Archive for February, 2012

Justice Denied: The Unacceptable 10-Year Detention of Fawzi Al-Odah and Fayiz Al-Kandari, the Last Two Kuwaitis in Guantánamo

Originally posted on the “Close Guantánamo” website.

Last week, the attorney Tom Wilner and the journalist Andy Worthington (the steering committee of the “Close Guantánamo” project) were in Kuwait to raise awareness of the ongoing detention of Fayiz Al-Kandari and Fawzi Al-Odah, the last two Kuwaiti citizens in Guantánamo, and to encourage the Kuwaiti people and the government to push for their release, after ten long years in the terrible experimental prison at Guantánamo Bay, where justice has gone missing, and arbitrary detention has become the norm.

Please see here for videos of Tom and Andy (dubbed into Arabic) discussing the men’s cases on Kuwaiti TV (the Al-Rai channel), and emphasizing the need for concerted action to secure their release, along with subtitled clips from the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which Andy co-directed with Polly Nash. And see here for the petition for Fayiz, calling for the U.S. government to release him, which is hosted by Al-Oula Law, the website of his Kuwaiti lawyers. Read the rest of this entry »

To Mark 10 Years of Guantánamo, Stern Magazine Profiles Five Former Prisoners

Last week, when I cross-posted an article written for the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo by my friend Todd Pierce, I also noted that when I visited the US in January to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo Bay, I was so busy that I did not have time to cross-post other articles of interest that were published at the time, and added, “In the hope of keeping alive some of that spirit of awareness about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo that flickered briefly to life around the anniversary, I’m planning to cross-post some of these articles.”

After starting with Todd’s article, I’m now moving on to a detailed article that was published in Germany’s Stern Magazineavailable here as a PDF, and helpfully translated into English for Cageprisoners, via Google Translate, in a translation that I have tidied up.

The article features interviews with five former prisoners — Sami al-Laithi (aka el-Leithi), an Egyptian; Omar Deghayes, a British resident; Mohammed el-Gharani, a Chadian and former child prisoner; Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, an Afghan and a former Taliban ambassador; and Abu Bakker Qassim, a Uighur (a Muslim from China’s Xinjiang province) released from Guantánamo to Albania. The stories of all of these men have been reported before, but fresh eyes and ears are also ways useful to continue to expose the horrific history of Guantánamo, and its ongoing injustices, and the Stern article also featured a collection of powerful photos, as well as quotes from other prisoners — David Hicks (from Australia), Murat Kurnaz (from Germany) and Moazzam Begg (from the UK). Read the rest of this entry »

Video (in Arabic): On Kuwaiti TV, Tom Wilner and Andy Worthington Discuss the Last Two Kuwaitis in Guantánamo

Following up on my visit to Kuwait last week, to assist the lawyers and activists and family members pushing for the release from Guantánamo of the last two Kuwaiti prisoners, Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, I’m pleased to make available below a series of videos of the 70-minute program that was broadcast on Friday evening on Al-Rai TV. In the show, alongside subtitled excerpts from the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with Polly Nash, the attorney Tom Wilner and I had, as I explained in an article yesterday, “a chance to explain why, shamefully, Guantánamo is still open, despite President Obama’s promise to close it, why Fayiz and Fawzi are still held, how they are surviving their long ordeal, and, most crucially, why the Kuwaiti people need to keep exerting pressure on their government to do more to secure their return.”

As I also noted:

We were able to explain how it is insulting for such a close ally of the US as Kuwait to be treated so badly when it comes to securing the return of Fayiz and Fawzi, how, sadly, Guantánamo has become normalized under President Obama, and the remaining 171 prisoners are now, effectively, subjected to arbitrary and indefinite detention, and how no one will be released without great effort on the part of those who, like the Kuwaiti people, have prisoners still held.

We were also able to explain how the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, just last month, provides a spur for renewed calls for the prison’s closure — and for calling for an end to the continued detention of men like Fayiz and Fawzi, against whom nothing in the way of evidence has actually been presented. We also had the opportunity to explain how another new possibility for bringing this dark chapter of US-Kuwaiti relations to an end has been presented in recent legislation passed in the US (the National Defense Authorization Act), in which the President and his administration now have the opportunity to bypass restrictions on the release of prisoners that were imposed by Congress and have prevented the release of any prisoner from Guantánamo since January 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

After a Wonderful Visit to Kuwait, New Plans to Close Guantánamo and to Free the Last Two Kuwaiti Prisoners

Now that my first ever visit to Kuwait has come to an end — in which I was involved in events and discussions designed to raise the profile in Kuwait, and internationally, of the two remaining Kuwaitis in Guantánamo, Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah — I feel as though I have been away from my home in London for weeks, and not just for five days, as the time was so busy.

