WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Nine of Ten)

19.8.11

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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 14 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 ninth 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 FivePart Six, Part SevenPart Eight and Part Ten of this series.

WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004 (Part Nine of Ten)

Din Mohammed Farhad (ISN 699, Afghanistan) Released September 2004

In “The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (9) – Seized in Pakistan (Part One),” I mentioned how Din Mohammed Farhad, who was 25 years old at the time of his capture, “fitted into [a] category of blank slates to be filled with whatever allegations the authorities thought they could get away with.” He had run a grocery shop in Kabul before the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and, while in US detention in Afghanistan, told the British prisoner Moazzam Begg that he had been sold to the Americans as an al-Qaeda sympathizer after he fled to Pakistan. He added that he thought that he had aroused suspicion because many of his customers — like Begg, who had visited his shop on a regular basis while living in Kabul — had been foreigners.

During a visit to Pakistan in September 2010, Moazzam Begg met Farhad (whom he described as Farhad Mohammed) at the house of Dr. Ghairat Baheer, the son-in-law of the Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and a former CIA “ghost prisoner.” Begg wrote, “The last time I saw him was in Bagram. He’d suffered terrible beatings at the hands of the Pakistanis who’d then handed him over to the Americans. The reason: Farhad was a shop-keeper who ran a store on the famous Chicken Street in Kabul where Arabs used to do their shopping. I remember my disbelief at seeing him in Bagram as I used to shop there too. Farhad returned home after four years in Guantánamo to his mud house in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan.”

In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated April 26, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” in which he was identified as Din Mohammed, born in 1975, it was stated that he had been working at a supermarket owned by an Arab, Abu Isa, and that when he decided to leave the job, Abu Isa “gave him a cell phone and told him to call a man named Abu Mahaz who might offer him a job.” Abu Mahaz duly gave him a job as a courier, “delivering packages to and from Lahore and Sargodha” in Pakistan.

On one occasion, he and a man named Abu Kassam were supposed to deliver a package to a man named Akhram, but were unable to contact him. However, they were “stopped at a police checkpoint where Kassam attempted to evade arrest by running away,” and he then “discovered that the package contained red, green and brown passports.” Kassam was then captured, and when both men were in custody Mohammed “asked Kassam why he ran away,” and “Kassam told [him] that he had been transporting illegal documents for the Arabs.”

Mohammed stated that the “Pakistani authorities told [him] that if he paid a fee, he could be released. [He] stated that all he had was 5,000 Pakistani rupees. The Pakistani authorities stated that amount was not enough, so [he] remained incarcerated until he was turned over to US forces.” For some reason, however, “Kassam was never turned over to US forces.” Mohammed, however, was sent to Guantánamo on August 5, 2002, allegedly “because of his knowledge of Arab safe houses in Kabul, AF, Karachi and Sargodha, PK, his placement and access to movement of passports by Arabs through Pakistan, possible knowledge of Arab facilitators of movement out of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and corruption of Pakistani authorities.”

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 [699] 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 transfer to the control of another government.”

Mohammed Al Ghazali Babikir (ISN 700, Sudan) Released March 2004

In Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Babikir was one of five workers for the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, a Kuwait-based NGO, with branches around the world, who were seized in house raids in Peshawar, Pakistan in May 2002 but subsequently released (along with other charity workers and teachers seized at the time) because there was no evidence whatsoever that they had been involved in any kind of wrongdoing. The stated aim of the RIHS was “to improve the condition of the Muslim community and develop an awareness and understanding of Islam amongst the non-Muslim communities, by concentrating on youth and education,” but in January 2002, the Pakistani and Afghan offices were blacklisted by the US Treasury, ostensibly because they had some sort of connection to terrorism.

Prior to the release of the Detainee Assessment Briefs by WikiLeaks, all that was known of Babikir was that he was an accountant for the RIHS, and that he was 28 years old at the time he was seized.

In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated June 21, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” in which he was identified as Muhammed al-Ghazali Babaker Mahjoub, born in 1973, it was noted that he worked for the Saudi Red Crescent from 1992 to 1997, first as an Arabic teacher, then as the Manager of Orphan Schools, and then as the Education Department Duty Manager. He began working for the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society in August 1997, working as an Arabic teacher until June 1999, when he was promoted to the role of Indoctrination Division Chief, with duties including “overseeing the teaching staff and book printing.” In September 2000 he took the position of Orphanage Division Chair, where his duties included “providing shelter, clothing, rations and supplies for the orphans,” and where he was “responsible for orphanages in Pakistan and six additional orphanages in Afghanistan.”

After setting the scene, the Task Force jumped to the circumstances of his arrest without providing any explanation, noting that he was working as Orphanage Division Chair on May 26, 2002, when “several members of the Pakistan police entered [his] home,” and “[h]e was arrested and his home was searched.” The Pakistani officials “confiscated his diplomas, identification papers and passport. He was asked if he wanted these items returned to his wife because he would be taken in for two to three months of interrogation. [He] requested that all of his documents be returned to his wife except his passport, which he opted to keep with him.”

He was then taken to Bagram for approximately two months, and was sent to Guantánamo on June 4, 2002, on the basis that it was “because of his knowledge of the composition and organisational structure of the RIHS and Red Crescent NGOs which are currently operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan; because of his knowledge of personalities associated to [sic] the RIHS and Red Crescent NGOs who may have connection to the Al-Qaida financial network; and his knowledge of population characteristics of displaced persons in and around Pakistan and Afghanistan.” This was not as spurious as many of the other reasons given for transferring prisoners to Guantánamo, as it was clearly why he and other NGO workers were seized, although it is depressing to realize how nakedly he and others were sent to Guantánamo just in case they may have had any information about the charities’ suspected connections with al-Qaeda.

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 [700] 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 poses a low 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 for continued detention.”

Hassan Hamid (ISN 711, Jordan) Released November 2003

In Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Hamid, another of the five workers for the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society seized in house raids in Peshawar, Pakistan in May 2002, was one of two Jordanian prisoners released in November 2003 — along with Ayman al-Amrani (ISN 169) — who were approached in 2005 by Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve. Stafford Smith was on a fact-finding mission in Jordan, but he reported, in an article entitled, “Abandoned to their fate in Guantánamo,” published by Index on Censorship in 2005, that neither man consented to meet him and noted, “they were afraid that speaking out would only make their lives more difficult.”

In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated June 21, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” in which he was identified as Hassan Khalil Muhammed Abdul Hamid, born in 1961, it was stated that, like many of the prisoners, he had been “diagnosed with latent tuberculosis,” although “treatment was successful,” and it was noted that he “may possibly have asthma,” although he was “otherwise in good health.”

