As the disgraceful US prison at Guantánamo Bay begins its 15th year of operations, President Obama has been busy attempting to show that, with just one year left in office, he is determined to close the prison, as he promised to do on his second day in office back in January 2009, when he promised to close it within a year. Last month, we heard that 17 men would be released in January, and the releases began just days before the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison with the release of two Yemenis in Ghana and the return to Kuwait of Fayiz al-Kandari, the last Kuwaiti in the prison. On the actual anniversary, a Saudi was returned home, and two days after the anniversary ten more Yemenis were released in Oman, Yemen’s neighbor, to add to the ten Yemenis sent to Oman last year.
David Remes, who represents three of the men sent to Oman, said it was “a particularly good fit for them,” as the New York Times described it. “I’m sure that they are ecstatic just leaving Guantánamo,” he said. “But it’s even better than that. They’ve been sent to Oman, an Arab country, whose language, culture and religion are their own. Oman is also one of Yemen’s neighbors, so their families will be able to visit them often.”
Three more releases — of unidentified prisoners to unidentified countries — are expected soon, and, after the release of the ten men to Oman, Lee Wolosky, the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure in the State Department, said, “We expect to be in a position to empty Guantánamo of all detainees who are currently approved for transfer by this summer.” Including the three men who are expected to be freed soon, Wolosky’s description currently applies to 34 of the 93 men still held — 25 since January 2010, who were approved for release by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and nine in the last two years, by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards.
Wolosky also said of the latest release, “Sustained diplomatic engagement led us to this important milestone. We are very grateful to our friends and partners in the gulf and elsewhere who have resettled Yemeni detainees.”
The ten men freed were all approved for release at least six years ago, by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, which approved 156 men for release, although some had also been cleared under President Bush, as I explained in an article in 2012, entitled, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago.
Noticeably, nine of the ten were included in a category called “conditional detention,” invented by the task force, which applied only to 30 Yemenis, and which stipulated that their release was dependent on some perceived improvement in the security situation in Yemen. However, as the entire US establishment is unwilling to repatriate any Yemenis, their release, like their remaining compatriots approved for release without a “conditional detention” tag, has instead become dependent on third countries being found that are prepared to take them in, and that can meet the US’s security concerns. Of the 30, the first was one of five men released in the UAE in November, the two men released in Ghana were the second and third, and the release of these nine now means that 12 of the 30 have been freed. The one man below who was not in this category is Said Hatim, approved for release in 2010 without conditions, but subject to complications because of the administration’s failure to cross-reference the task force’s recommendations with the prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions, which have been fought by the Justice Department as a matter of course.
In addition, the men’s cases also exemplify many of Guantánamo’s enduring problems, each held for around 14 years even though none of them appear to have been anything other than low-level foot soldiers for the Taliban, and some appear to have had no connection to militancy whatsoever, having been seized by mistake. None appear to have had any involvement whatsoever with terrorism.
Nevertheless, the US did all it could to build up a body of so-called evidence against them, and when, as in a few cases, they managed to get judges to consider their habeas corpus petitions, two had their detentions upheld despite the lack of any compelling reasons to do so, and another (Said Hatim, mentioned above), who prevailed in the lower court had his success overturned by appeals court judges for reasons that had very little to do with justice and rather more to do with malignant ideology.
My profiles of the ten men are below:
Just 17 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan at the end of 2001, Fahd Ghazy (ISN 26) — aka Fahed Ghazi — was represented by lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who, at the end of 2014, released “Waiting for Fahd: One Family’s Hope for Life Beyond Guantánamo,” a moving video telling his story, and featuring interviews with his family, which has over 24,000 views on YouTube, and which I publicized here. I also spoke at an event in New York last January with Fahd’s lawyer, Omar Farah, and the videos from that event are available here.
As I noted in my 2012 article, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago, Fahd was approved for release on July 28, 2006 and again on October 30, 2007, as well as by President Obama’s task force.
