EXCLUSIVE: Former Guantánamo Prisoner Shamil Khaziev Detained in Holland

17.6.13

In news that has reached me exclusively via John Walls, an attorney at law in the town of Prinsenbeek, in the Netherlands, it transpires that a former Guantánamo prisoner, Shamil Khaziev, a Russian citizen, is imprisoned in Amsterdam, as the Dutch authorities try to strip him of his right to remain in the Netherlands. This was granted under the Geneva Convention in 2007, after he successfully sought asylum following his persecution in Russia.

A Tatar from Bashkortostan, north of Kazakhstan, and a former police lieutenant, Khaziev was seized in Afghanistan in November 2001, and survived a notorious US-led massacre at Qala-i-Janghi, a fortress used as a prison, which was precipitated by an uprising amongst a number of the prisoners, who feared that their captors meant to kill them. He was released from Guantánamo, where he was mistakenly identified as Almasm Rabilavich Sharipov, in February 2004, but sought and was granted asylum in Holland in 2007 after being persecuted by the authorities in his home country.

After being repatriated from Guantánamo, he was imprisoned in Russia until June 2004, and then, as as Human Rights Watch explained:

[He] returned to Uchali, a small town in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, where his family lived. Human rights activist Alexandra Zernova, who met with Khazhiev on several occasions, said that he was repeatedly questioned by local FSB and UBOP officials after his return, and was briefly detained in Ufa, the Bashkortostan capital, in December 2004, on suspicion of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. He was released without charge. In September 2005, while riding on a train, he was questioned by UBOP officials from Samara. According to Zernova, Khazhiev has been unable to secure employment since his return from Guantánamo. He left Russia in March 2007.

In a report in February 2009, Human Rights Watch noted that he then “sought refuge in the Netherlands,” adding that the Dutch authorities “subsequently granted [him] political asylum based on the harassment and abuse he suffered at the hands of the Russian intelligence services upon his return to Russia from Guantánamo.”

Last week, however, John Walls wrote to me to tell me that Mr. Khazhiev is now in Schiphol Prison in Amsterdam, after his permit to stay in the Netherlands was annulled on the basis of secret information provided by AIVD, the Dutch secret service, which has alleged that he is engaged in fundamentalist activities and is a threat to national security. He told me that his client “has instructed me to go public.”

At present, it is not possible to ascertain whether there is any truth in the allegations, although it seems unlikely. As John Walls explained, “Originally in Russia he was harassed and falsely accused of being active for Hezb-e-Tahrir. I would not be surprised if the Dutch are ‘recycling’ this accusation, since the USA has him on the list of ex-GTMOers that are active ‘again’ based on this same information.”

That latter point is a reference to reports describing the alleged “recidivism” of released Guantánamo prisoners that have been emanating from the Department of Defense, and from the office of the Director of National Intelligence, throughout President Obama’s time in office. These monstrously unreliable reports refer to former prisoners who are both “confirmed’ and “suspected” of engaging in terrorism, and the report that included Mr. Khaziev, described as “Almasm Rabilavich Sharipov,” claimed that he was “suspected” of “Association with terrorist group Hezb-e-Tahrir.”

What is particularly important in reading these reports is to note how the very definitions of “confirmed” and “suspected” do not provide proof of the alleged wrong-doing. “Confirmed,” for example, only relates to a “preponderance of evidence — fingerprints, DNA, conclusive photographic match, or reliable verified, or well-corroborated intelligence reporting — [which] identifies a specific former Guantánamo detainee as directly engaged in terrorist activities,” and “suspected” is disturbingly vague. “Significant reporting,” the DoD explains, “indicates an individual is involved in terrorist activities and analysis of that reporting indicates the individual’s identity matches that of a specific former Guantánamo detainee” — or “unverified, or single-source, but plausible reporting indicates a specific former detainee is involved in terrorists activities.”

