A millionaire Saudi businessman accused of being the brains behind the terrorist attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000, in which 17 US soldiers died, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is also a notorious victim of the torture program initiated by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks.
No less a source than the CIA Inspector General noted in a report in 2004 on the “high-value detainee” interrogation program (PDF) that — while held in a secret facility in Poland after his capture in the United Arab Emirates in the fall of 2002 and his initial imprisonment in a CIA “black site” in Thailand — he was threatened with a gun and a power drill, while hooded and restrained, to scare him into talking, even though the federal torture statute prohibits threatening prisoners with imminent death. Moreover, in February 2008, then-CIA director Michael Hayden admitted that al-Nashiri was one of three prisoners subjected to waterboarding, an ancient torture technique that involves controlled drowning.
In Poland, where al-Nashiri was moved in December 2002, he has been recognized by a prosecutor investigating the CIA’s secret prison on Polish soil as a “victim,” but in the US, since his transfer to Guantánamo in September 2006, he has been silenced, like the other 13 “high-value detainees” transferred with him, even though the Bush administration put him forward for a trial by military commission in July 2008, and the Obama administration followed suit in November 2009. Read the rest of this entry »
Every year, on the last weekend in July, WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), the world music festival, takes place in the UK — for the last few years, in Wiltshire, on a wonderful site in Charlton Park — and this year is its 30th anniversary. My wife has been running children’s workshops there since 2002, and every year a group of us — friends and our kids — get to hang out together for four days, to do the workshops and create a wonderful sculpture for the children’s procession on the Sunday, to eat great food (unlike the kind of catering that will be in place for the Olympics), to watch great music, and to chill out backstage, and also in the backstage camp. My guitar is tuned, and I’m looking forward to some strumming and singing.
I’m back on Monday, but while I’m away, please check out the photos I’ve been posting regularly over the last month, if you haven’t yet seen them, beginning with yesterday’s excursion to the Olympic Park in the blazing sun — and see below for a bonus photo from Greenwich, which I took on my way back home. Click on the photo to enlarge it — and I’ve also just added it to the Olympics set on Flickr. Read the rest of this entry »
The Olympics Minus One Day: Photos from the Frontline in Stratford, a set on Flickr.
So the Games are nearly upon us! I won’t be here in London, as I’ll be at the WOMAD festival in Wiltshire; that’s World of Music, Arts and Dance, the wonderful world music festival celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, where my wife has been running children’s workshops since 2002, and a whole crowd of us has a wonderful escape from the normal routine for four days.
However, I couldn’t leave without paying one more visit to the Olympic Park in Stratford to see how everything was proceeding with preparations for the Games, with just one day to go before the Opening Ceremony on Friday July 27. I last paid a visit three weeks ago — the photos can be seen here — and I had wondered whether security would be hectic.
The bad news, of course, is the same as ever. In the run up to the Games, we have been subjected to jingoism, militarism, the corporate tax evasion of the Games’ sponsors, the brand police patrolling up and down the land, the International Olympic Committee’s inflexibility and arrogance, the dubious “cleansing” of the Lea Valley, and the inexcusable decision by two successive governments to write blank cheques for the Games without even a proper audit. Read the rest of this entry »
Since I began my project, ten weeks ago, to cycle the whole of London by bike, armed only with a camera, I have managed to become quite familiar with the whole of south east London, Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs, and the banks of the Thames — on the north from London Bridge to the Royal Docks, and on the south from Blackfriars Bridge to Thamesmead, as well as travelling to Stratford — in search of the Olympics — and back, and in this latest set, taken a few weeks ago on a bike ride into central London from south east London — to be followed imminently by a rainy set of photos from the City of London — I found some parts of south east London I had never found before — in Nunhead (in the London Borough of Lewisham) and Peckham, Walworth and Borough (in the London Borough of Southwark), and some that were familiar, which I came across in a largely unplanned manner.
The parts of London I have covered in the last ten weeks are, I concede, only a fraction of this vast metropolis, but the dozens of journeys I have undertaken have made me fit, and have stretched my eyes and my mind, which had become cooped up after six years of researching and writing about Guantánamo and the “war on terror,” and after the 21 months that I have spent railing against the cruelty and myopia of the Tory-led coalition government, which, through an obsession with destroying the state and privatising whatever was not already privatised by Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, has initiated a savage and deluded age of austerity. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
On Friday, when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, 168 men still held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba must have wondered if their long ordeal will ever come to an end. Now held for as long as the First and Second World Wars combined, these men — of whom only a handful are accused of any involvement with terrorism — have become scapegoats, the victims of a cowardly administration, a cynical Congress and fearful judges.
How else are we to explain the presence of 87 men whose release was approved by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, appointed by President Obama himself, when he took office in January 2009 and promised to close Guantánamo within a year? Consisting of around 60 representatives of the relevant government departments and the intelligence services, the Task Force concluded in its final report (PDF), issued in January 2010, that, of the 168 men still held, 33 should be tried and 46 should be held indefinitely without charge or trial, while the other 87 should be released.
Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we are rigorously and implacably opposed to President Obama’s claim that it is acceptable to hold 46 men indefinitely without charge or trial, because it is fundamentally unjust to claim, as the administration does, that these 46 men represent a danger to the United States, even though there is insufficient evidence to put them on trial. What this means is that the so-called evidence is fatally tainted, produced through the use of torture, or other forms of coercion, and is therefore fundamentally unreliable. Read the rest of this entry »
The Olympic Torch in Lewisham, a set on Flickr.