After Fahd’s release, Omar Farah stated, “Almost 14 years ago to the day, Fahd arrived at Guantánamo as a boy, shackled and hooded. Today — finally — he is free. I commend Oman for the profound humanitarian gesture of welcoming Fahd and offering him a new home.”
He added, “There was never much doubt that Fahd’s imprisonment was unnecessary — he was cleared for release nearly a decade ago — yet he grew up at Guantánamo waiting for successive presidents to correct a glaring injustice. While Fahd and his family look to the future, I cannot help but reflect on how cruel his detention was and marvel at how Fahd preserved his humanity throughout.”
CCR also noted that several other clients — among them Tariq Ba Odah, Ghaleb Nasser Al-Bihani, Muhammadi Davliatov, Mohammed Al-Hamiri, and Mohammed Kamin — remain imprisoned without charge, and pointed out, “As of January 31, 2016, Guantánamo will have been open longer under President Obama than it was under President Bush.”
Samir Naji Moqbel (ISN 43), represented by Reprieve, is 38 years old, and came to prominence during the prison-wide hunger strike in April 2013, when an op-ed he wrote, “Gitmo Is Killing Me,” was published in the New York Times. I wrote about it here. He was also mentioned in other articles I wrote during the hunger strike, when international criticism prompted President Obama to promise renewed action to release long-cleared prisoners, after two and a half years of inaction prompted by Congressional opposition to his efforts. Those articles are: Don’t Forget the Hunger Strike at Guantánamo, Guantánamo Stories: 19 of the 43 Men Being Force-Fed in the Prison-Wide Hunger Strike and Watch the Shocking New Animated Film About the Guantánamo Hunger Strike.
After his release, Reprieve noted that he had been on the first plane into Guantánamo in January 2002 and, as with all the men freed in Oman, had been “cleared for release in 2009 with the unanimous agreement of six US federal agencies, including the CIA and the FBI.”
Reprieve also noted that Samir “had written recently to Reprieve about his fears for loved ones trapped in Yemen’s civil war.” He wrote, “I am very worried about my family. I saw the rubble of what remains of my home town, and I cannot help worrying.” He also spoke of his wish to be released and rebuild his life: “I cannot wait to get out and start my life again. I want to get a job, get married, and establish new roots […] I really want to be productive and work for myself.”
Commenting on his release, Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director, who has also represented Guantánamo for many years, stated, “Samir is a mild-mannered soul who was driven to hunger strike by sheer desperation, and he was gratified to know that his suffering forced the world to remember the immorality of Guantánamo. We are delighted that the Omani government has given him the chance to rebuild his life and, we hope, to reconnect with his family.”
Reprieve also noted that the releases “come as the Obama Administration weighs whether to release ten tapes of footage showing the force-feeding of another Reprieve client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab,” who was released in Uruguay in 2014, adding, “Solicitor-General Don Verrilli has been ordered to decide by January 22nd whether to release the footage to the press, or to appeal a District Court judgment that the tapes should be public.” As Cori Crider explained, however, “the abuses Samir exposed to the world continue to this day — and the force-feeding videotapes I’ve watched would make your blood run cold. That’s why the Solicitor General ought to let Americans see the footage — the tapes make an exquisite case for why Guantánamo Bay has to close.”
Waqas Mohammed Ali Awad (ISN 88), aka Adham Ali Awad, who is 33 or 34 years old, is the first of the prisoners to have had his habeas corpus petition ruled on by a US judge, in August 2009, although it was not a happy occasion. As I explained in an article at the time, No Escape From Guantánamo: The Latest Habeas Rulings, Judge James Robertson denied his habeas petition, even though he conceded, “The case against Awad is gossamer thin,” and added, “The evidence is of a kind fit only for these unique proceedings and has very little weight.” He also described Ali Awad as a “marginally literate” young man, who had “spent more than seven of his twenty-six years — since he was a teenager — in American custody,” and stated, “It seems ludicrous to believe that he poses a security threat now,” adding, limply, “but that is not for me to decide.”
