I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 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, the hopes of those of us campaigning for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba were briefly raised when it was reported that the last two Mauritanian prisoners at Guantánamo had been released, along with another Mauritanian held in Afghanistan. It later turned out that only the latter was returned to his home country.
This is, of course, distressing news for the families of the two men still in Guantánamo — and especially for the family of one of the men, Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz, because he is one of 56 prisoners told in January 2010, after deliberations by an inter-agency task force established by President Obama, that the US no longer wanted to continue holding him, and would be arranging for his return to his home country.
That document told him he had been “cleared for transfer out of Guantánamo,” and informed him, “The US government intends to transfer you as soon as possible.”
While we wait for President Obama to fulfill the promise he made on May 23 to resume the release of prisoners from Guantánamo — a promise that he made in a major speech on national security at the National Defense University at Fort McNair — we would like to share with you some comments we have just received about Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz from his Denver legal team, John Holland, Anna Holland Edwards and Erica Grossman, which, we believe, provides a powerful insight into this cultured and intelligent man, who, like many of the prisoners at Guantánamo, has a son he has never seen, who was born after his capture in a house raid in Pakistan in June 2002.
We very much hope that, as the President and his administration resume the release of prisoners from Guantánamo, as promised, Ahmed will be returned home in the near future, to be reunited with his wife, and, finally, to be able to be a father to his son.
I vividly remember seeing Ahmed holding the letter notifying him of his clearance. He was so grateful. He was so hopeful. That clearance is approaching 4 years old now.
Ahmed has not been accused of committing any crime. He has never been accused of hurting anyone. As a young man he made his living in Kandahar by teaching Arabic and Islam to children. He has still never seen or spoken to his son, as his wife was pregnant at the time of his arrest and sale for a bounty. In fact, we brought the first pictures of his son to him.
More than anything on earth, Ahmed wants to be with his wife and his son. He wants to help her raise him during the remaining formative years of his life.
In our encounters, Ahmed has been a man of conscience and religious principle. As a younger intelligent person who was in Afghanistan to teach the Koran and Arabic, he had the curiosities of youth. But he was not connected to 9/11. He is not a violent man nor one who believes in blind obedience or fealty. He has been cleared for release by the Presidential Inter Agency Review Team.
Ahmed is an educated and cultured man. He speaks several languages fluently including French, English and Arabic. He is very engaging, likable and has a very sharp wit. He is also an inveterate reader with widespread interests ranging from literature, to physics, to all forms of religious thought, to developments in space, politics, inventions and nature.
I asked him how he persevered with all he has suffered while imprisoned. He said in response that he endures because he “resides in the immortality of my soul.”
In one of our earliest visits he remarkably told us there was an unrepresented young man, Mohammed Al Amin, who, whatever else we did, we must help. This young man was released in 2007 with the joint help and cooperation of both our and the Mauritanian government.
We were briefly thrilled this weekend at the prospect that our client who has been cleared for release for years had actually been released.
That unfortunately proved to not yet be the case. Ahmed unjustly remains held without charge despite having been cleared. As he has long observed about this continuing situation: “We are living in a grave here.”
The United States obviously can readily arrange to return detainees back to Mauritania and anywhere else if it wants to — as it has just shown by reportedly sending a military plane with a detainee from Bagram back to Mauritania. Ahmed has been held many years longer than the man just sent back to Mauritania for legal proceedings. We are sad that though cleared for release for years he was not the one who was transferred. He remains in Guantánamo, still never having met his son.
We remain hopeful that President Obama’s speech will translate into just transfer actions soon, and that Mr. Aziz will soon be reunited with his family, along with the many others who have also been cleared.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
On Facebook, Pauline Kiernan wrote:
Whatever will I take? Sharing Px
Moon Mohamed wrote:
Thank you my dear Andy Worthington, I just shared the this article with the guy who’s first spread that false news last week, thank you again, your a real man, one of few real ppl in this world
Thanks, Pauline and Moon. I’m so pleased that his lawyers wrote something about Ahmed for me to publish on “Close Guantanamo,” after the great disappointment at the weekend. I want to ask President Obama how he can justify still holding him. He’d tell me that Congress is blocking him, and I’d say, yes, but there is a waiver in the legislation that you can use. If not for Ahmed, then for whom? You are holding 56 men that your task force said should be released nearly three and half years ago, including 26 Yemenis – and 30 more Yemenis who the task force said should be freed when the security situation improved, which we believe it has. You need to make a stand, and we’ll keep reminding you of this, as will the men at Guantanamo who are still on a hunger strike, dying to be free. You cannot keep ducking it. You admitted as much. So who are you going to release? Why not Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz, who has never seen his son?
Shoubhik Bose wrote:
THANK U for the wonderful work you are doing.
I dream of the day when they all will be free.
Thank you, Shoubhik. Very good to hear from you.
Shoubhik Bose wrote:
Are there any latest updates? As in what’s going on ?
I hardly see any coverage in mainstream media !
I think the mainstream media is losing interest, Shoubhik, now that Obama gave his speech. The best regular source for updates on any news regarding Guantanamo is Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/guantanamo/
Thanks to everyone who has liked and shared this. If you haven’t already liked the “Close Guantanamo” page on Facebook, btw, you can, and it’s here: https://www.facebook.com/CloseGuantanamo
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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