Archive for February, 2014

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Arrest of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Moazzam Begg with Andrea Sears

Yesterday evening, in my article, “The Suspicious Arrest of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Moazzam Begg,” I mentioned how I had just been interviewed by the journalist Andrea Sears in New York. I spoke to Andrea about the arrest of Moazzam Begg, discussing and expanding upon my interpretation of the story as later published in my article.

The show, 11 minutes in length, is here (or via the Left Voices website here), and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful. As I explained, “it’s implausible to me that a man so well known and obviously under scrutiny … is going to become mixed up in anything that could be construed legitimately as terrorism, because that would make him such an obvious target of the British government.”

I also spoke about how profoundly alarming it is that Theresa May, the British home secretary, has taken upon herself the power to strip British citizens of their citizenship — and in some cases then letting the US know where these people are so that they can be killed in drone strikes — if she suspects that they are somehow involved in terrorism, even though this involves no due process or objective scrutiny, and even though, as I also pointed out, both the British and American governments have an extremely poor record when it comes to identifying people who are genuinely involved in terrorism, as opposed to, say, humanitarian aid or missionary work, as is evident from the cases of numerous men held at Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

The Suspicious Arrest of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Moazzam Begg

A recent photo of former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg.I received the news yesterday that former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg had been arrested when I was sent an email from Juliet Spare, a journalist working for the Voice of Russia, asking me for a short interview by phone. Once alerted to it, I checked out the coverage (mainly, at that point, the BBC), and spoke to her for a show that was broadcast yesterday, but is not available online, explaining how, to me, it made no sense that, with three other people, he had been “detained on suspicion of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas,” as the BBC put it, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, while Moazzam was held by the US, from January 2002 to January 2005, there was never any credible evidence that he was involved with terrorism in any way, and this is an analysis that I endorse from my reading of his autobiography, Enemy Combatant, and from my own knowledge of Moazzam, based on meeting him on several occasions over the years at events involving Guantánamo.

Secondly, Moazzam must be one of the most scrutinised Muslims in the UK, so — even without the proviso that he has no track record of being a terrorist sympathiser —  it seems ridiculous to me that he would get involved with anything that could be construed as terrorism, as it would obviously cause him trouble back in the UK. Moazzam has, on a few occasions since his passport was first returned to him after Guantánamo, spoken to me about his annoyance at being permanently harassed when he left or returned to the UK, but, while this was clearly irritating — and a form of harassment — it also meant that he was aware that he was permanently under scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS from the “Hospital Closure Clause” in the Care Bill; Write to Your MP and Attend a Parliamentary Meeting on Feb. 27

POSTSCRIPT Feb. 26: I have just found out that Clause 118 of the Care Bill, discussed in this article, which is intended to allow the government to close any hospital they wish without detailed consultation, has had its numbering changed, and is now Clause 119. Read it here, and please sign the 38 Degrees petition initiated by Louise Irvine, the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. Please also sign and share the new 38 Degrees petition, “Cameron and Clegg: Protect Our Hospitals,” which has secured nearly 150,000 signatures in just two days.

Please, if you care about the future of the NHS, and if you’re British, write to your MP now and ask them to vote against Clause 118 in the Care Bill, which will be voted on early next month, and, if you’re in London, please consider attending a protest outside Parliament this Thursday, February 27 (details below).

Readers will hopefully be aware that, in October 2012, residents of the London Borough of Lewisham launched a major campaign to save Lewisham Hospital from being severely downgraded to pay for the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust, the South London Healthcare Trust (in the neighbouring boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley) under legislation known as the Unsustainable Provider Regime.

25,000 of Lewisham’s 270,000 residents took to the streets a little over a year ago, and although heath secretary Jeremy Hunt approved the proposals put forward by Matthew Kershaw, the NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the financial problems of the SLHT, the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign and Lewisham Council launched two judicial reviews, which, in July, met with success, when a judge ruled that Jeremy Hunt had acted unlawfully in approving the plans. Hunt appealed, but lost again in October. Read the rest of this entry »

In Oxford, WikiLeaks Whistleblower Chelsea Manning Given Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, Edward Snowden Speaks

Ray McGovern introduces the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordCraig Murray speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordCraig Murray presents the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Aaron Kirkhouse on behalf of Chelsea Manning in OxfordAaron Kirkhouse speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordAnnie Machon speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordTodd Pierce speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in Oxford
Ann Wright speaks at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in OxfordEdward Snowden speaks on video at the presentation to Chelsea Manning of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence in Oxford

Chelsea Manning Given Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, Oxford, Feb. 19, 2014, a set on Flickr.