In June 2010, as I explained in another article, Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: Prisoners Win 3 out of 4 Cases, But Lose 5 out of 6 in Court of Appeals (Part One), his appeal was turned down by the appeals court in Washington, D.C. (the D.C. Circuit Court), who made a point of “wading into the debate regarding the extent to which prisoners must be involved in al-Qaeda or the Taliban for their detention to be justified,” by refuting an assertion by another judge, District Judge John D. Bates, that “evidence of involvement in the organizations’ ‘command structure’ is required, and asserting that it need only be demonstrated that they were ‘part of’ al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban. As JURIST noted, in one of the few commentaries on the ruling, ‘This statement lowers the threshold for the amount of evidence needed for incarceration'” — an alarming trend that continued until habeas corpus, for the Guantánamo prisoners, was destroyed, and the Supreme Court then refused to intervene to restore it.
Mukhtar al-Warafi (ISN 117), aka Muktar al-Warafi, who is 41 or 42 years old, is the second of the prisoners to have had his habeas corpus petition ruled on by a US judge, in March 2010, when, as I wrote at the time, in an article entitled, With Regrets, Judge Allows Indefinite Detention at Guantánamo of a Medic, his petition was turned down by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District Court in Washington, D.C. Al-Warafi, who survived the Qala-i-Janghi massacre, which I wrote about most recently here, had been working briefly as a medic in Afghanistan, not as a soldier, but that, Judge Lamberth concluded, meant that he was detainable because he was working “within the command structure of the Taliban.”
As he noted at the end of his opinion, however:
Petitioner was a low-level member or associate of the Taliban. He spent no more than a few weeks at the front line, and there is no evidence that he “planned in, participated in, or knew of any terrorist plots.” The Court hopes that this Memorandum does not foreclose the government from continuing to review petitioner’s file and assess whether he continues to pose a threat to the national security of the United States.
As we now know, an assessment that he should not continue to be detained had been made by the task force before Judge Lamberth made his ruling, but no one noticed or cared about the contradiction, as there was no rush to release any Yemenis from the time the task force issued its final report in January 2010 until almost five years later, towards the end of 2014, when the first Yemenis were found new homes in third countries.
In February last year, al-Warafi had also sought release because of the end of “active hostilities” in Afghanistan. However, as I wrote about in an article in August, War Is Over, Set Us Free, Say Guantánamo Prisoners; Judge Says No, the Justice Department — and Judge Lamberth, ruling on his case again — disagreed with the president’s claim in December 2014 that the US’s “combat mission in Afghanistan is ending.” In April, in a reply in al-Warafi’s case, government lawyers stated, “Simply put, the president’s statements signify a transition in United States military operations, not a cessation,” and Judge Lamberth agreed with the government that his ongoing detention was justified “because the United States remains engaged in active hostilities with the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
I wrote about Abu Bakr Ibn Ali Muhammad Alahdal (ISN 171), who is 37 or 38 years old, in an article in September 2010, when I stated:
According to the US authorities, Alahdal “served as a fighter for the Taliban Arab forces” at Bagram, but then “contracted malaria and some other unidentified illness” and was sent to a hospital in Kabul, where he spent two months recuperating. He then made his way to Jalalabad, where he “waited to be recalled to the front lines,” but “withdrew to a village on the outskirts of Jalalabad.” From there he made his way to Pakistan, where he was turned in by villagers. In Guantánamo, he was a long-term hunger striker. Although he only weighed 99 pounds on arrival, his weight dropped at one point to just 81 pounds, and he was force-fed daily from the end of August 2005 until the publicly-released weight records ended in December 2006, when he still weighed only 101 pounds (PDF).
Over the years, little information emerged from the prison about Abu Bakr Alahdal, but he was mentioned by a fellow hunger striker, Emad Hassan, now released, in letters to his lawyers in 2014, which I wrote about here. Hassan explained how, at the time, Alahdal weighed just 80 pounds, and had a broken arm. Nevertheless, he was taken to be force-fed by a Forced Cell Extraction team, which Hassan described as “Guantánamo’s official riot police,” a group of armored guards who deal with even the most minor infractions of the rules with extreme violence. In another letter, Hassan explained how Abu Bakr Alahdal was “vomiting on the torture chair,” because the personnel feeding him — a nurse and corpsman — “refused to stop the feed, or to slow the acceleration of the liquids.”