It was also stated that, after being unable to find a job in Jordan from 1988 to 1992, he “expanded his search to include other locations,” ending up working for as a geography teacher in Peshawar, Pakistan through the support of the Islamic International Relief Organization. In June 1995, he found a new job with the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society as “a supervisor of an orphan college preparatory school” near Peshawar, where “[h]is duties included acting as the teacher, counsellor, and social worker” and he “was in charge of such logistics duties as providing rations, clothing, and shelter for the children enrolled.”

In June 1999, he was “promoted to Director of the Mosque Department,” and moved to the RIHS Peshawar office “where five separate departments of RIHS were housed: Oversight, Mosques, Education, Orphanages, and Financial,” and where he “received contracts for the main office in Kuwait” and gave permission “to build new mosques and find suitable sites for them.”

As with Mohammed al-Ghazali Babikir, the Task Force then jumped to the circumstances of his arrest without providing any explanation, noting that, “After a typical day at the office, [he] was relaxing at home with his wife and four children using their computer’s television function in May 2002, in Peshawar, Pakistan,” when “[a]pproximately six Pakistani intelligence officers and two US officers entered his home by force and arrested [him].” The police then searched his house, and Hamid “saw his personal computer the next day in Bagram, so he [knew] that [his] equipment was confiscated.”

He was sent to Guantánamo on August 5, 2002, allegedly “because of his knowledge of the efforts of foreign-based NGOs to exert influence within Pakistan and of the activities of the Islamic Heritage Revival Society [sic] within Pakistan.” As with Babikir, it was clear that he and others were sent to Guantánamo just in case they may have had any information about the charities’ suspected connections with al-Qaeda.

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 [711] 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 poses a low threat to the US or its interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for release or transfer to the control of another government.” It was also noted that he had asked to be returned to Jordan, and had stated that, although he realized the unemployment rates were high, he “might try and open a candy store called 7/11 if he couldn’t find a teaching position.”

Rashid Ahmad (ISN 714, Sudan) Released March 2004

In Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained (via a Cageprisoners article) how Ahmad was another of the five workers for the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society seized in house raids in Peshawar, Pakistan in May 2002. 36 years old at the time of his capture, and married with four sons, he did not speak publicly about his experiences after his release, but his wife described the circumstances of his arrest. She said that Pakistani soldiers, accompanied by Americans, “attacked the house in a terrifying manner, scaring the two children … A female Pakistani soldier that was with them attacked her in an attempt to remove her hijab, in order to ascertain her identity. She refused to uncover her face in front of the men. All of this happened in front of her children’s eyes. He [Ahmad] had never been in Kabul or Kandahar, yet he was not safe from suspicion or capture.”

In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated June 21, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” in which he was identified as Al Rachid Hasan Ahmad Abdul Raheem, born in 1965, it was noted that, in  common with many of the prisoners, he had been “diagnosed with latent tuberculosis, although current chest x-rays read clear,” and he was “otherwise in good health.”

It was also noted that, in 1997, he worked first for the Islamic International Relief Organization as the sports director at a school, and then as a teacher at the Sudanese School in Peshawar, and then, until 2000, worked as “the education supervisor, teacher and counsellor for the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society at its school for orphans in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, but “left the RIHS in 2000 when the Taliban closed the office,” which was an interesting insight into an organization that, according to the US, was connected to al-Qaeda. He then transferred to the RIHS office in Peshawar, where he worked as the director of a primary school for orphans.

As with Mohammed al-Ghazali Babikir and Hassan Hamid, the Task Force then jumped to the circumstances of his arrest without providing any explanation, noting that, “On May 26, 2002, [he] was at home with his family preparing for bed when the doorbell rang. When [he] opened the door, approximately 25 Pakistanis (some wearing civilian clothes, others in police gear) had their weapons trained on him. He was then taken to the house of another man, Muhammed Hussein Abdalla (ISN 704, a 57-year old Somali teacher, and a father of eleven children, who was not released until November 2008), whom he knew as Abu Abd Al Tawab. The two were then held in a Pakistani military intelligence holding facility for ten days, then handed over to US forces and held in Bagram for two months.

He was sent to Guantánamo on August 5, 2002, allegedly “because of his knowledge of the Islamic International Relief Organization and Revival of Islamic Heritage (RIHS), a non-governmental organisation in Peshawar, Pakistan.” As with Babikir and Hamid, however, it was clear that he and others were sent to Guantánamo just in case they may have had any information about the charities’ suspected connections with Al-Qaida.

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 [714] 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 the above, detainee poses a low threat to the US or its 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 noted that he had asked to be returned to Sudan, “where his family [had] now relocated back to,” and had stated that he “plan[ned to find a teaching position," and, "if not, he hope[d] to open a small store or to return to the Agricultural College.”

Hussain Mustafa (ISN 715, Jordan) Released March 2004

In Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Mustafa, a 48-year old Jordanian, who was born in Palestine, was another innocent victim of house raids based on dubious intelligence. Interviewed by Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, for his article entitled, “Abandoned to their fate in Guantánamo,” published by Index on Censorship in 2005 (and available here in an edited form), he explained that he had taken a Masters degree in Islamic Law in Saudi Arabia, and had taught at the University of Galilee until 1984, when he moved to Pakistan, where he lived with his family near the Afghan border, teaching refugees.

He told Stafford Smith that on the evening of May 25, 2002, after returning home with his son Mohammed, the doorbell rang. “I asked Ibrahim, my youngest son to answer the door,” he said. “He came back scared, calling, ‘Police, Police!’ He was crying. As soon as he came in the room, the Pakistani police followed, armed and with their guns pointing at us … I asked the officer what he wanted and he said he needed Hussain. I said, ‘I am Hussain.’” He added that he had a refugee card from the UN, but that, although the police looked at it, they took him and his son away.

Mustafa also told Stafford Smith that, in the US prison at Bagram airbase, where he was taken before his transfer to Guantánamo, he was repeatedly threatened that his wife would be brought to the prison. “I felt a true anger,” he said. “I was torn on the inside because of what they said. This was a terrible threat.” He also said that prisoners were repeatedly threatened “with ghastly and immoral acts like rape,” and explained that he thought that the worst moment in his life took place in Bagram, when, blindfolded and handcuffed, and with his ears plugged and his mouth covered, he was forced to bend down, while a soldier “forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum.”

Mustafa told Stafford Smith that these events had “affected him deeply,” explaining:

I simply cannot understand why it happened to me. It is a smear that will always cloud my life. It is something that I am ashamed to think about, let alone talk about, but it is something that, inevitably, I cannot press out of my mind. What they did to me was disgusting, and it is difficult for me to talk about this. Naturally, I do not want this known in public, yet my fear for my own privacy is overridden by my desire to make sure that the truth is known, so that others are not made to suffer in this way in the future.