I recorded an interview for the Al-Rai TV station along with the attorney Tom Wilner, which was aired along with a subtitled version of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film that I co-directed with Polly Nash, and I also traveled out to Kuwait’s main prison, to visit the rehabilitation center which was established for the four remaining prisoners in 2009, but which, after two of these four were freed that year, has been lying empty ever since, its staff and facilities awaiting the return of Fayiz and Fawzi, who, like the majority of the 171 prisoners stili in Guantánamo, 89 of whom have been cleared for release, remain trapped because of the cynical twists and turns of American politics — in the Obama administration, in Congress and in the courts.

I was also driven through the desert, on the highway to Iraq, to visit the grand and spacious farm of a prominent sheikh, in order to discuss the cases of Fayiz and Fawzi, and I also attended two dewaniyas (social events described by Wikipedia as being “the core of Kuwait’s social, business and political life, the places where topics of interest are discussed, associates introduced, alliances formed, and similar networking activities undertaken”), with lawyers and with the family of Fayiz. In addition, I met up with the former prisoner Fouad al-Rabiah and with Khalid al-Odah, Fawzi’s father, and briefly met another former prisoner, Adel al-Zamel. Read the rest of this entry »

As the Underwear Bomber Receives a Life Sentence in Federal Court, Lawmakers’ Obsession with Military Trials Looks Idiotic

Last Thursday, February 16, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” received a life sentence in a courtroom in Detroit. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, had tried and failed to blow up a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, receiving serious burns when the bomb failed to detonate.

After he was apprehended, he was read his Miranda rights, and interrogated non-coercively by the FBI, but this was not acceptable to supporters of torture, who proceeded to demonstrate that a new phase of fearmongering and paranoia was opening up in what should, by then, have been the dying days of the “war on terror.”

In this new spirit of hysteria, the discovery that he had been recruited for his failed mission in Yemen led to a chorus of demands that no more Guantánamo prisoners should be released to Yemen — from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and even Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who told Politico, “In terms of sending more of them to return to Yemen, it would be a bit of a reach. I’d, at a minimum, say that whatever we were about to do we’d at least have to scrub it again from top to bottom.” Read the rest of this entry »

In Kuwait, Looking for American Justice — and Showing “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” on Alrai TV

Please note that the screening has been postponed until Friday evening (February 24) at 10:30 pm.

Greetings from Kuwait, where the weather is fresh and warm, and the people are very friendly. Although I have been studying Guantánamo and the “war on terror” for the last six years, this is my first visit to the Middle East, and I’m here to play whatever part I can to secure the return from Guantánamo of Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah, the last two Kuwaitis in the prison.

I’m here with Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, the Pentagon-appointed military defense attorney for Fayiz al-Kandari, and his colleagues Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Bogucki and Sgt. Chad Darby, and also with the civilian attorney Tom Wilner, my colleague in the new “Close Guantánamo” campaign. I am also grateful for the support of Adel Abdulhadi of the Al-Oula law firm, and am delighted to have finally met the journalist Jenifer Fenton, who has recently been focusing on the stories of the Kuwaiti prisoners. The centerpiece of my visit is the screening, at 9.30 pm on Thursday (February 23), on Alrai TV, of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with Polly Nash, followed by a studio discussion with Tom Wilner and myself. Both Tom and I feature in the film, and we had a very productive question and answer session today, when we pre-recorded the studio talk to accompany the broadcast of the film tomorrow evening.

This is a great occasion, as it is not only the biggest audience by far for the film, but also its first screening in Arabic, following a heroic mission by Polly and a number of Arabic speakers in the UK and Canada to complete the sub-titling of the film in the days before my flight to Kuwait on Monday. I hope — and anticipate — that the film’s comprehensive analysis of the many crimes and failures of the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” and the compelling human stories of the men affected by America’s journey to the “dark side,” will be as informative for the Kuwaiti audience as they have been for the Western audiences who have seen the film in screenings in the US, the UK and Europe over the last two years. Read the rest of this entry »

US Military Attorney Compares Rationale for “War on Terror” to Nazi Ideology

Last month, when I visited the US to campaign for the closure of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, I was so busy flying from city to city and from event to event that I did not have time to take in — and in some cases to cross-post — articles of interest that were published at the time.