In August 2014, another prisoner explained how Abu Bakr Alahdal’s hand had been broken by the FCE team, and Emad Hassan described a beating administered to Alahdal “that lasted one hour and 55 minutes.”
I have heard nothing in recent years about Abdul al-Razzaq Muhammad Salih (ISN 233), who is 42 or 43 years old, but I wrote about him in an article in September 2010, when I stated:
Salih [was] accused of training at al-Farouq [the main training camp for Arabs in Afghanistan], and was also “identified”, by an unknown source, as “a jihadist” in Tora Bora, although he maintained that he traveled to Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks because he “felt compelled to go to Afghanistan to teach the Koran to the Afghanis.” He added that “he was not formally trained in the Koran, but wanted to go just recite what he could.” In reports elsewhere in his Unclassified Summary of Evidence, he reported that a particular sheikh had told him that “it was forbidden to fight for the Taliban,” and that “he doesn’t like violence and was not fighting in Afghanistan, but was seeking a job teaching in a mosque.” In Guantánamo, Salih took part in the mass hunger strike in 2005. Although he weighed a comfortable 160 pounds on arrival at the prison, his weight dropped on two occasions, in December 2005 and January 2006, to just 110 pounds (PDF).
Muhammad Said Bin Salem (ISN 251), who is 40 years old, was recommended for transfer out of Guantánamo eleven years and nine months before his eventual release, on April 14, 2004, in a memo entitled, “Recommendation to Transfer to the Control of Another Country for Continued Detention.” In 2005, his release (not for “continued detention”, if such a proposal were to have been viable) was approved after the first round of Administrative Review Boards at the prison, and yet it still took another ten years to secure his freedom. When I wrote about his case in September 2010, I stated:
In a particularly thin set of allegations, the US authorities claim[ed] that bin Salem, who was cleared for release by a military review board under the Bush administration, traveled from Yemen to Afghanistan in July 2001, and received training at al-Farouq. Noticeably, he [was] not accused of having taken part in combat against the Taliban (let alone US forces), as it [was] only alleged that he “supported al-Qaeda and Taliban forces by serving as a cook at a rest and relaxation facility for front line troops at Bagram,” and that he was captured by Pakistani forces after retreating directly from Bagram to Pakistan.
He was also represented by Reprieve, but nothing had been heard about him in recent years.
Said Muhammed Salih Hatim (ISN 255), aka Saeed Hatim, who is 39 or 40 years old, had been let down repeatedly over the years. He had been recommended for release under George W. Bush on January 9, 2007, and, a month before Obama’s task force approved him for release, he also had his habeas corpus petition granted, as I wrote about at the time in an article entitled, Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Unwilling Yemeni Recruit, and in more detail, in April 2010, in an article entitled, Why Judges Can’t Free Torture Victims from Guantánamo, written after Judge Ricardo Urbina’s opinion had been made publicly available.
That ruling made clear that Hatim maintained that statements he made incriminating himself were derived through the use of torture, and also involved Judge Urbina having no time for the testimony of one particularly suspicious alleged witness against Hatim — who identified him as having been involved in the battle of Tora Bora (between al-Qaeda/the Taliban and the US’s Afghan proxies). This man was Yasim Basardah, a notoriously unreliable Yemeni witness, who, it became clear after WikiLeaks published the prisoners’ classified files in 2011, told lies about at least 120 prisoners.
Even before these files were released, however, Basardah’s unreliability was well-known to those paying attention. As I noted at the time:
Judge Urbina explained [that he] “ha[d] exhibited an ongoing pattern of severe psychological problems while detained at GTMO.” The judge cited an interrogator, who, in May 2002, stated, “I do not recommend [redacted] for further exploitation due in part to mental and emotional problems [and] limited knowledgeability,” and also noted that he had attempted to hang himself in his cell in February 2003, and had again tried to commit suicide in March 2003, “saying that he had received ‘command hallucinations’ to do so.”