Stafford Smith also explained that Mustafa’s family “did not all survive to welcome him home. His oldest son Abdullah died of a heart condition in February 2004.” Further explaining the painful changes in his life, Mustafa told him, “I have had the experience of doing nothing wrong or illegal, and yet being held for over two years of my life. I will never be the same person. Now I spend a lot of my time alone, sitting in the Mosque, as I have become an introvert. I only go out where it is really necessary.”

In the memos released by WikiLeaks, the document relating to him was a  “Recommendation [for] Release or Transfer to the Control of Another Country,” dated February 27, 2004, in which he was identified as Abdul Qadir Yousef Hussein, born in March 1953, and it was stated that he and his family moved to Pakistan in 1992, where “he was hired as a teacher of history, culture and Islamic studies at a university,” and then moved to Afghanistan, teaching from 1995-96 at a university that was sponsored by the International Islamic Relief Organization. At the time of his capture, on May 25, 2002, at his home on Peshawar, he was working for a university run by the Saudi Red Crescent, and was seized, according to the Task Force, because the police “were looking for a man named Abu Sufian.”

He was sent to Guantánamo on August 5, 2002, allegedly because it was thought that he might be able to “provide general or specific information on IIRO and SRC leadership and activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” and because of “[h]is possible connections to Abu Sufian and the IIRO.” As with Mohammed al-Ghazali Babikir, Hassan Hamid and Rashid Ahmad, however, it was clear that he and others were sent to Guantánamo just in case they may have had any information about the charities’ suspected connections with al-Qaeda, and this was spelled out clearly in a section of the memo headed, “Reasons for Transfer from JTF GTMO,” in which it was noted that, “Although the IIRO has been connected to Islamic extremism in the past,” Mustafa’s connection with it consisted of one year as a teacher, six years before his capture, and “appears to have been administrative in nature,” so that “[h]is knowledge of the IIRO is limited to administrative information, relating to daily school operations,” and “is very dated.”

Similarly, with the SRC, which had “not been directly linked with Islamic extremism at this time,” it was noted that his connection was “more recent, but also limited,” because his “connections and information appear[ed] to be administrative and related to running the school.” In addition, his connection to Abu Sufian “appear[ed] to be one of acquaintances. [He] said an Abu Sufia [sic] had an apartment on the floor above his for about 3-4 months in 2000, but then moved to another part of the city.” Bluntly, the Task Force conceded, “There does not appear to be any direct links between them.”

Despite having seized Mustafa on the basis of very poor intelligence, and having found no reason to detain him, he was assessed as being “of low intelligence value,” rather than no intelligence value at all, although it was also noted that he posed “a low risk, as he [was] unlikely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies,” and, as a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “released or transferred to the control of another country as appropriate,” although he conceded that the Criminal Investigative Task Force had “not completed an assessment” and was “unable to supply a threat [sic] at this time.”

Menhal Al Henali (ISN 726, Syria) Released March 2004

In Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how, before the release of the Detainee Assessment Briefs by WikiLeaks, all that was known of al-Henali was that the Syrian, who was 38 years old at the time of his capture, was one of three teachers, working in a school run by the Saudi Red Crescent, who were seized in house raids in Peshawar, Pakistan on May 27, 2002, the others being Fethi Boucetta, a 38-year old Algerian seized after the Pakistani police came to his house looking for someone else, and Mohammed Abdallah, a 57-year old Somali. At Guantánamo, Boucetta described how all three men used to travel to work together in a bus that was provided for the teachers.

In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated May 3, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” it was stated that he was born in 1963, and that he had been “diagnozed with latent tuberculosis,” in common with many of the prisoners, and was “a chronic Hepatitis B carrier,” but was “otherwise in good health.” It was also stated that he left Syria when he was 19, to avoid military service, and his mother then “advised him never [to] return to Syria because his father and brother were subsequently incarcerated following his flight out of the country.”

In assessing his case, the Task Force noted that he fled to Pakistan, where he was living with his wife and six children until his capture in May 2002. He was employed by the Saudi Red Crescent to work as an Arabic instructor and director of a school in Islamabad, where he stayed until 1991, when he left for two years to finish his Master’s degree in Lahore. He then began working as a language instructor at a school in Peshawar, which is where he was for nine years until he was seized by the Pakistani police, presumably with US guidance.

Detained first in Pakistan, and then in US custody at Bagram, he was sent to Guantánamo on August 5, 2002, allegedly “because of his knowledge of the activities of the Saudi Red Crescent organisation in Pakistan.” As with Mohammed al-Ghazali Babikir, Hassan Hamid, Rashid Ahmad and Hussain Mustafa, however, it was clear that he and others were sent to Guantánamo just in case they may have had any information about the charities’ suspected connections with al-Qaeda.

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 [726] 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 the above, detainee does not pose a future threat to the US or its interests.” As a result, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government.”

It was also noted that he had “expressed concerns over being released to the Pakistani government because he believe[d] the reason he was arrested was that he could [perhaps in the sense of "was no longer allowed to"] pay bribes to government officials. He [felt] that if he return[ed] to Pakistan he [would] receive harsh punishment, and therefore would like to return to PK only to retrieve his family, then move to another country in the Gulf States region.” Despite this, he was returned to Syria, and, in light of the fact that his father and brother were imprisoned because he left the country in the first place, it is troubling that no news has emerged from Syria regarding his treatment since his release.

Muhibullo Umarov (ISN 729, Tajikistan) Released March 2004

Umarov, who was 21 years old when he was seized, was one of three unfortunate Tajiks — along with 22-year old Mazharuddin (ISN 731) and 27-year old Abdughaffor Shirinov (ISN 732, see below) — who were seized from an improvised dormitory in the library of Karachi University. In 2006, the journalist McKenzie Funk met Umarov by chance while reporting from Tajikistan for Mother Jones, when a farmer in the remote Obihingou valley told him, “There’s a man in the valley who has been to America. Really. He was in a prison. They made a mistake.”

After tracking Umarov down to his tiny, mud-walled home, Funk heard how, during the civil war, when he was 14 years old, his father took him and his two younger brothers to Pakistan and installed them in madrassas for the duration of the war. Six years later, he returned to his home village, diploma in hand, and began helping the family with their harvest of apples, potatoes and walnuts, “but then America bombed Afghanistan and the whole world went crazy.” Sent back to Pakistan to raise money to bring his brothers home, he found odd jobs in the bazaar in Peshawar and on May 13, 2002, in search of a better job, set off for Karachi, where his friend Abdughaffor Shirinov, who was working at the library, had a place for him to stay. Mazharuddin was also staying there, and at night the three men hung their T-shirts on the bookcases and slept on thin carpets on the floor.

