Every six months, I put out a call for people to write to the prisoners in Guantánamo, to let them know that they have not been forgotten, and to let the US authorities know that people are watching what they do at Guantánamo.
The letter-writing campaign was started three years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and it has been repeated every six months (see here, here, here, here and here).
In previous calls for people to write letters, I specifically referred to the men still held as the “forgotten prisoners,” but I have not chosen to do so this time, because, last year, people began to wake up, in significant numbers, to the fact that Guantánamo is still open and to remember the men who had indeed been largely forgotten, at least since 2010, when the one-year deadline for President Obama’s promise to close the prison expired with a whimper.
Last year over a million people signed two petitions calling for the closure of Guantánamo (see here and here), and it was because of the prisoners themselves that their plight was brought back into the international spotlight. The prisoners did this through a prison-wide hunger strike, which reminded the world’s media that Guantánamo is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, a place where the men still held — 155 in total — are, for the most part, indefinitely detained without charge or trial, even though nearly half of them — 76 men — were cleared for release four years ago by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force.
Consisting of around 60 members of the major government departments and the intelligence agencies, the task force was established by President Obama when he took office in 2009, and it spent a year reviewing the men’s cases before reaching their decisions about who to release, who to prosecute, and, disturbingly, who to hold indefinitely without charge or trial on the basis that they are “too dangerous to release,” even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. In the real world, what this means is that the supposed evidence is no such thing, and is, instead, a collection of extremely unreliable statements made by the prisoners themselves, and, more particularly, their fellow prisoners, as well as other intelligence reports of a dubious nature.
The Guantánamo Review Task Force’s report was published in January 2010, but it was not until June 2013 that a document explaining which prisoners had been placed into which categories was released through FOIA legislation. I analyzed that document here, and noted which prisoners had been placed in which categories in the prisoner list on the CloseGuantánamo.org website.
To further clarify which prisoners are in which category, the list of prisoners you can write to, posted below, is divided into those cleared for release (76), those recommended for indefinite detention (46), and those recommended for prosecution (32). Please note that I have kept the spelling used by the US authorities in the “Final Dispositions” of the Guantánamo Review Task Force.
As with the last time I issued a request for people to write to the prisoners (in July last year), I dedicate this campaign to Adnan Latif, a Yemeni. Latif was one of the Yemenis cleared for release, who make up the majority of the prisoners cleared for release but still held (currently, 55 of the 76 cleared prisoners). Like the others, Latif was not freed because of bans on releasing cleared Yemenis that were imposed by both President Obama and Congress, but unlike his compatriots he died at Guantánamo, reportedly by committing suicide, in September 2012.
In a major speech on national security issues in May last year, President Obama dropped his ban on releasing any cleared Yemeni prisoners, which he imposed after a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was recruited in Yemen, had tried and failed to blow up a plane bound for the US on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb in his underwear.
Dropping the Yemeni ban was part of a raft of promises about Guantánamo that were made by President Obama in that speech, along with a promise to resume releasing prisoners, after the release of prisoners slowed to a trickle in the previous three years because of opposition by Congress that the president was unwilling to spend political capital overcoming. The president also promised to appoint two envoys, in the Pentagon and the State Department, to deal with the release of prisoners and to work towards the closure of the prison, and, with support from important figures like Sen. Carl Levin, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Congress was also persuaded to ease its restrictions on the release of prisoners.
As a result of all of the above, eleven prisoners were released between August and December.
Noticeably, however, despite President Obama dropping his ban on releasing Yemenis, and securing a measure of cooperation from Congress, no Yemenis have yet been freed, and this is a failure that the president needs to address as soon as possible.
Writing to the prisoners
If you are an Arabic speaker, or speak any other languages spoken by the prisoners besides English, feel free to write in those languages. Do please note that any messages that can be construed as political should be avoided, as they may lead to the letters not making it past the Pentagon’s censors, but be aware that your messages may not get through anyway — although please don’t let that put you off (see the note at the bottom of this article to explain why letters might be returned without explanation).
When writing to the prisoners please ensure you include their full name and ISN (internment serial number) below (these are the numbers before their names, i.e. Shaker Aamer is ISN 239)
Please address all letters to:
U.S. Naval Station
Washington, D.C. 20355
United States of America
Please also include a return address on the envelope.