He also noted that the Guantánamo hospital record stated that the witness “had ‘vague auditory hallucinations’ and that his symptoms were consistent with a ‘depressive disorder, psychosis, post traumatic stress, and a severe personality disorder,’” and concluded by “refus[ing] to credit what is arguably the government’s most serious allegation in this case based solely on one statement, made years after the events in question, by an individual whose grasp on reality appears to have been tenuous at best.”
It is also worth noting that, in June 2007, the Office of Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants (OARDEC), which compiled the evidence against the prisoners for their tribunals and review boards, “warned that because [Basardah’s] first-hand knowledge had come into serious question since 2005, all information provided by [him] should be adequately verified through independent sources.” As Judge Urbina also explained, “the personal representative of another GTMO detainee determined that none of the detainees that [the witness] had identified as having trained at al-Farouq were even in Afghanistan during the time that [he] said they attended the camp.”
Nevertheless, in February 2011, as I explained in an article entitled, Habeas Hell: How the Great Writ Was Gutted at Guantánamo, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated Judge Urbina’s ruling, sending it back to the District Court, and, disgracefully, leaving Hatim languishing at Guantánamo for nearly five more years.
I wrote about Omer Saeed Salem al Daini (ISN 549), aka Omar al-Dayi, who is 39 or 40 years old, in an article in September 2010, when I stated:
Al-Dayi, who weighed just 98 pounds when he arrived in Guantánamo, [was] accused of traveling to Afghanistan in August 2001. It is also alleged that he stayed at a safe house in Kandahar, but became ill with malaria after one day, and “had trouble standing and walking,” and that, after six weeks at the safe house, he and others in the house were told to go to Jalalabad, where they stayed in another safe house for a few weeks before leaving for Tora Bora. In the mountains, it was alleged that al-Dayi “was shown to his position,” with 10-12 other Arabs, but that his group, though armed, “spent most of its time hiding in one of the three caves located close to its position.” Wounded in the leg by a missile, he was then “evacuated by an Afghan on a donkey to a nearby village,” and driven to the hospital in Jalalabad, where he stayed for two months “before being taken by Americans to a prison in Kabul” — presumably the “Dark Prison” — before his transfer to Guantánamo.
Until his release, I had not heard anything about him for many years.
The last of the ten is Fahmi Abdullah Ahmed (ISN 688), who is 38 or 39 years old, and is one of around 15 prisoners seized in a house raid in Faisalabad on March 28, 2002, on the same night that Abu Zubaydah — wrongly regarded as an al-Qaeda member, and the first victim of the CIA’s torture program — was seized. This was the Crescent Mill guest house, also known as the “Issa house,” after its Pakistani owner (who was not seized) or the “Yemeni house,” because most of its inhabitants were Yemenis. Although the house was purported to have a connection to Abu Zubaydah, the majority of those seized in the raid have always maintained that they were students at the nearby Salafia University, or that they had traveled to Pakistan for cheap medical treatment, and that the house was a student guest house. One of the prisoners, Salah Ahmed al-Salami, died in mysterious circumstances in Guantánamo on June 9, 2006 (on the night that two other men died in what was described by the US authorities as a triple suicide, although that has been called into question), and most of the rest have been released.
It is also worth noting that, as I described it in an article in October 2010:
In May 2009, Judge Gladys Kessler, ruling on the habeas corpus petition of one of the [men seized in the raid], Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, who described himself as a student, savaged the government for drawing on the testimony of witnesses whose unreliability was acknowledged by the authorities, and for attempting to create a “mosaic” of intelligence that was thoroughly unconvincing, and she also made a point of stating, “It is likely, based on evidence in the record, that at least a majority of the [redacted] guests were indeed students, living at a guest house that was located close to a university.”