Six days after his arrival, in the wake of Pakistan’s first suicide bombing, Pakistani intelligence agents raided the library, using the men’s T-shirts to tie them up and blindfold their eyes, and took them away. Held for ten days by the Pakistanis, Umarov was moved to secret prison — in what appeared to be a luggage factory — that was run by Americans, where he was questioned about al-Qaeda and was locked them up for ten days in a concrete cubicle that was only a meter long and half a meter wide, and was “insufferably hot.” “All my thoughts were about how my life was going to end,” he told the journalist. He was then returned to his friends in the Pakistani jail, and the following day the three men were transported to Bagram and then to Guantánamo.

Describing Bagram, Umarov told McKenzie Funk about the “hangar, vast and bright with artificial lights,” where, he said, “Our cages were in a two-story building inside the bigger building. They had high fences and were surrounded by sharp wires.” He added, “The whole place was blocked from daylight and man’s sight.”

Funk continued (and the whole section is worth reproducing in detail, I believe):

Each cell held as many as 15 men; each man was issued blue prison dungarees, a wooden platform to serve as a bed, and two blankets. Umarov used one of the blankets as a mattress, the other to cover himself — though it wasn’t enough. The nights were cold, and the guards would not let him put his head under the covers. Inmates wore shackles on their wrists as well as their ankles, even when sleeping, and each was assigned a number. Umarov’s was 75. “Seventy-five,” he whispers in halting English. “Seventy-five, come here.”

Powerful lights flooded the cages 24 hours a day, and the guards made loud noises to keep the prisoners awake. They hit their billy clubs against the metal fences. They pounded on barrels. They threw cans and empty water bottles. “We lost count of days, let alone dawn and dusk,” he says. “We never saw daylight. We were never outside.” […]

If the prisoners talked to each other, the soldiers forced them to stand and hold their shackles above their heads until the pain made them not want to talk again. If they talked again, Umarov says, the soldiers would take them upstairs and beat them. He was never beaten. But once he dared to talk to Abdughaffor and Mazharuddin, and the soldiers forced him to stand for hours, holding his shackles up while his arms shook. He did not talk again.

Umarov knew the other men in his cage as faces. He grew bored of looking at them. They were Arabs and Afghans and Pakistanis and men who spoke French and English. These, he assumed, must be the terrorists — the ones to be blamed for the world going crazy, the ones who should be punished. Sometimes, when a cellmate was taken upstairs, screams would ring out across the prison. “This did not happen every day,” he says, “but it happened.”

I ask for details, and he’s reluctant to say more. “I did not see anything with my own eyes,” he says, “and my friends and I did not experience this torture.” He pauses. There were stories he later heard in Cuba, he says — stories that he believed — about “beatings with the wooden stick” and electrocutions. “American soldiers used electrical cables to shock them in their eyes, hands, and feet. Three men told me this. And some, mostly Arabs, were forced to remove their clothes in front of women. There were other things, too.” He will not go on. […]

In two months at Bagram, Umarov says, he had only one interrogation — with an American woman who questioned him in Farsi and seemed confused as to why he was there. “We were alone in the room,” he says. “She checked my documents and listened to my answers, then told me I wasn’t guilty.” Life became a haze. He would stand and sit and try to sleep in his cage, and every fifth day a soldier loosened his handcuffs and let him walk around the prison grounds. Every seventh day, he was brought to the showers, which often had female guards and shut off after two minutes, even if he was still covered in soap.

After his transfer to Guantánamo, he said, “I did not understand where I was. When my consciousness appeared, I found myself in the sandy desert. And I thought I would be executed there, in the desert.” Instead, he was initially interrogated every week. “There were new investigators every time,” he said. “There was a new room every time. But the questions were always the same” — what Funk described as “an endless repetition of the conversation about Pakistan and Tajikistan and his life in both.” “Occasionally,” Funk explained, “he became so angry that he wouldn’t answer their questions, preferring to sit in silence. Other times, he challenged his interrogators: ‘Why was I taken here if I have not committed any crimes?’” Funk also explained:

They told him they were suspicious because he had traveled many places, many times, by many routes. He had been to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. “I answered that they could find many people like me,” he says. “Why was it that it had to be me?” They said that the routes he’d taken were famous, and used mostly by terrorists; he might have seen the terrorists on the roads.

After a while, Umarov said, they stopped interrogating him, although not everyone was so fortunate. As Funk explained:

“Some men were moved constantly,” he says. “They would wake them up, put them in chains, and take them to a new cell or to an interrogation room.” Prisoners were left shackled in a standing position until the investigators arrived. “They sometimes had to stand for 24 hours, moving only when they were brought to the toilet,” he says. “How could anyone be normal after that?” Yet Umarov never heard Bagram-like yells at Guantánamo, and few of his neighbors told him they had been tortured. What they talked about was injustice. “We did not know why we were there or when we would leave,” he says. “At Guantánamo, the torture wasn’t physical — it was psychological.”

Some prisoners went insane. Abdughaffor was one of them. He would throw himself against the door and scream. He tried to hang himself. He wouldn’t eat. He became somebody Umarov did not know. Others took off their clothes and sat naked in their cells. “These people became like children,” he says. “They did not understand their reality.”

Although he watched as his fellow prisoners tried to commit suicide, after the Koran was abused by US personnel, and although he also, briefly, took part in three of the hunger strikes, the injustice he felt most keenly was personal, when he asked an interrogator about his status, and was then punished by the guard force “for his insolence,” by being held in isolation for 10 days:

“I was taken to the dark room,” he says. “The soldiers took all my clothes and left me there.” The room was made of iron; it measured three feet by five feet. At night, frigid air was pumped through a hole in its ceiling, and its small window was covered by Plexiglas so the air couldn’t leave. Two electric coils provided dim light, and during the day, they were turned up to heat the cell to a very high temperature. But night was worse. “Some prisoners wouldn’t last the night and had to be taken to the doctor,” he says. “They kept me there for 10 days — and for no reason.”

He later spent another 15 days in isolation, but for that, he says, there was a reason. I ask him what it was. “I was standing in the cell block, leading a prayer for 48 people, and a female soldier came up and stood right next to me. I asked her to move, but she would not. She was doing psychological pressure. So I spit on her.”