The general phrase used by the task force to describe the recommendations for 56 of these men was “Transfer to a country outside the United States that will implement appropriate security measures.” Their identities were first revealed in September 2012. See below for the 30 others.
The 21 non-Yemeni prisoners cleared for release
ISN 038 Ridah Bin Saleh al Yazidi (Tunisia)
ISN 168 Adel Al Hakeemy (Tunisia)
ISN 174 Hasham Bin Ali Omar Sliti (Tunisia)
ISN 189 Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby (Libya)
ISN 197 Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri (Morocco)
ISN 239 Shaker Aamer (UK-Saudi Arabia)
ISN 257 Imar Hamzayavich Abdulayev (Tajikistan)
ISN 290 Ahmed Bin Saleh Bel Bacha (Algeria)
ISN 309 Mjuayn Al-Din Jamal Al-Din Abd Al Fadhil Abd Al-Sattar (UAE)
ISN 326 Ahmed Adnan Ahjam (Syria)
ISN 327 Ali Hussein Muhammed Shaban (Syria)
ISN 329 Abd Al Hadi Omar Mahmoud Faraj (Syria)
ISN 502 Abdul Bin Mohammed Abis Ourgy (Tunisia)
ISN 684 Mohammed Tahanmatan (Palestine)
ISN 722 Jihad Deyab (Syria)
ISN 757 Ahmed Abdel Aziz (Mauritania)
ISN 894 Abdullah Bin Ali Al Lufti (Tunisia)
ISN 899 Shawali Khan (Afghanistan)
ISN 928 Khi Ali Gul (Afghanistan)
ISN 934 Abdul Ghani (Afghanistan)
ISN 1103 Mohammed Zahir (Afghanistan)
The 25 Yemeni prisoners cleared for release
ISN 034 Al Khadr Abdallah Muhammad Al Yafi (Yemen)
ISN 035 Idris Ahmad Abd Al Qadir Idris (Yemen)
ISN 152 Asim Thahit Abdullah Al–Khalaqi (Yemen)
ISN 153 Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman (Yemen)
ISN 163 Khalid Abd Al Jabbar Muhammad Uthman Al Qadasi (Yemen)
ISN 170 Sharaf Ahmad Muhammad Mas’ud (Yemen)
ISN 224 Abd Al-Rahman Abdullah Ali Shabati (Yemen)
ISN 249 Muhammed Abdullah Al Hamiri (Yemen)
ISN 254 Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna (Yemen)
ISN 255 Said Muhammad Salih Hatim (Yemen)
ISN 259 Fadhel Hussein Saleh Hentif (Yemen)
ISN 511 Sulaiman Awath Silaiman Bin Agell Al Nahdi (Yemen)
ISN 553 Abdul Khaled Al-Baydani (Yemen)
ISN 554 Fahmi Salem Said Al-Asani (Yemen)
ISN 564 Jalal Salam Awad Awad (Yemen)
ISN 566 Mansour Mohamed Mutaya Ali (Yemen)
ISN 570 Sabri Muhammad Ibrahim al-Qurashi (Yemen)
ISN 572 Salah Mohammad Salih al-Dhabi (Yemen)
ISN 575 Saa’d Nasser Moqbil al-Azani (Yemen)
ISN 680 Emad Abdallah Hassan (Yemen)
ISN 686 Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim (Yemen)
ISN 689 Mohammed Ahmed Salam (Yemen)
ISN 690 Abdul Al Qader Ahmed Hassain (Yemen)
ISN 691 Muhammad Ali Salem Al Zarnuki (Yemen)
ISN 1015 Husayn Salim Muhammad Matari Yafai (Yemen)
The 30 Yemeni prisoners cleared for release but designated for “conditional detention”
These men were cleared for release by the task force, although the task force members conjured up a new category for them, “conditional detention,” which they described as being “based on the current security environment in that country.” The task force added, “They are not approved for repatriation to Yemen at this time, but may be transferred to third countries, or repatriated to Yemen in the future if the current moratorium on transfers to Yemen is lifted and other security conditions are met.”