This was how I described Fahmi Ahmed at the time:
As I explained in The Guantánamo Files, Fahmi Ahmed (also identified as Fahmi al-Tawlaqi) “said that he went to Pakistan to buy fabrics, taking $3,500 that he had borrowed from his mother, but explained that he actually spent most of his time in Pakistan ‘like a wild man,’ drinking and smoking hashish. After staying for a year and a half, during which time his visa expired, he was eventually advised to go to Faisalabad, where there was a big Arabic community, and where he was told he would be able to locate people who could tell him how to bribe the government to renew his visa. He said he ended up staying for two months with a Pakistani family, but just as he was planning to call his family to arrange to return home, because the house he was staying in was too small, he met Ali Abdullah Ahmed al-Salami [aka Salah Ahmed al-Salami, one of the three prisoners who died in June 2006], who invited him to stay at a larger house, where he was also staying, and where ‘they were all university students.’”
In contrast, the US authorities allege[d] that he trained in Afghanistan, fought with the Taliban, and was a member of al-Qaeda, but this seems unlikely, because, as his lawyers explained in 2006, “Although he says he endured his share of abuse at Gitmo — once, soldiers shaved his head in the shape of a cross — he has also made an amazing discovery: rap music. Al-Tawlaqi adopted the rap name King Daniel, which he drew on his prison jumpsuit. He filled two notebooks with rap lyrics, in English, organized by subject. The lawyers can’t say what the songs are about because Justice Department officials wouldn’t declassify the lyrics, though they assured me they are ‘very lewd,’” and he “asked his lawyers if they could persuade Eminem to perform his songs.”
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
See the following for articles about the 142 prisoners released from Guantánamo from June 2007 to January 2009 (out of the 532 released by President Bush), and the 134 prisoners released from February 2009 to January 11, 2016 (by President Obama), whose stories are covered in more detail than is available anywhere else –- either in print or on the internet –- although many of them, of course, are also covered in The Guantánamo Files, and for the stories of the other 390 prisoners released by President Bush, see my archive of articles based on the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011: June 2007 –- 2 Tunisians, 4 Yemenis (here, here and here); July 2007 –- 16 Saudis; August 2007 –- 1 Bahraini, 5 Afghans; September 2007 –- 16 Saudis; 1 Mauritanian; 1 Libyan, 1 Yemeni, 6 Afghans; November 2007 –- 3 Jordanians, 8 Afghans; 14 Saudis; December 2007 –- 2 Sudanese; 13 Afghans (here and here); 3 British residents; 10 Saudis; May 2008 –- 3 Sudanese, 1 Moroccan, 5 Afghans (here, here and here); July 2008 –- 2 Algerians; 1 Qatari, 1 United Arab Emirati, 1 Afghan; August 2008 –- 2 Algerians; September 2008 –- 1 Pakistani, 2 Afghans (here and here); 1 Sudanese, 1 Algerian; November 2008 –- 1 Kazakh, 1 Somali, 1 Tajik; 2 Algerians; 1 Yemeni (Salim Hamdan), repatriated to serve out the last month of his sentence; December 2008 –- 3 Bosnian Algerians; January 2009 –- 1 Afghan, 1 Algerian, 4 Iraqis; February 2009 — 1 British resident (Binyam Mohamed); May 2009 —1 Bosnian Algerian (Lakhdar Boumediene); June 2009 — 1 Chadian (Mohammed El-Gharani); 4 Uighurs to Bermuda; 1 Iraqi; 3 Saudis (here and here); August 2009 — 1 Afghan (Mohamed Jawad); 2 Syrians to Portugal; September 2009 — 1 Yemeni; 2 Uzbeks to Ireland (here and here); October 2009 — 1 Kuwaiti, 1 prisoner of undisclosed nationality to Belgium; 6 Uighurs to Palau; November 2009 — 1 Bosnian Algerian to France, 1 unidentified Palestinian to Hungary, 2 Tunisians to Italian custody; December 2009 — 1 Kuwaiti (Fouad