When Funk pushed him for further information on some of the horrors of Guantánamo, the following took place, which should really provide Umarov’s final words on his lost two years in US custody:

“What I’ve already said should be enough for those who want to know about this prison,” he says softly. “It was like being in a zoo, with people coming to stare and laugh at you.” I keep pressing. His voice rises. “There is no point in telling more of these stories. Such a prison has never existed in the history of mankind. No one has ever written about such a prison. Why did they keep a man for two years with no reason? Why? They caught me and kept me as a prisoner of war. What war, may I ask? When was I involved? I was sleeping when they came and dragged me out of my bed. People who understand the laws will have already made up their minds about who is who.”

In the files leaked to WikiLeaks and released in April, Umarov’s file, dated January 31, 2004, was an “Annual Enemy Combatant Review.” This type of document was evidently used to assess the status of all the prisoners as “enemy combatants,” although the only one I had seen previously was the review for the Iranian Bakhtiar Bameri (ISN 623, see Part Seven).

In the memo relating to Umarov, in which he was described as Mukhibullo Abdukarimovith Umarov (he was also identified as Moyuballah Homaro), it was noted that he was transferred to Guantánamo from Afghanistan on August 5, 2002. It was also noted, crucially, that, “Although he was assessed as an enemy combatant at the time of his transfer to GTMO, on-going assessment and determination of his status as an EC is required by the Implementing Guidance for Release or Transfer of Detainees under US Department of Defense Control to Foreign government Control, dated 11 December 2002 and approved by the Secretary of Defense on 26 December 2002.” The reference to this document in Bakhtiar Bameri’s file was the first time I had seeing mentioned, although a version of it, relating to Bagram and issued on December 10, 2002, is available here. In it, as Bameri and Umarov’s memos explained:

Enemy combatant is defined by the above guidance as “any person that US or allied forces could properly detain under laws and customs of war.” For purposes of this conflict, an enemy combatant includes, but is not necessarily limited to, a member or agent of al-Qaida, the Taliban, or another international terrorist organisation against which the United States is engaged in armed conflict.

In describing how he ended up in US custody, the Task Force admitted that he was “living and working in Pakistan,” that he was arrested by Pakistani police “at a small library in Karachi on 19 May 02,” that he was “held for a month in a Karachi jail and then sent to the US Forces in Afghanistan.” Most significantly, the Task Force noted that it was “undetermined as to why [he] was transferred to GTMO.”

The Task Force added, “Since his arrival at GTMO it has been determined that [he] is not an al-Qaida or Taliban member. Furthermore, no information has developed to support his determination as an EC under any other aspect of the EC definition above. Therefore, after reviewing all relevant and reasonably available information, it is GTMO’s assessment that [he] is not an enemy combatant.” The memo concluded by noting that his case was being “processed by the Department of Defense Detainee Assessment Team for release.” This is notable for two reasons: firstly, because it is only the second mention I have seen (the first was in Bakhtiar Bameri’s file) of the existence of a Department of Defense Detainee Assessment Team responsible for processing the prisoners for release; and secondly, because it is almost unprecedented for a prisoner to be designated as “not an enemy combatant.” The terminology, when the Combatant Status Review Tribunals began in the summer of 2004, was that those whose release was recommended (38 out of 558 prisoners whose cases were reviewed) were not judged as “not an enemy combatant,” but as being “no longer an enemy combatant.”

Not being an “enemy combatant” should have been useful to Umarov, but as McKenzie Funk explained, it was not useful on the ground in Tajikistan. At one point, Umarov showed him a document provided on his release, which stated, “This individual has been determined to pose no threat to the United States Armed Forces or its interests in Afghanistan. There are no charges from the United States pending [sic] this individual at this time. The United States government intends that this person be fully rejoined with his family.” As Funk explained, however, “These papers are now the only form of identification Umarov has,” and they are “a red flag that causes shakedowns at Tajik checkpoints and occasional arrests. The US, which offered no compensation upon his release, never returned his passport either.”

Mazharuddin (ISN 731, Tajikistan) Released March 2004

As with Abdughaffor Shirinov (ISN 732, see below), little was known about Mazharuddin (also identified as Mazharudin) before the release of the Detainee Assessment Briefs by WikiLeaks, although it was clear, from the story of Muhibullo Umarov (ISN 729, above) that all three had been seized from the library of Karachi University, where Umarov worked, and where they were all staying, either on the basis of extremely dubious intelligence, or because they could be easily sold to US forces as terrorist suspects.

As with Muhibulllo Umarov (above), Mazharuddin’s file, dated January 31, 2004, was an “Annual Enemy Combatant Review.” This type of document was evidently used to assess the status of all the prisoners as “enemy combatants,” although the only one I had seen before Umarov’s was the review for the Iranian Bakhtiar Bameri (ISN 623, see Part Seven).

In the memo relating to Mazharuddin, dated January 31, 2004, in which he was described as Nuzar Udeen, it was noted that, like Umarov, he was transferred to Guantánamo from Afghanistan on August 5, 2002. As with Umarov, it was also noted, crucially, that, “Although he was assessed as an enemy combatant at the time of his transfer to GTMO, on-going assessment and determination of his status as an EC is required by the Implementing Guidance for Release or Transfer of Detainees under US Department of Defense Control to Foreign government Control, dated 11 December 2002 and approved by the Secretary of Defense on 26 December 2002.” In it, as Bameri and Umarov’s memos explained:

Enemy combatant is defined by the above guidance as “any person that US or allied forces could properly detain under laws and customs of war.” For purposes of this conflict, an enemy combatant includes, but is not necessarily limited to, a member or agent of al-Qaida, the Taliban, or another international terrorist organisation against which the United States is engaged in armed conflict.

In describing how Mazharuddin ended up in US custody, the Task Force repeated exactly the same information contained in Umarov’s file, admitting that he was “living and working in Pakistan,” that he was arrested by Pakistani police “at a small library in Karachi on 19 May 02,” that he was “held for a month in a Karachi jail and then sent to the US Forces in Afghanistan.” Most significantly, the Task Force noted that it was “undetermined as to why [he] was transferred to GTMO.”

As with Umarov, the Task Force added, “Since his arrival at GTMO it has been determined that [he] is not an al-Qaida or Taliban member. Furthermore, no information has developed to support his determination as an EC under any other aspect of the EC definition above. Therefore, after reviewing all relevant and reasonably available information, it is GTMO’s assessment that [he] is not an enemy combatant.” The memo concluded by noting that his case was being “processed by the Department of Defense Detainee Assessment Team for release.” As I noted in the reviews of Bameri and Umarov’s memos, this was notable because it mentioned the existence of a Department of Defense Detainee Assessment Team responsible for processing the prisoners for release, and because it is almost unprecedented for a prisoner to be designated as “not an enemy combatant.” As I explained in Umarov’s case, the terminology, when the Combatant Status Review Tribunals began in the summer of 2004, was that those whose release was recommended (38 out of 558 prisoners whose cases were reviewed) were not judged as “not an enemy combatant,” but as being “no longer an enemy combatant.”