ISN 026 Fahed Abdullah Ahmad Ghazi (Yemen)
ISN 030 Ahmed Umar Abdullah al-Hikimi (Yemen)
ISN 033 Mohammed Al-Adahi (Yemen)
ISN 040 Abdel Qadir Al-Mudafari (Yemen)
ISN 043 Samir Naji Al Hasan Moqbil (Yemen)
ISN 088 Adham Mohamed Ali Awad (Yemen)
ISN 091 Abdel Al Saleh (Yemen)
ISN 115 Abdul Rahman Mohammed Saleh (Yemen)
ISN 117 Mukhtar Anaje (Yemen)
ISN 165 Adil Said Haj Ubayd (Yemen)
ISN 167 Ali Yahya Mahdi (Yemen)
ISN 171 Abu Bakr ibn Ali Muhammad al Ahdal (Yemen)
ISN 178 Tariq Ali Abdullah Ba Odah (Yemen)
ISN 202 Mahmoud Omar Muhammad Bin Atef (Yemen)
ISN 223 Abd al-Rahman Sulayman (Yemen)
ISN 233 Abd al-Razaq Muhammed Salih (Yemen)
ISN 240 Abdallah Yahya Yusif Al Shibli (Yemen)
ISN 251 Muhammad Said Salim Bin Salman (Yemen)
ISN 321 Ahmed Yaslam Said Kuman (Yemen)
ISN 440 Muhammad Ali Abdallah Muhammad Bwazir (Yemen)
ISN 461 Abd al Rahman al-Qyati (Yemen)
ISN 498 Mohammed Ahmen Said Haider (Yemen)
ISN 506 Mohammed Khalid Salih al-Dhuby (Yemen)
ISN 509 Mohammed Nasir Yahi Khussrof (Yemen)
ISN 549 Umar Said Salim Al-Dini (Yemen)
ISN 550 Walid Said bin Said Zaid (Yemen)
ISN 578 Abdul al-Aziz Abduh Abdullah Ali Al Suwaydi (Yemen)
ISN 688 Fahmi Abdullah Ahmed al-Tawlaqi (Yemen)
ISN 728 Abdul Muhammad Nassir al-Muhajari (Yemen)
ISN 893 Tawfiq Nasir Awad Al-Bihani (Yemen)
Of the 46 prisoners recommended for continued detention, the 33 men below were recommended for “Continued detention pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (2001), as informed by principles of the laws of war.” All were promised reviews of their cases (by the Periodic Review Board) when their detention without charge or trial was authorized by President Obama in an executive order in March 2011, but those reviews only began in November 2013.
The 33 prisoners recommended for continued detention (without possible transfer to imprisonment in the US)
ISN 004 Abdul Haq Wasiq (Afghanistan)
ISN 006 Mullah Norullah Noori (Afghanistan)
ISN 007 Mullah Mohammed Fazl (Afghanistan)
ISN 028 Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi (Yemen)
ISN 031 Mahmud Abd Al Aziz Al Mujahid (Yemen)
ISN 037 Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al Rahabi (Yemen)
ISN 041 Majid Mahmud Abdu Ahmed (Yemen)
ISN 042 Abd al Rahman Shalbi Isa Uwaydah (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 044 Muhammed Rajab Sadiq Abu Ghanim (Yemen)
ISN 128 Ghaleb Nassar al Bihani (Yemen)
ISN 131 Salem Ahmad Hadi Bin Kanad (Yemen)
ISN 195 Mohammed Abd al Rahman al Shumrant (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 232 Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad al Odah (Kuwait)
ISN 242 Khalid Ahmed Qasim (Yemen)
ISN 244 Abdul Latif Nasir (Morocco)
ISN 324 Mashur Abdullah Muqbil Ahmed al-Sabri (Yemen)
ISN 434 Mustafa Abd al-Qawi Abd al-Aziz al-Shamiri (Yemen)
ISN 441 Abdul Rahman Ahmed (Yemen)
ISN 508 Salman Yahya Hassan Mohammad Rabei’i (Yemen)
ISN 552 Faez Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari (Kuwait)
ISN 579 Khairullah Said Wali Khairkhwa (Afghanistan)
ISN 695 Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar (Libya)
ISN 708 Ismael Ali Faraj Ali Bakush (Libya)
ISN 713 Mohammed al Zahrani (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 832 Mohammad Nabi Omari (Afghanistan)
ISN 836 Ayub Murshid Ali Salih (Yemen)
ISN 837 Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah (Yemen)
ISN 838 Shawqi Awad Balzuhair (Yemen)
ISN 839 Musab Omar Ali al-Mudwani (Yemen)
ISN 840 Hail Aziz Ahmed al-Maythali (Yemen)
ISN 841 Said Salih Said Nashir (Yemen)
ISN 1045 Mohammed Kamin (Afghanistan)
ISN 10025 Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu (Kenya)
The 13 men below were recommended for “Continued detention pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (2001), as informed by principles of the laws of war, subject to further review by the Principals prior to the detainee’s transfer to a detention facility in the United States.” This is a reference to the Obama administration’s plans to bring prisoners to a facility on the US mainland, so that Guantánamo could be closed. These plans were blocked by Congress, but it is unclear why the task force only designated these 13 men for possible transfer to the US because, if the 33 others were to continue being held at Guantánamo, it would have been impossible to close the prison.
