that hosted several high profile Arab guests, some of which included Abdul Hakim, Abdul Aziz, Yakub, Zahir, Sala’a, Zukhail, and Jalad” (it is not known who these men are).
In its assessment, the Joint Task Force stated that it “consider[ed] the information obtained from and about him as not valuable or tactically exploitable,” and added, “Based on current information, detainee  is assessed as not affiliated with al-Qaida or as being a Taliban leader. Moreover … the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States and will not be seen for further intelligence purposes.”
Crucially, it was also noted that, “Because of the Russian government’s agreement to incarcerate [him] upon his transfer, and provided that he remains incarcerated under the control of the Russian government, the detainee poses no future threat to the US or its allies.” The second page of the DAB was missing, but it was clear from the DABs of other Russian prisoners that it stated, more or less, “In addition, the Russian government has agreed to share with the United States all intelligence derived from this detainee in the future.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of the Russian government.”
After his release, he and the six other Russians repatriated from Guantánamo were initially held in a detention center run by the FSB, the domestic successor of the KGB, and although they were released in June 2004, they continued to be scrutinized and harassed, with three of them — Rasul Kudayev (ISN 82, see Part One), Ravil Gumarov (INN 203, see Part Three) and Timur Ishmuratov (ISN 674) — ending up in prison, and another man, Ruslan Odizhev (ISN 211, also see Part Three), being shot and killed as an alleged terrorist.
On August 27, 2005, Akhmyarov and former Guantánamo prisoner Airat Vakhitov (see Part Five), were seized by Russian security officials from the apartment of Geydar Dzhemal, the chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia. According to Dzhemal, the officials were concerned because Akhmyarov and Vakhitov were soon to visit the UK — in November 2005 — as guests of Amnesty International at a conference about Guantánamo, and they were worried that they would testify about human rights abuses in Russia, as well as Guantánamo. He predicted they would be arrested on trumped-up charges, and they apparently were, although they were freed just five days later.
There has been no recent news about Rustam Akhmyarov.
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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Kathleen Kelly wrote:
Thank you so much for your continued dedication to revealing the truth.
Mary Shepard wrote:
Shared. Thanks, Andy, for your tireless work for the prisoners of Guantanamo.
Thanks, Kathleen and Mary, for your interest, and for your supportive words, which remind me of why this is all worthwhile.
Also, does anyone know what has happened to the Facebook share function? It still works, but I was enjoying the fact that, when people shared my articles, there was a counter that showed how many times each article had been shared. That counter disappeared last week, just before I set off for the WOMAD festival, and it’s not come back. I found it a very useful indicator of how much interest each article had generated, and am disappointed that it no longer works.
Karen Todd wrote:
grrr- they’re always fidgeting and messing with something or other on here- i was having trouble trying to share some things too- and same thought i had- what is up with the sharing thingy?!!!
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
I’m digging and sharing this now, Andy. About sharing. Several months ago FB announced that it was experimenting with the share and like functions. The accompanying description concerned another matter (which I found to be intrusive). I think that FB gave up on it, but I have noticed one weird thing with sharing. It’s simple: sometimes one can share and sometimes one cannot. Perhaps the counter was discarded by FB during all this.
Thanks, Karen and George. It appears to be a widespread problem across the Internet, although not one that Facebook seems concerned about remedying. Here’s a Facebook forum that deals specifically with this issue, mentioning how the share counter has disappeared everywhere on the web:
And here’s a specific Facebook forum about bugs that also tackles the issue, and even includes feedback from Facebook: http://bugs.developers.facebook.net/show_bug.cgi?id=19471
Note, however, Comment #6 From Inga Halpin of Facebook:
Thanks for the report. We are looking into this.
We recommend to use the like button instead as we are going to deprecate the share button soon. The like button provides you with the same functionality and more …
Actually, Facebook announced in February that it was deprecating the “share” button, as the “like” button had been upgraded to include the “share” button’s functions. This may largely be the case, but specifically, as it is on my site at least, the “like” button’s counter provides a cumulative total of every “like” my site has attracted (currently 347,000), whereas the “share” button provided details for each article, and was extremely useful for me to assess how successful each article was in terms of how many times it was shared on Facebook .
Am I missing something? Should the “like” function on my site be doing what the “share” button did? While I await an answer, I’d like to point out that I’d still like to have the “share” function back, as it had an entire history attached, providing details, at a glance, of how popular articles had been since I first had it installed, which was at least a year ago, and also, as a reader named Bruce explained on the forum mentioned above (Comment #12), “Without the share count there is much less FB participation encouragement.”
Karen Todd wrote:
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
What I read claimed that in future, every “like” would get shared among all one’s friends, and that there would be an opportunity for commenting, each time one “likes” and hence shares. I think this is an attempt to 1. *tempt* one into revealing *why* one likes something, and 2. to tell one’s friends about one’s likes. I guessed that the purpose was to facilitate direct advertising, by getting more detailed information from a person than merely *that* he or she likes something. This can be privacy-invasive. I think it has not yet been implemented.
Yes, there’s obviously some ulterior motive, George. I’m surprised there isn’t more about it on the ‘net, to be honest, as the share counters of a vast range of websites, from the huge to the tiny, have been affected, and everywhere you look the counters have reverted to zero. Given that the popularity of sites — and their perceived popularity — is so significant, I find it hard to understand the general media silence. I was looking at the Guardian’s website last night, for example, and ALL the share counts have disappeared, and you can pretty much pick a site at random and find the same thing. It’s like a wholesale erasure of the history of website popularity over the last few years.
Aha! No sooner did I press “send” on the message above, than I noticed that the “share” counter is back! So thank you, Facebook, and thanks to the 46 people who have shared this article to date. Please feel free to keep sharing!
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
Good to hear that the counters are back. I had seen them in the past, but thought it was an option that some sites could use if they wished. Well, when I first read about FB plan for sharing with liking, I told a few friends why I didn’t approve of it. Maybe other people had the same idea as me, told others and FB what they thought of that, and FB dropped the idea.
Dejanka Bryant wrote:
Thank you, Andy. Shared.
Thanks, Dejanka. And yes, George, someone at Facebook (which, oddly enough, comes across as a thoroughly faceless organization, with the exception of its founder) obviously paid attention to the complaints coming from many sources. The specific page about bugs that I mentioned above had a complaint from Hearst Newspapers, for example, referring specifically to the disappearance of the “share” count from the San Francisco Chronicle’s website.
[...] WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 … By Andy Worthington In late April, WikiLeaks released its latest treasure trove of classified US documents, a set of 765 Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) from the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Compiled between 2002 and January 2009 by the Joint Task …http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/08/02/wikileaks-and-the-guantanamo-prisoners-released-from-200… [...]
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