When looking at the stories of the released Guantánamo prisoners, one of the most tragic individual stories of last year was that of Adel al-Gazzar (aka Adel El-Gazzar), a former officer in the Egyptian army, who lost a leg in US custody and spent eight years in Guantánamo. Adel returned to Egypt last June, after being freed in Slovakia in January 2010, where he embarked on a hunger strike to protest about the Slovakian government’s inability to look after him adequately, and where, at one point, he was interviewed by his fellow ex-prisoner Moazzam Begg in a powerful and revealing interview available here. On his return to Egypt, he was promptly arrested, and imprisoned based on trumped-up charges that had been used to secure a conviction against him while he was in Guantánamo, and while the now-deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak was in power.
In December, following six months of pressure from his lawyers — at the London-based legal action charity Reprieve — the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces agreed to hear his case on December 27, in an appeal for a new trial, and on December 30, as AllAfrica.com reported, “The Military Court of Cassation accepted the claim of Adel Fattouh al-Gazzar for the re-trial,” noting that “Hafez Abu Seada, attorney at law, submitted the claim after Adel was sentenced to three years in prison.”
On January 16, Adel was freed, although the English-speaking media did not report the story, and I did not discover it until last week, when Moazzam Begg told me about it while we were in Brussels for a screening at the European Parliament of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film that I co-directed with Polly Nash.
In searching for further information, I came across some video interviews conducted in Arabic immediately after Adel’s release, which I’ve cross-posted below, and when I put out a request for an Arabic speaker to translate the first, a two-minute teaser for the longer program, to get a flavour of what Adel was discussing, for those who, like myself, do not speak Arabic, a friend through Facebook, Aboubakr Seddik Ouahabi, offered to help and translated it. My thanks to him for his assistance.
Interviewer: Today, we’re visiting a brother of ours, who’s been released by the grace and the mercy of Almighty Allah. He was also detained previously in Guantánamo, so by the will of Allah, we will get to know him closely.
Adel al-Gazzar: Your brother in Islam, for the sake of Allah, Adel al-Gazzar. I was in Afghanistan, before the events of 9/11. I was working with the Saudi Red-Crescent, providing relief for the Afghans on the Pakistani-Afghan border. The complex, which I was working at with the Saudi Red-Crescent on the Pakistani-Afghan border, was hit, and they started putting us in ambulances on the basis of relocating us to the newer hospitals, or the bigger ones, which have better equipment. To do what? To do the surgical operations, but we were surprised to find ourselves in the airport of Quetta city, and the Pakistani regime handed us over to the American Marines.
[Adel also spoke about the longstanding claims that female interrogators had used their menstrual blood to humiliate prisoners, which some sources have said was not actually blood, but a substitute.]
Adel al-Gazzar: The hardest situation, which we were humiliated at, was when one of the American female interrogators, a criminal, and she was on her menstruation period, she was menstruating, put her hand in the place of the menstruation, then she took out the menstruation blood and she desecrated the Quran with it, the pages of the Holy Quran, and she desecrated with this blood the face of the brother, whom she was interrogating.
I want to say to those who’ve been deceived, deceived by the United States, and those deceived by the countries which are applying the democratic systems and the like, that these people … there might be some rights preserved between themselves, however, if the matter relates to others, especially to Muslims, then there’ll be no rights, and there’ll be no respect for any human values, or religious ones, or even those rights which they signed themselves.
America has deceived the world with a bunch of movies, which they believed due to the excess repetition of them, and America deceived the world with a group of … I mean, by the American Constitution as an example, and the values mentioned in it, but actually such a thing isn’t applicable in the real world, and I have a lot of evidence, arguments and proof, I mean besides my own story, evidence proving that.
This is hopefully enough for non-Arabic speakers to get a flavour of Adel’s commentary. Certainly, he was in high spirits following his release, finally reunited with his family after ten long years. Below is the full, 47-minute interview with him in Arabic, plus another, shorter interview recorded around the same time with another interviewer.
Note: Please visit the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and sign up to join a growing body of people demanding that President Obama fulfill his unfulfilled promise to close the prison. Please also sign a new White House petition on the “We the People” website calling for the closure of Guantánamo. 25,000 signatures are needed by February 6 to secure a response from the President.
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, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Ann Alexander wrote:
Thanks for this happy news, Andy. It has made my day.
Ann Alexander wrote:
And an extra big thanks to Aboubakr Seddik Ouahabi who we are very fortunate to count amongst our friends.
Louise Gordon wrote:
Aboubakr Seddik Ouahabi wrote:
Thank you Ann Alexander, and thanks to Andy Worthington as well, may you be happy, and keep defending the human rights.
Saleh Mamon wrote:
Will he ever get recompense for his lost life and lost leg? Such pitiless unaccountable US power.
Thank you, my friends. Good to hear from you all. And thanks to everyone who has liked and shared this. It is genuinely heartwarming to have some good news for a change.
As for compensation, that’s a valid question, Saleh, and one that will need addressing at some point, but for now the pressing concern is to secure the release of those who are still held. At the moment, I’d imagine that pushing on compensation issues would only play into the hands of those who don’t want any of those still held to be released.
Sabina Jaigirdar wrote:
Let us not forget the human rights violations that took place in Abu Ghraib in2004. These small steps are no match for the sheer unjustice that takes place in the ‘so called civilised societies’.
Thanks for that reminder of the extent of the outrages, Sabina, of which Guantanamo has only been a part. I agree that the small steps – like Adel’s freedom – are no match for the injustice, but they are worth celebrating, as, unfortunately, there is nothing to celebrate when it comes to the remaining 171 prisoners in Guantanamo, who are held, apparently without hope of release, because of political posturing.
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
Dugg and shared.
Thanks for that, George. I keep meaning to find time to deal with all my other areas of interest, but seem to be dominated by Guantanamo right now.
Sabina… What a pleasure. Rights!!! Yes let us not forget rights
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