The 13 prisoners recommended for continued detention (with possible transfer to imprisonment in the US)
ISN 027 Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman (Yemen)
ISN 029 Mohammed al-Ansi (Yemen)
ISN 045 Ali Ahmad al-Rahizi (Yemen)
ISN 235 Saeed Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah Sarem Jarabh (Yemen)
ISN 522 Yassim Qasim Mohammed Ismail Qasim (Yemen)
ISN 560 Haji Wali Muhammed (Afghanistan)
ISN 576 Zahar Omar Hamis bin Hamdoun (Yemen)
ISN 975 Karim Bostan (Afghanistan)
ISN 1017 Omar Mohammed Ali al-Rammah (Yemen)
ISN 1119 Ahmid al Razak (Afghanistan)
ISN 1463 Abd al-Salam al-Hilah (Yemen)
ISN 10023 Guleed Hassan Ahmed (Somalia)
ISN 10029 Muhammad Rahim (Afghanistan)
The task force recommended 36 prisoners for prosecution. Two accepted plea deals in their military commissions at Guantánamo, and one other was transferred to the US for a federal court trial (before Congress banned the transfer of prisoners to the US mainland for any reason, even trials), at which he received a life sentence. Of the 32, only 12 at most are ever likely to be tried, according to a statement made in June 2013 by Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor of the military commissions. Eight have already been charged (see below), which means that, of the 23 listed below, only four at most will ever be charged. The other 19, therefore, also need to have access to the Periodic Review Boards promised since March 2011 for the 46 men designated for indefinite detention, which finally began in November 2013.
The 23 prisoners recommended for prosecution but not charged
ISN 063 Mohamed Mani Ahmad al Kahtani (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 535 Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed Al Sawah (Egypt)
ISN 569 Suhayl Abdul Anam al Sharabi (Yemen)
ISN 682 Abdullah Al Sharbi (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 685 Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush (Algeria) aka Abdelrazak Ali
ISN 694 Sufyian Barhoumi (Algeria)
ISN 696 Jabran Al Qahtani (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 702 Ravil Mingazov (Russia)
ISN 753 Abdul Sahir (Afghanistan)
ISN 760 Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Mauritania)
ISN 762 Obaidullah (Afghanistan)
ISN 1094 Saifullah Paracha (Pakistan)
ISN 1453 Sanad Al Kazimi (Yemen)
ISN 1456 Hassan Bin Attash (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 1457 Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj (Yemen)
ISN 1460 Abdul Rabbani (Pakistan)
ISN 1461 Mohammed Rabbani (Pakistan)
ISN 10016 Zayn al-Ibidin Muhammed Husayn aka Abu Zubaydah (Gaza)
ISN 10017 Mustafa Faraj Muhammed Masud al-Jadid al-Usaybi (Libya)
ISN 10019 Encep Nurjaman (Hambali) (Indonesia)
ISN 10021 Mohd Farik bin Amin (Malaysia)
ISN 10022 Bashir bin Lap (Malaysia)
ISN 3148 Haroon al-Afghani (Afghanistan)
The eight prisoners already charged
ISN 768 Ahmed Al-Darbi (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 10011 Mustafa Ahmad al Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 10013 Ramzi Bin Al Shibh (Yemen)
ISN 10014 Walid Mohammed Bin Attash (Yemen)
ISN 10015 Mohammed al Nashiri (Saudi Arabia)
ISN 10018 Ali abd al Aziz Ali (Pakistan)
ISN 10024 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Kuwait)
ISN 10026 Nashwan abd al-Razzaq abd al-Baqi (Hadi) (Iraq)
The prisoner already convicted via plea deal
ISN 10020 Majid Khan (Pakistan)
Ali Hamza al-Bahlul was not included in the task force’s deliberations, as he had been tried and convicted in a one-sided trial by military commission in October 2008, at which he refused to mount a defense. His conviction was dismissed by an appeals court in January 2013, although the government has appealed.