Abdughaffor Shirinov (ISN 732, Tajikistan) Released March 2004

In the Detainee Assessment Briefs released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, Shirinov’s was one of 14 missing files, as I noted in my article, “WikiLeaks and the 14 Missing Guantánamo Files,” although it was clear, from the story of Muhibullo Umarov (ISN 729, above) that he was Umarov’s friend, that he worked in the library of Karachi University, that he had allowed Umarov and Mazharuddin (ISN 731) to stay, and that all three had been seized either on the basis of extremely dubious intelligence, or because they could be easily sold to US forces as terrorist suspects.

Given that the files for Umarov and Mazharuddin contain exactly the same information and assessments, it is certain that Shirinov’s was the same, with the same damning conclusions — that it was “undetermined as to why [he] was transferred to GTMO,” and that he was “not an enemy combatant.”

In response to Umarov’s comments about his friend, however, it is not known how he has fared since being released from Guantánamo. As McKenzie Funk wrote, based on Umarov’s words, “Some prisoners went insane. Abdughaffor was one of them. He would throw himself against the door and scream. He tried to hang himself. He wouldn’t eat. He became somebody Umarov did not know.”

Haji Osman Khan (ISN 818, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

In Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Haji Osman Khan, who was 50 years old at the time of his capture, was part of a family of businessmen from Bermel, in Paktika province, who were caught up in what the Americans described as “a sweep of the Bermel town bazaar,” which was as random as it sounds. Khan was seized with 27-year old Abdul Salaam (ISN 826), and 19-year old Noor Aslam (ISN 822, see below), who was his cousin, and the family ran a hawala (a money exchange/forwarding business) with branches in Pakistan and the UAE. Khan did not speak publicly about his experiences following his release, but Salaam (who was not released until February 2006), explained in a review board at Guantánamo that he was seized at his shop by American and Afghan soldiers, but he insisted that he was an honest businessman and had never received money on behalf of the Taliban or al-Qaeda. He also explained that the money the family received at the hawala was from families outside the country who were supporting their families in Afghanistan.

In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated September 6, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” Khan, described as Osman Khan, born in 1950, was subjected to serious doubts about his innocence, given that, by May 2005, the Task Force conceded, in the case of Abdul Salaam, “It was first assessed [he] was involved in money laundering operations, however, after reviewing all the available documentation, nothing has been found to support this claim. It is highly probable [his] statements that he and his family are honest business people, have no connections to the Taliban and Al-Qaida, and have never transferred any money on behalf of the Taliban or Al-Qaida are truthful.” It was also significant that Mohammed Haji Yousef (ISN 820), released in November 2003, whose story was told for the first time in my article in June, “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part Five of Five),” was evidently Khan’s brother, and was assessed, in August 2003, “as not being affiliated with Al-Qaida nor a Taliban leader,” of being “of low intelligence value to the United States,” and of posing “a low threat to the US, its interests or its allies.”

Khan told his interrogators that he was at home in Bermel “with his brother, friends and his children, when Afghan soldiers and Americans came into his home and arrested everyone.” He stated that “the information used against him was ‘false’ and he [had] no affiliations with any members of the Taliban,” and that he was “a local businessman,” who, with his brother, ran “several small shops, including a call office.”

To the Task Force, however, “when questioned closely about his business dealings with known Taliban and Al-Qaida members,” he “feigned any knowledge of these individuals [sic] and remained evasive.” He was “assessed to have had a great deal of involvement with the movement of money for the local hawalas, which were used by the Taliban to provide funds to their members,” but no explanation was provided as to why this assessment demonstrated that, as a result, Khan knew about the provision of money to the Taliban through the hawala system rather than being nothing more than a suspect with no actual evidence against him.

It was apparently regarded as suspicious that he “continue[d] to deny any knowledge of Al-Qaida” and “professed his innocence in this whole matter,” because, according to the Task Force, he had been “generally cooperative but never forthright,” had “consistently been evasive in his answers” and had “outwardly refused to identify individuals whom he had a known affiliation with.” The Task Force added that Khan, “along with his brother and other family members,  was heavily involved in the movement of monies (for a fee) for known Al-Qaida and  local Taliban members and [Khan had] refused to reveal the nature of these transactions,” even though he was “assessed to have extensive (though dated) knowledge concerning the financing of local extremists and the personalities involved in cross-border trade, financing and telecommunications (via local call office run by his brother)” — although how that was known, especially in light of the later revelations about Abdul Salaam, was, again, not explained, and, moreover, the allegations about his brother contradicted the findings of the Task Force in his assessment a month earlier.

Refusing to let up, however, the Task Force stated that Khan had been “assessed as being an opportunist and an extremist criminal, protecting his business dealings by not revealing his connections to extremist elements operating in the region,” who was, therefore, “assessed as possibly posing a threat to the Afghan government.” As a result of all the above, he was “assessed as possibly being a member of the Taliban, however that has not been determined with any certainty” — which, of course, is doubly vague. He was also assessed as being “of minimal intelligence value to the United States,” and of posing “a medium threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” and as a result, Brig. Gen. James E. Payne III of the US Army, who signed the memo, recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.”

Noor Aslam (ISN 822, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

In Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, I explained how Aslam, who was 19 years old at the time of his capture, was part of a family of businessmen who ran a hawala (a money exchange/forwarding business), and who were seized in a sweep of Bermel, in Paktika province, by US forces. He was seized with 50-year old Haji Osman Khan (ISN 818, see above) and his cousin, 27-year old Abdul Salaam (ISN 826), but his own story was not known until the release of the Detainee Assessment Briefs by WikiLeaks.

In his Detainee Assessment Brief, dated September 6, 2003, which was a “Transfer Recommendation,” Aslam was identified as Noor Aslaam, born in 1983, and was also identified as having been “improperly listed as Afghani however he was born in Pakistan and holds Pakistani citizenship.”   No mention was made of his purported family relationship with Osman Khan, Abdul Salaam and Mohammed Haji Yousef, so it is uncertain if he was actually related to any of these men, but what was clear was that he “worked with six other men on the security force” in Bermel (and that “some of those men are detainees in Guantánamo with him”), and that “he was conducting early morning security checks of buildings and businesses within the Bermel town bazaar,” when “he was arrested by US forces, who were conducting a sweep of the bazaar, looking for weapons.”

