Last Thursday, on the eve of a global day of action on Guantánamo, I spoke to Linda Olson-Osterlund on KBOO FM in Portland, Oregon. Linda and I have spoken many times over the years, and it’s always a pleasure to speak to her. The half-hour show is available here, as an MP3, and the page on the KBOO FM site is here.
The day of action (see my photos of the London protest here, and my report here) was called to mark the first anniversary of President Obama’s promise to resume releasing prisoners, after a 32-month period in which just five men were released from the prison. The release of prisoners almost ground to a halt because Congress raised significant obstacles, which President Obama chose not to overcome, even though a waiver in the legislation allowed him to do so.
Since the promise, President Obama has appointed two envoys to work towards the closure of Guantánamo, and 12 men have been freed from the prison, but much more needs to be done. On the anniversary, half of the men still held — 77 of the 154 men still imprisoned — are still detained even though all of them have been cleared for release. 75 of them were told in January 2010 by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that the US no longer wanted to hold them, and two others had their release approved in the last few months by Periodic Review Boards.
57 of these men are Yemenis, permanently held, it appears, because of US fears about the security situation in Yemen, but it is time for that stumbling block to be removed, and for the US to understand that releasing people it has said it no longer wants to hold is more important than endlessly obsessing about what might happen after their release.
In the show, Linda and I also spoke about many other aspects of the terrible and seemingly endless story of Guantánamo — the recent favourable court ruling in the case of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a force-fed hunger striker (but also see here), Uruguay’s offer to take in six men cleared for release who cannot be safely repatriated, including Mr. Dhiab.
Linda and I also spoke extensively about the hunger strike and the force-feeding, and Linda, I’m glad to note, mentioned a recent letter by a Yemeni prisoner, Emad Hassan, which I published here, and we also spoke about the US authorities’ efforts to silence all discussion of the ongoing hunger strike — by subjecting the men to genital groping to dissuade them from meeting or speaking with their lawyers, and, in December, when they stopped reporting the number of hunger strikers.
I do hope you have time to listen to the show, and that, if you find it informative, you’ll share it with your friends and family.
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 six-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.
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