ISN 039 Ali Hamza al-Bahlul (Yemen)
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, and “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.
Sorry to be posting so late – 2.15 am Eastern Time. It’s been a long day for me in New York – lunch and the afternoon with a prominent supporter of my work and other friends and colleagues, and an evening event involving a film screening (of Doctors of the Dark Side) followed by a Q&A, as well as an interview with RT. A great turnout at the venue, All Souls Church on Lexington Avenue. Now to grab a few hours’ sleep before a horribly early start – a bus from Chinatown to Washington D.C. for an evening event and the 12th anniversary protest at the White House the day after (Saturday). Full itinerary here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2013/12/29/close-guantanamo-now-andy-worthingtons-us-tour-on-the-12th-anniversary-of-the-prisons-opening-january-2014/
On Facebook, Faria Salman wrote:
No Trial – No Justice – No Freedom – No Peace
Thanks for the comments, Faria. Very well put.
Kai Sanburn wrote:
Andy, good luck on your tour and thank you for the encouragement to write letters to the men held so long. It’s a small but powerful act.
Thanks, Kai, for the supportive words. Great to hear from you.
Wrong to hold innocent people. Wrong ! This to cause fear in the populations of the earth. Our rulers are now betraying what little freedom we had left. The masses are afraid of the powerful because they are haters of truth and justice. America is being destroyed from within by greedy monster men! Patriotism within govt. is being strangled! Wake up and release the innocents! Put the dirty bankers and their dirty politicians in gitmo! Be an American! .
Thanks, Chris. Very good to hear from you.
Not More Abuse of U.S Army in Guantanamo.
Not More Human Rights Violations in Guantanamo.
Yankees Out of Guantanamo and Cuba.
Guantanamo is for Cuba, Not for United States.
U.S Army Out of Guantanamo.
Not More Yankees Military in Cuba.
Not More Prison of Guantanamo Bay
Alexis Maestre-Saborit(Political and Social Activist in United States.)
Thanks, Alexis. Good to hear from you.
Thank you for your wonderful work. I am inspired to hold a letter-writing party. I want to know if it is OK to send a greeting card with a pretty picture or photo on the front. Will that reduce chances of the letter being received? Would it be offensive to prisoners because it is a “graven image”?
Thank you, Laurie. That’s wonderful to hear. I don’t think that, in general, there would a problem with choosing pretty pictures – either from the prisoners’ point of view, or the authorities’, and it seems to me that many of the prisoners would appreciate images that are not of the monotonous reality of their lives locked up in a prison that, although it is in Cuba, offers no views to allow their spirits to breathe, as all the views from the prison are blocked by the authorities.
Are there any prisoners you know who can understand English ?
Good to hear from you, Cone. I would say that, by now, all the prisoners have some understanding of English – not, generally speaking, through any kind of benevolence on the part of their captors, but because they’ve learned it through having to deal with the guards. In many cases, too, those who speak English well have helped their fellow prisoners, and it may be that in recent years well-behaved prisoners have been allowed to have English lessons.
Thanks Andy for the time you took to reply
You’re welcome. I’m always happy to help people who are thinking about the prisoners.
Hi Andy, is there any proof that any of the letters sent, HAVE been received by the prisoners? Would love to send, but would like to know that there is at least a small chance that they’d actually reach their hands.
There’s no proof, but what happens when the letters don’t get through is that sometimes they’re returned to the sender. I honestly think it’s fair to say that letters do get through in general – and it’s important for the prisoners to know that they’ve not bee forgotten.
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