Sadly, however, far too many mainstream media outlets — and lawmakers and pundits dedicated to keeping Guantánamo open — have parroted the claims as true, with the most unreliable conflating the “confirmed” and “suspected” figures. In recent years, many mainstream media outlets have continued to parrot the official line even when no reports have been issued at all, just statements made in press conferences.

In relating the details of Shamil Khaziev’s current predicament, John Walls explained to me that, following the withdrawing of his client’s resident’s permit, an entry ban was declared and his social support was ended. As a result, he saw no other option but to leave Holland, and tried to reach friends in Turkey, but was stopped at Istanbul Airport. An entry ban was also given by Turkey, and he was put back on a plane back to Holland, where he was refused entry and is now a refugee in orbit.

Mr. Walls also explained that he is now fighting in the courts for his client, whose case is in three courts at the same time: an expulsion detention case in Haarlem, a case relating to the revocation of his permit in Den Bosch, and a case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

On June 12, he told me that the judge ruling on the expulsion detention case has “decided that Mr. Khazhiev may be held in prison while the Dutch reconsider their viewpoint that he cannot be expelled to Russia, so he is still in jail,” and at the time of writing he confirmed to me that, because “the Haarlem court judged the detention according to law, that case is now in appeal with the Administrative Division of the State Council (Raad van State).”

For further information, please contact John Walls.

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).

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13 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone who has picked up on this story. I will provide updates if I hear anything further. As I explain in the article, I can’t say for certain if there’s any truth in the Dutch allegations about Mr. Khaziev, but I very much doubt it. He appears to be one of the many men formerly held in Guantanamo whose lives have been ruined by dubious recidivism claims in reports issued by the Pentagon and the DNI (Director of National Intelligence).

  2. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy, this is a disturbing story.

    I totally agree that the DIA has been extremely reckless with the allegations about recidivism.

    I am not a religious person myself, but I support religious people’s rights to engage in religious practices that do not put other people at risk. I think we should be tolerant of religious expressions that are noisy, or are different than what we are used to, so long as they do not put other people at risk.

    I remember, when I read the allegations against the captives, in their CSR Tribunal documents, and other OARDEC documents, how more than a few captives faced allegations that they led prayer sessions at Guantanamo. The Geneva Conventions guarantee the free expression of religion. This guarantee is not just for POWs, as described in the 3rd Geneva Convention. The fourth Geneva Convention guaranteed religious expression to all “protected persons” — ie anyone found in a war-zone. Religious expression is guaranteed even to KSM.

    So it was disturbing to see captives accused of leading prayer sessions — as if that indicated terrorist sympathies — instead of merely being a protected human right.

    Mr Walls told you:

    … after his permit to stay in the Netherlands was annulled on the basis of secret information provided by AIVD, the Dutch secret service, which has alleged that he is engaged in fundamentalist activities and is a threat to national security.

    If American security officials are anything to go by Dutch security officials may have conflated ordinary religious expression with threats to National Security.

    Mustafa Idr earned a black belt, decades ago, and, while in Bosnia, taught Bosnian orphans Karate. Orphans need positive male role models. A former Karate champion, teaching Karate, and the positive values of dignity, restraint, respect, and hard work, that students of Karate learn when they learn Karate? That sounds like a very positive thing to me. But, it was recorded in the Summary of Evidence, as if it were further proof he was an “enemy combatant”

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver, for the stories from Guantanamo that show how exaggeration and distortion was routine in the allegations against the men. As you know, of course, these were just the tip of a huge iceberg of exaggeration and innuendo designed to paint the men as suspicious when there was no reason to do so. There were horrible allegations against organizations like Al-Wafa and others, even though they were not on any other US list of proscribed organizations, and, of course, the attempt to portray Jamaat-al-Tablighi as a terrorist support organization was insulting and absurd, when it has millions of members worldwide.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui JS wrote:

    The “recidivism” claims are so bad, it’s almost starting to sound like a conspiracy to keep Gitmo open. I’d love to know how Mehdi Ghezali was named as the Bulgarian bomber when he was apparently in Sweden at the time. The source that got duplicated like a virus was the Times of Israel/AP.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    I know, they’re a complete disgrace, Mui, and the mainstream media’s behavior was particularly reprehensible when they uncritically reported allegations about 1 in 7, 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 released prisoners “returning to the battlefield” without either (a) being given any documentation whatsoever, or (b) being given documentation, but refusing to question whether the military’s definitions of “confirmed” and “suspected” recidivists were worth the paper they were printed on. The journalists involved in publicizing this unsubstantiated black propaganda – and their editors, of course – were either lazy, corrupt or amoral headline-chasers, but none of the options reflect well on the profession.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui JS wrote:

    I consider you an exception (to that part of the profession), Andy.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Mui. I do my best. I believe I have only been misled – through honest mistakes by individuals – on a few occasions. In general, I try to do what journalists should be doing – questioning the official narrative. When I was growing up in the 70s and early 80s, the profession was full of proper journalists – idealists, possibly cynical, but relentlessly committed to exposing wrongdoing by those in power, and their lies and spin, and shining a spotlight on those places where people were oppressed, either domestically or internationally. All of the above is now either endangered or extinct. The journalists focusing on the marginalization and demonization of the poor in our privileged western countries, and on our governments’ countless crimes globally, are outnumbered by the cheerleaders for the so-called rights of the rich and the super-rich to do whatever they want. We are being encouraged to be cheerleaders for feudalism, as well as fostering Nazi-style hatred for whatever minorities can be portrayed as “the enemy within” – Muslims, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled.

  8. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, you have probably seen that Carol Rosenberg published the list from January 22, 2010, where the Guantanamo Joint Task Force had prepared.
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/17/3456267/foia-suit-reveals-guantanamos.html

    There are two transcriptions out there, that have the advantage that they are sortable — at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Guantanamo_Review_Dispositions_–_Final_Dispositions_as_of_January_22,_2010
    and another at wikialpha, which will have the departure dates added, for those captives who have been transferred since the list was started. http://en.wikialpha.org/wiki/Guantanamo_Review_Dispositions_–_Final_Dispositions_as_of_January_22,_2010

    I noticed that the list recommended transferring 8 men to the USA. That may raise some eyebrows.

    The list makes clear something usually not mentioned — for practically all the men cleared for release, even the clearly innocent ones, the DoD inserted recommendations about the host nations instituting surveillance measures.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I’m researching it right now, arcticredriver. I too had noted those recommendations for transfer to continuing custody in the US – actually 13 in total. Plus I also took note of the recommendation for some of the Uighurs to be freed in the US, including the three still held!
    Detailed analysis coming soon! Thanks for your links.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui JS wrote, in response to 7, above:

    I kind of remember those old days and miss them. A lot of people say the Reagan era was the turning point.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, or the Thatcher era here, Mui. And it’s absolutely true. Thatcher destroyed all that was interesting, and replaced it with greed. Sadly, another turning point then came after Tony Blair took office in 1997, and initiated a new era of greed, self-obsession, materialism and social conservatism. I think the turning point may have been the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, so we can count Bill Clinton in on it too. And in London, horrifyingly, we’re still living in a completely unacceptable, artificial inflated property bubble, in which Britain’s establishment is literally pimping for super-rich foreign investors, while the poor are driven into destitution.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Nicole Briggs-Elgammal wrote:

    Really? Great. Now everyone will be saying dont close Guantanamo because when people get released they are still a threat. How wonderful

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s part of a black propaganda machine that’s always aiming to do just that, Nicole. It’s why I don’t trust what’s being said about Mr. Khaziev, although we’ll obviously need to wait and see if any further information emerges about him. The main thing is for responsible people to be aware that the recidivism claims made by various branches of the US government are shockingly overstated, as I hope to have demonstrated in the article, and in my archive of articles about the recidivism claims: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/category/guantanamo-and-recidivism/

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