After he was seized, US forces “found a grenade in a box, in the building that he and the others shared as living quarters, along with other small arms and ammo.” This was unsurprising, given that the security force of which he was a part had been put together after the Taliban fled, and no one should really have been surprised if they were armed. Nevertheless, Aslam was obliged to find explanations for the presence of the weapons, to explain that “he knew about the grenade but that it was not his,” to explain that he owned several of the other weapons found, which he had “‘acquired’ through deals with friends,” and to explain that “everyone in the village owns a Kalashnikov, and because of the violence many of the shopkeepers band[ed] together to protect their businesses.”

He was sent to Guantánamo on October 27, 2002, on the spurious basis that it was “because of his possession of the grenade that was found in the box,” which was a particularly feeble reason for transporting him halfway round the world.

In assessing him, the Task Force stated that, “although cooperative and non-aggressive,” he was “assessed as not being completely forthright.” It was noted that his explanation of “his association with the local businessmen [was] viewed as plausible, however he [had] failed to completely explain the dynamics of his involvement with these men,” which was regarded as important because several of these men had “known affiliations with former Taliban” (which had not actually been established) “and he was working as a personal security guard for these persons.”

The Task Force also regarded it as suspicious that he was a Pakistani working for Afghans, suggesting that this indicated that his employers had “a stronger affiliation with former Taliban than [he] would like us to believe,” and noted that he had “failed also to convincingly explain how he came into the possession of all the weapons he had,” and, as a result, although he was assessed as “not being a member of Al-Qaida or a Taliban leader” and of being “of low intelligence value to the United States,” he was also assessed as being “a medium threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” and Brig. Gen. James E. Payne III of the US Army, who signed the memo, recommended that he be “considered for transfer to the control of another government for continued detention.”

Parkhudin (ISN 896, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

In Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, and also in my article, “When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan,” I discussed the murder by US soldiers of detainees in the prison at Bagram airbase in 2002, including the killing, in December 2002, of Dilawar, a taxi driver who was brought into the prison the day after another prisoner, Mullah Habibullah, had been killed. Dilawar was brought in with the three passengers in his taxi — Parkhudin, a 25-year old farmer, Abdul Rahim, a 27-year old baker, and Zakkim Shah, a 19-year old farmer.

According to Dilawar’s elder brother, Dilawar was “a shy man, a very simple man,” who lived a quiet life with his wife, his young daughter and the rest of his family. On the day of his capture, after he had picked up the three passengers, he was passing Camp Salerno, a US base, when he was stopped at a checkpoint by soldiers serving under Jan Baz Khan, the nephew of the warlord Pacha Khan Zadran, who were looking for the men who had launched a rocket attack on the base earlier that day. Finding a broken walkie-talkie on one of the passengers and an electric stabilizer for a generator in the boot of the car, they delivered the four men to the Americans at Bagram as suspects.

They were among the last men to be implicated by Jan Baz Khan, and Dilawar’s passengers were certainly the last three to be sent to Guantánamo on Khan’s advice, because the Americans finally realized that their supposed ally was actually using them for his own ends, and imprisoned him in Bagram in February 2004, although as mentioned elsewhere in these articles, and in The Guantánamo Files, Pacha Khan, who also fell out of favor, was responsible for sending several other prisoners to Guantánamo.

Before the release of the Detainee Assessment Briefs, all that was known of Parkhudin and Dilawar’s other passengers came from reports dealing with Dilawar’s murder, which was first exposed by Carlotta Gall of the New York Times in March 2003. In that ground-breaking article, Gall identified two of the three men seized with Dilawar as Parkhudin and Zakhim, and explained that Dilawar’s father and brother and local government officials told her the men had been seized “when [Dilawar's] taxi was stopped by Afghan soldiers guarding the perimeter of the United States army base Salerno, on the outskirts of Khost, in eastern Afghanistan,” and that they “were innocent and arrested because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That morning two rockets had been fired at the base, and Mr. Dilawar passed by at noon.” On searching the car, the soldiers “found a stabilizer, a machine used to regulate electricity, in the trunk of his car,” and Parkhudin, described as being 30 years old and “a local policeman from the village of Turiuba,” was identified as the passenger who “had a broken walkie-talkie with him.”

In September 2004, Gall and David Rohde provided an important update, and included further testimony from Parkhudin, described as a 26-year-old farmer and former soldier. He said that, in Bagram, “his hands were chained to the ceiling for 8 of his 10 days in isolation and that he was hooded for hours at a time,” as the article described it. “They were putting a mask over our heads, they were beating us in Bagram,” he said. “I think Dilawar died because he couldn’t breathe. For me, it was very difficult to breathe.” He also “said he was forced to lie on his stomach and that a soldier then jumped on his back,” adding that “he believed that the Afghan in an adjoining isolation cell was Mr. Dilawar because the prisoner cried out for his mother and father.”

In a detailed report about the murderous regime in Bagram, published in the New York Times in May 2005, Tim Golden explained how Dilawar  and his passengers spent their first night in Bagram “handcuffed to a fence, so they would be unable to sleep,” and reiterated how Dilawar’s passengers said that the most difficult thing for Dilawar “seemed to be the black cloth hood that was pulled over his head.” “He could not breathe,” Parkhudin said.

Golden also noted that, in interviews after their release, the three survivors “described their treatment at Bagram as far worse than at Guantánamo. While all of them said they had been beaten, they complained most bitterly of being stripped naked in front of female soldiers for showers and medical examinations, which they said included the first of several painful and humiliating rectal exams.”

Golden also explained that, when the three men were finally sent home from Guantánamo in March 2004, 15 months after their capture, they had “letters saying they posed ‘no threat’ to American forces.” He also noted:

They were later visited by Mr. Dilawar’s parents, who begged them to explain what had happened to their son. But the men said they could not bring themselves to recount the details. “I told them he had a bed,” said Mr. Parkhudin. “I said the Americans were very nice because he had a heart problem.”

In the classified military documents released by WikiLeaks in April, in which he was identified as Bar Far Huddine, born in 1975, the document relating to him, dated February 26, 2004, was an “Update Recommendation [for] a Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention,” in which — rather depressingly, given the circumstances of Dilawar’s death — it was noted that, on November 11, 2003, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “retained for continued detention,” based on an assessment that he was “a Taliban member, who was possibly involved in a rocket attack on US Fire Base Salerno.”

According to new information, however, Parkhudin was “no longer assessed as being a Taliban member,” because “[a] review of information about the radio [he] was captured with revealed that it was non-functional at the time of capture and not used to communicate with the Taliban, as previously reported,” and because “further investigation revealed no links between [him] and the rocket attack on US Fire Base Salerno, which he was suspected of being involved in,” and that “[t]he other people arrested out of the same taxi have also been assessed as having no links to the rocket attacks.”