In the hope of keeping alive some of that spirit of awareness about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo that flickered briefly to life around the anniversary, I’m planning to cross-post some of these articles, and I’m beginning with an article written for the National Law Journal by the military defense attorney Todd Pierce, someone I regard as both a friend and a colleague. I have met up with Todd on my visits to Washington D.C. in November 2009, in January 2011 and last month, and we have also communicated by email, regarding his involvement in the military commissions at Guantánamo, first under George W. Bush, and now under Barack Obama.

Specifically, Todd was involved in the case of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who received a life sentence in November 2008 for producing a video for al-Qaeda, after a one-sided trial in which he refused to mount a defense, and he was one of the lawyers involved in appealing the ruling, arguing that it was an assault on the First Amendment, which, if left unchecked, could lead to all manner of foreigners — including, for example, investigative journalists like me — also being targeted. Read the rest of this entry »

Three New UK Screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” with Co-Director Andy Worthington

“‘Outside the Law’ is a powerful film that has helped ensure that Guantánamo and the men unlawfully held there have not been forgotten.”
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

“[T]his is a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy.”
Joe Burnham, Time Out

As featured on Democracy Now!ABC News and Truthout. Buy the DVD here (£10 + £2 postage in the UK, and worldwide) or here if in the US ($10 post free).

With the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay now in its 11th year of existence, and with no sign of when, if ever the prison will be closed, the need to campaign for its closure is greater than ever, even though the will to do so is largely drowned out by the voices of US lawmakers and pundits who would like it to stay open, and by a colossal indifference on the part of far too many citizens of the US, and others around the world.

This is deeply disturbing, as a prison in which people are subjected to arbitrary detention (as Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained three weeks ago) cannot simply be brushed aside or forgotten about by those who claim to care about legal and humane detention practices. As long ago as October 2003, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross complained about the damaging effects of open-ended arbitrary detention on the mental health of the prisoners held at Guantánamo, and that remains true eight years and four months later, even if most of the prisoners are now allowed time to socialize. Back in 2003, Girod said, “The open-endedness of the situation and its impact on the mental health of the population has become a major problem.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the Documentary “Death in Camp Delta,” Examining the Alleged Suicides in Guantánamo in June 2006

In the whole sordid ten-year history of Guantánamo, one of the most distressing events, which has never been adequately investigated, involves the deaths of three prisoners on the night of June 9, 2006. According to the authorities, the deaths were the result of a coordinated suicide pact, but this never sounded credible to anyone who investigated the official story, and found that they were obliged to believe that the men had somehow tied themselves up, stuffed rags down their throats and managed to hang themselves, in a prison where the guards checked on them every few minutes.

These doubts were thoroughly exposed in a report (“Death in Camp Delta“) published by the Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey in December 2009,  which involved a detailed examination of thousands of pages of records and reports from an inadequate investigation conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (which concluded in 2008, and which I discussed here), and it was followed, in January 2010, by an explosive article in Harper’s Magazine by Scott Horton (“The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle“), drawing on the testimony of US military personnel who were in Guantanamo at the time of the deaths, and who cast further doubts on the official story, mentioning a secret camp known as “Camp No,” and the movement of vehicles — very possibly to and from this facility — on the night that the men died. See here and here for my commentary.

In an attempt to keep the deaths of these three men in the public eye, the Norwegian filmmaker Erling Borgen spent three years making a documentary film, “Death in Camp Delta,” which I recently reviewed for Russell Michaels’ show “Cinepolitics” on Press TV, along with the film reviewer Neil Smith. The video of the show is below, via Daily Motion, and for further information about the film, please see the “Death in Camp Delta” website and the Facebook page. Read the rest of this entry »

“Brought to Justice? — The Indefinite Detention and Targeted Killing of the Rule of Law”: A KPFA Special with Andy Worthington and David Rovics

Last month, when I was in the US to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” prison, I paid a visit, during my 30-hour visit to San Francisco and the Bay Area, to KPFA in Berkeley for an interview on “The Morning Mix with Project Censored,” which also featured the wonderful singer/songwriter David Rovics, Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Almerindo Ojeda of UC Davis, who runs the university’s Guantánamo Testimonials Project.

That half-hour show is here, and it was regarded by the producers as covering so much important material in such a short amount of time that a decision was made to run an extended version, as part of a fundraising drive, on February 17, and the resultant two and a half hour show is available here, and is embedded below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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