Last Wednesday (February 19), I was delighted to travel from London to Oxford to attend the presentation of the Sam Adams Associates Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Chelsea Manning — or rather, to Chelsea’s old school friend Aaron Kirkhouse, who received the award on Manning’s behalf. Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was, of course, given a 35-year sentence in August for the largest ever leak of classified documents, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians and two Reuters reporters in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo files, released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.

I had been invited by Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and prominent peace activist, who I met for the first time in Berkeley, California in October 2010, as part of Berkeley Says No to Torture Week, and by Todd Pierce, a recently retired military defense attorney, who worked on a number of Guantánamo cases involving men facing military commissions trials, and who has been a friend for many years. Also speaking at the event for Chelsea Manning were Ann Wright, former US Army colonel and former State Department official, who was one of only three US officials to resign over the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and who I had also met in Berkeley in 2010, and two people I had not met before — the former British ambassador Craig Murray, and MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon.

It was a powerful event, presided over by Ray, who made us all feel at home in the Oxford Union, and introduced the various speakers prior to the presentation of the award to Aaron Kirkhouse on Chelsea’s behalf. Read the rest of this entry »

Ask Your MP to Vote Against the Tories’ Brutal Treatment of the Disabled, as ATOS Resign from Conducting Disability Assessments

It’s been some time since I wrote about this wretched government’s vile assault on the disabled, through the rigged assessments (the Work Capability Assessments) administered by the multinational company Atos Healthcare, and designed to find as many mentally and physically disabled people as possible “fit for work” so their support can be cut. See some of my previous articles — Doctors Urge Government to Scrap Callous Disability TestsWhere is the Shame and Anger as the UK Government’s Unbridled Assault on the Disabled Continues?Photos of the Paralympics Demonstration Against Atos Healthcare in LondonCall Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the DisabledThe Tories’ Cruelty Is Laid Bare as Multiple Welfare Cuts Bite and Photos: The 10,000 Cuts and Counting Protest in Parliament Square, September 28, 2013.

Nevertheless, not a day has gone by without me thinking about the horrors of life under the Tories — and their assault not just on the disabled but also on the unemployed and the underpaid — and being close to despair at how my fellow citizens, in significant numbers, have embraced the filthy lies spewing from the lying lips of ministers and the merchants of hatred and division in the tabloid newspapers.

In response to this assault, campaigners launched an e-petition in December 2012,  which became known as the WOW petition (war on welfare), and which called for a cumulative impact assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick and disabled people, their families and carers, and an immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association in June 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

A Love Letter from Guantánamo

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner, where it was published as “Younus Chekhouri’s Love Letter to His Wife from Guantánamo.” 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.

Younus Chekhouri (also identified as Younous Chekkouri), who will be 46 in May, is one of the last two Moroccan prisoners in Guantánamo, and his story has fascinated me ever since I began researching the prisoners’ stories for my book The Guantánamo Files back in 2006.

In Guantánamo, Younus has always maintained that, in the mid-1990s, he traveled to Pakistan with his Algerian wife Abla, in search of work and education, and then spent time in Yemen and Syria. In 2001, the couple moved to Afghanistan, where they lived on the outskirts of Kabul, working for a charity that ran a guest house and helped young Moroccan immigrants. After the 9/11 attacks and the US-led invasion, Younus sent Abla to safety in Pakistan, but was himself captured and sold to US forces.

In contrast to Younus’s own account, the US authorities accused him of running a military training camp near Kabul, even though he has repeatedly explained that he was profoundly disillusioned by the fighting amongst Muslims that has plagued Afghanistan’s recent history. The US authorities also described him as a “close associate” of Osama bin Laden, but he has repeatedly expressed his implacable opposition to the havoc wreaked on the country by bin Laden, describing him as “a crazy person,” and adding that “what he does is bad for Islam.” Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of the Shaker Aamer Protest in London on February 14, and His Latest Words from Guantánamo

A protest organized by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign outside MI6 headquarters on February 14, 2014, the 12th anniversary of the arrival at Guantanmao of Shaker Aamer, the ast British resident in the prison (Photo: Andy Worthington).On February 14, 2014, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign held a protest outside MI6 headquarters on Albert Embankment in London. The photo to the left here is part of a set of photos I took on the day. See the full set on Flickr here.