So the time is nearly upon us. The Olympic Games — corporate, militarised, jingoistic — begin on Friday, and, after a plague of disasters in recent weeks, everything appears to be running relatively smoothly on the last lap. This morning I popped down the hill with my family, to Ladywell Leisure Centre, on the main road between Lewisham and Catford, to watch the Olympic torch pass by, and to watch those watching.
Despite the early hour — the torch passed by just after 8am — there were hundreds of people present for the passage of the torch itself, and of the corporate sponsors’ vehicles — in this case, those of Coca-Cola and Lloyds TSB, although sadly no one asked me about my T-shirt, which features a Union Jack and the message, “Extradite Me, I’m British.” Available here (for just £9), the shirts were created to publicise the plight of Talha Ahsan, Babar Ahmad, Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer, who face extradition to the United States under the US-UK Extradiiton Treaty of 2003, a creation of Tony Blair’s government that allows British citizens to be spirited away to the US — and its out-of-control judicial system — without the US having to provide any evidence, even if the alleged crimes took place in the UK, and even if the alleged crimes are not crimes in the UK. See here, here, here and here for further information.
Nevertheless, despite the concerted effort to focus on the supposedly positive sporting message of the Games, the stink caused by the recent scandals still lingers. It can be noted with some sense of satisfaction that G4S, the inept security firm, has done permanent damage to the cynical corporate — and governmental — mantra that “private is best” by failing to employ enough security, despite being paid £284 million to do so. Read the rest of this entry »
Friday was the start of the holy month of Ramadan, and it seems to me that, for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, there is no better time to send a message of support to the remaining 168 prisoners in America’s reviled prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
This is a campaign initiated two years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and repeated every six months (see here, here, here and here), but it is depressing to note that just eleven prisoners have left Guantánamo alive in the last two years, and two others left in coffins.
The men still held at Guantánamo have been failed by President Obama, who promised to close the prison within a year of taking office in January 2009, and then resoundingly failed to do so. Compounding this failure, President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, comprising career officials, lawyers and experts from all the relevant government departments and from the intelligence agencies, who analyzed the prisoners’ cases throughout 2009, concluded that 87 of the remaining 168 prisoners should be released, although they are still held. Read the rest of this entry »
Regular readers will be aware that, for the last month, I have been posting photos to an account I set up on Flickr, and publicizing them here, adding a new outlet for my creativity, and my perceptions of the world, to the other methods — primarily the written word, but also TV and radio shows, personal appearances and film-making — which I have been using to chronicle the injustice of Guantánamo and the “war on terror” for the last six years, and the horrors of life in Britain under a Tory-led coalition government, which I have been chronicling for the last two years.
Taking photos is a great passion of mine, but one that I largely let slip from 2006, as I began researching and writing about Guantánamo on a full-time basis, until Christmas last year, when my wife gave me a digital camera. I then took photos of my Guantánamo-related visits to the US in January, and Kuwait in February, and began taking photos in London — and on various trips in the UK — on an occasional basis until, in May — on May 11, to be specific — when the sun started shining after roughly six weeks of almost unremitting rain, I decided to start making journeys by bike around London on a regular basis, taking photos of whatever interests me — buildings old and new, rivers, canals, parks and trees, and forgotten corners of this vast city, where the unusual, the unremarked and the abandoned exist beyond the illusions of endless wealth and perfect order conjured up by those in positions of power. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in March 2009, three foreign prisoners seized in other countries and rendered to the main US prison in Afghanistan, at Bagram airbase, where they had been held for up to seven years, secured a legal victory in the District Court in Washington D.C., when Judge John D. Bates ruled that they had habeas corpus rights; in other words, the right to challenge the basis of their imprisonment under the “Great Writ” that prevents arbitrary detention.
The men — amongst dozens of foreigners held in Afghanistan — secured their legal victory because Judge Bates recognized that their circumstances were essentially the same as the prisoners at Guantánamo, who had been granted habeas corpus rights by the Supreme Court in June 2008.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration appealed Judge Bates’ careful and logical ruling, and the judges of the D.C. Circuit Court agreed, overturning the ruling in May 2010, and returning the three men to their legal black hole.
In April 2011, the Associated Press reported that the three men — Redha al-Najar, a Tunisian seized in Karachi, Pakistan in May 2002; Amin al-Bakri, a Yemeni gemstone dealer seized in Bangkok, Thailand in late 2002; and Fadi al-Maqaleh, a Yemeni seized in 2004 and sent to Abu Ghraib before Bagram — had all been cleared for release by review boards at Bagram, or, as it is now known, the Parwan Detention Facility. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in May, when the sun started shining again after long weeks of relentless rain, I found myself unable to stay in my apartment chained to my computer, and took to the roads of London on my bike, with my camera, to take exercise and get fit, to explore this extraordinary city that has been my home for the last 27 years, and to capture London at this strange transitional period in its history — with great wealth still apparent on the one hand, and with deepening poverty on the other, as the Tory-led coalition government’s savage austerity cuts, aimed at the poor and not at the rich, for malevolent ideological reasons, begin to bite.
That first journey — an appetiser — was around Greenwich and Deptford, close to home, and I followed it up with a ride through Nunhead and Forest Hill to Dulwich Park and back. A few days later, on May 16, 2012, I decided to follow the river from Deptford to Tower Bridge and back, mostly along the route of the long-distance Thames Path — or rather, that’s how it turned out, but when I set off I had no firm idea of where I would go or what I would do. Read the rest of this entry »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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