As a result, he was “assessed as having a low intelligence value,” and as “a low risk as he [was] unlikely to pose a threat to the US, its interests or its allies” (not “no risk at all,” as he should have been) and Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer or release to the control of another government.” It was also noted that, on November 10, 2003, the Criminal Investigative Task Force had been “unable to give a threat assessment, citing the need for additional information,” but that, “[i]n the interest of national security and pursuant to an agreement between CITF and JTF-GTMO Commanders, CITF will defer to the JTF-GTMO assessment that [he] was a low risk.”

Abdul Rahim (ISN 897, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

As with the story of Parkhudin (ISN 896, above), I explained, in Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, and also in my article, “When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan,” how Parkhudin, Abdul Rahim and Zakkim Shah (ISN 898, see below) were passengers in a taxi driven by another Afghan, Dilawar, who was killed by US soldiers in the prison at Bagram airbase after the four men were seized by Afghan soldiers following a rocket attack on a US military base in December 2002. The three survivors were then sent to Guantánamo, where they were held for 15 months.

Abdul Rahim was apparently a 27-year old baker, although not much else was known about him until the Detainee Assessment Briefs were released by WikiLeaks. In a New York Times report in September 2004 about the murderous regime in Bagram, Carlotta Gall and David Rohde described him as Abdur Rahim, a 26-year-old baker, and noted that he told them that “he was hooded and that his hands were chained to the ceiling for ‘seven or eight days’ and turned black.” He also said that “American interrogators forced him to crouch and hold his hands out in front of him for long periods, causing intense pain in his shoulders. When he tried to sit up, he said, they were coming and hitting me and saying ‘Don’t move!’” In another article in the New York Times in May 2005, Tim Golden noted that, speaking of his time in Bagram, Abdul Rahim said, “They did lots and lots of bad things to me. I was shouting and crying, and no one was listening. When I was shouting, the soldiers were slamming my head against the desk.”

In the classified military documents released by WikiLeaks in April, in which it was noted that he was born in 1975, the document relating to him, dated February 26, 2004, was an “Update Recommendation [for] a Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention,” in which — rather depressingly, given the circumstances of Dilawar’s death — it was noted that, on November 11, 2003, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “retained for continued detention,” based on an assessment that he was “a member of Hezb-e-Islami [Gulbuddin] (HIG),” who was possibly “involved in a rocket attack on US Fire Base Salerno.”

According to new information, Abdul Rahim “joined HIG for a brief 4-month period in the mid-1990s, after which he broke off his association,” and “spent most of the 1990s involved with various Northern Alliance combat units, fighting the Taliban.” However, he was “assessed as having no current ties to HIG,” and, as with Parkhudin, it was also noted that “further investigation revealed no links between [him] and the rocket attack on US Fire Base Salerno, which he was suspected of being involved in,” and that “[t]he other people arrested out of the same taxi have also been assessed as having no links to the rocket attacks.”

As a result, he was “assessed as having a minimal intelligence value,” and as “a low risk as he [was] unlikely to pose a threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” because he was “no longer assessed as being an HIG member,” and Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer or release to the control of another government.”

Zakkim Shah (ISN 898, Afghanistan) Released March 2004

As with the story of Parkhudin and Abdul Rahim (ISN 896 and 897, above), I explained, in Chapter 14 of The Guantánamo Files, and also in my article, “When Torture Kills: Ten Murders In US Prisons In Afghanistan,” how Parkhudin, Abdul Rahim and Zakkim Shah were passengers in a taxi driven by another Afghan, Dilawar, who was killed by US soldiers in the prison at Bagram airbase after the four men were seized by Afghan soldiers following a rocket attack on a US military base in December 2002. The three survivors were then sent to Guantánamo, where they were held for 15 months.

Zakkim Shah was apparently a 19-year old farmer, although not much else was known about him until the Detainee Assessment Briefs were released by WikiLeaks. In Carlotta Gall’s original New York Times report about Dilawar’s death, Shah was described simply as Zakhim, from the same village as Parkhudin, and was also described as being 25 years old. In a follow-up article in September 2004, he was identified as Zakim Shah, a 20-year-old farmer, and it was noted that he “said he was kept awake by soldiers blaring music and shouting at him.” He also said “he grew so exhausted at one point that he vomited.”

In the classified military documents released by WikiLeaks in April, in which he was identified as Zakhim Shah, born in 1983, the document relating to him, dated February 26, 2004, was an “Update Recommendation [for] a Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention,” in which — rather depressingly, given the circumstances of Dilawar’s death — it was noted that, on November 11, 2003, Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “retained for continued detention,” based on an assessment that he was “a Taliban fighter,” who was “committed to Jihad.”

According to new information, however, he was “no longer assessed as being a Taliban fighter or committed to Jihad,” and, as with Parkhudin and Abdul Salim, it was also noted that “further investigation revealed no links between [him] and the rocket attack on US Fire Base Salerno, which he was suspected of being involved in,” and that “[t]he other people arrested out of the same taxi have also been assessed as having no links to the rocket attacks.”

As a result, he was “assessed as having a minimal intelligence value,” and as “a low risk as he [was] unlikely to pose a threat to the US, its interests or its allies,” and Maj. Gen. Miller recommended that he be “considered for transfer or release to the control of another government.”

Also see Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part FivePart Six, Part Seven, Part Eight and Part Ten of this series.

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.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Willy Bach wrote:

    You certainly decided on a holiday destination with current interest, and some civil unrest, Andy. Thanks for all this hard work, very detailed and painstaking, maybe thankless in some peoples’ view. But it should tell the voters of the USA that both of their main political parties are thoroughly unworthy of being re-elected. None of this gives any hope that justice in the USA is improving. It simply isn’t. Just popped something to you too. Tweeted, re-posted.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’m digging and sharing this now. Will read soon.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Willy and George, and everyone who has shared this. Thanks also for the donation, Willy, and for your comment about the possible perception of thanklessness in this task of chronicling all the Guantanamo prisoners’ stories through a thorough analysis of everything in the files released by WikiLeaks.

    It’s funny — when I started this work on Guantanamo six years ago, I thought perhaps it was too soon for Americans to wish to comprehend what had been done in their name; in other words, that I was writing about current events in a manner that would only be acknowledged, would only be “safe” at a distance of many years or decades. Now I wonder if that point will ever arrive, such is the decline in notions of shame, responsibility and pride in Obama’s America, in which principles have been betrayed by cowardice and a failed “political expediency,” and monstrous, greedy thugs and their dupes dominate what passes for political life.

    My holiday is nearly at an end, as all holidays must end, but I’m genuinely not looking forward to picking up the baton of this responsibility once again. I will, of course, but I’m just saying that it’s particularly unpalatable in a political environment in which so few people care that the criminals of the Bush administration walk free, and their warped and malignant world view remains largely intact as official US policy.

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