The protest was called to mark the 12th anniversary of Shaker Aamer‘s arrival at Guantánamo, and the 12th birthday of his youngest child, who, of course, he has never seen. Shaker is the last British resident in Guantánamo, who has a British wife and four British children, and had been given indefinite leave to remain in the UK prior to travelling to Afghanistan with his family, to undertake humanitarian aid, in 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks and the US-led invasion that led to his capture by bounty hunters, who then sold him to the US military.

Crucially, he was cleared for release by a military review board under the Bush administration in 2007, and again in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009. His continued imprisonment is, therefore, completely unacceptable and unjustifiable, and it reflects very badly on both the US and UK governments — the former for not having released him to be reunited with his family, which should be a straightforward matter, and the latter for not having made his release and return to the UK an absolute priority. Read the rest of this entry »

The Guantánamo Experiment: A Harrowing Letter by Yemeni Prisoner Emad Hassan

Emad Hassan, in a photograph included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011.155 men are still held at Guantánamo, and yet, despite the fact that most of these prisoners have been held for 12 years without charge or trial, many of them are completely unknown to the general public.

A case in point is Emad Hassan, a Yemeni prisoner whose representation has recently been taken on by Reprieve, the London-based legal action charity whose founder and director is Clive Stafford Smith. Reprieve recently received a letter from  Emad, after it was unclassified by the Pentagon censorship board that evaluates all correspondence between prisoners and their lawyers — and the hand-written notes of any meetings that take place — and decides whether it can be made available to the public.

When the cleared letter was released, Reprieve secured publication of it in the Middle East Monitor, where it was published to mark the 12th opening of the prison on January 11. In the hope of securing a wider audience for Emad’s words, I’m cross-posting it below, not only to let people know about Emad’s particular story — to humanize another of the men so cynically dismissed as “the worst of the worst” by the Bush administration — but also because of his detailed description of how hunger strikers at Guantánamo are being abused by the authorities. Read the rest of this entry »

Progress in Canada: Former Guantánamo Prisoner Omar Khadr Moved to Medium-Security Prison

For the first time since his return to Canada from Guantánamo in September 2012, Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner of the US, has been downgraded from a high-security risk to a medium-security risk. The move punctures the prevailing rhetoric — from the government, and in the right-wing press — that Khadr is a dangerous individual.

This lamentable rhetoric is the product of three particular factors: racism and/or Islamophobia; a hypocritical refusal to recognize the rights of child prisoners, despite a Supreme Court judgment that was severely critical of the government; and a deliberate refusal to recognise that Khadr’s plea deal at a military commission trial in Guantánamo had nothing to do with justice and guilt, and was agreed to solely to secure his release from Guantánamo, and his return home to Canada, where he was born 27 years ago.

Khadr was just 15 years old when he was seized by US forces, in a severely wounded state, after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. According to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which came into force in February 2002, and which both the US and Canada then ratified, juvenile prisoners — those under 18 when their alleged crimes take place — “require special protection.” The Optional Protocol specifically recognizes “the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities”, and requires its signatories to promote “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.” Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo and Torture with Scott Horton

A few days ago, I was delighted to be interviewed by Scott Horton for his radio show. Scott and I first spoke about six and a half years ago, and have spoken numerous times since. Our latest half-hour interview is here, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful.

This time around, Scott was interested in hearing the latest news from Guantánamo, but had also picked up on my recent article highlighting the fact that, on February 7, it was 12 years since President Bush issued a memo explaining that the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” a memo that opened the floodgates to the use of torture.

This only officially came to an end after the Supreme Court reminded the Bush administration, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in June 2006, that all prisoners — with no exceptions — are entitled to the protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit “cruel treatment and torture,” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Even then, although the CIA’s torture program came to an end, torture techniques migrated immediately to the Army Field Manual, which was reissued with the addition of Appendix M, containing those techniques. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. 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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