al-Rabiah); 2 Somalis; 4 Afghans; 6 Yemenis; January 2010 — 2 Algerians, 1 Uzbek to Switzerland; 1 Egyptian, 1 Azerbaijani and 1 Tunisian to Slovakia; February 2010 — 1 Egyptian, 1 Libyan, 1 Tunisian to Albania; 1 Palestinian to Spain; March 2010 — 1 Libyan, 2 unidentified prisoners to Georgia, 2 Uighurs to Switzerland; May 2010 — 1 Syrian to Bulgaria, 1 Yemeni to Spain; July 2010 — 1 Yemeni (Mohammed Hassan Odaini); 1 Algerian; 1 Syrian to Cape Verde, 1 Uzbek to Latvia, 1 unidentified Afghan to Spain; September 2010 — 1 Palestinian, 1 Syrian to Germany; January 2011 — 1 Algerian; April 2012 — 2 Uighurs to El Salvador; July 2012 — 1 Sudanese; September 2012 — 1 Canadian (Omar Khadr) to ongoing imprisonment in Canada; August 2013 — 2 Algerians; December 2013 — 2 Algerians; 2 Saudis; 2 Sudanese; 3 Uighurs to Slovakia; March 2014 — 1 Algerian (Ahmed Belbacha); May 2014 — 5 Afghans to Qatar (in a prisoner swap for US PoW Bowe Bergdahl); November 2014 — 1 Kuwaiti (Fawzi al-Odah); 3 Yemenis to Georgia, 1 Yemeni and 1 Tunisian to Slovakia, and 1 Saudi; December 2014 — 4 Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian to Uruguay; 4 Afghans; 2 Tunisians and 3 Yemenis to Kazakhstan; January 2015 — 4 Yemenis to Oman, 1 Yemeni to Estonia; June 2015 — 6 Yemenis to Oman; September 2015 — 1 Moroccan and 1 Saudi; October 2015 — 1 Mauritanian and 1 British resident (Shaker Aamer); November 2015 — 5 Yemenis to the United Arab Emirates; January 2016 — 2 Yemenis to Ghana; 1 Kuwaiti (Fayiz al-Kandari) and 1 Saudi.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
Here’s my latest article, a detailed account of the ten men who have just been freed from Guantanamo to new lives in Oman. All were approved for release by President Obama’s Guantanamo Review Task Force six years ago, and one was approved for transfer out of Guantanamo back in April 2004. Two others had their habeas petitions turned down, despite being approved for release, another had his petition granted but then overturned by the politically biased court of appeals. One was living in a student house in Pakistan, and none, it should be stressed, were accused of having anything to do with terrorism.
So I’m posting this from New York City, late on a slightly overcast Sunday morning, on my last full day in the US. I fly back to London tomorrow evening. More soon from my tour – videos, radio shows, and some very exciting coverage around the imminent launch of my new initiative regarding the closure of Guantanamo, the Countdown to Close Guantanamo. Watch this space!
Salem Kanad has been approved for a second hearing this May. His behavior in prison has been good (low risk) and he’s a Saudi so he should be approved and released this year.
The information you bring to the public’s attention about these men is very important. Thanks for your efforts.
Thanks for reminding me of how shockingly unreliable the JTF-GTMO allegations have been. I think there are some Americans who are vaguely aware that there have been failures in the US counter-terrorism efforts — who don’t want to have the details spelled out to them — and who are willing to forgive the GIs and officials who made those mistakes for some terrible specious reasons. I think they think those failures are forgiveable, because the GIs and officials (1) were well-intentioned; (2) were following orders; (3) their efforts, while flawed from a human rights point of view “did help keep the public safe”… and some other specious reasons.
All of that is false, of course. The US detainee programs were essentially one huge experiment like that famous experiment that went wrong at Stanford some decades ago. A Psychology professor recruited undergrads, paid them for a week or two of their time, and arbitrarily divided them into “guards” and “prisoners”. His untrained guards very rapidly escalated to terribly cruel and abusive tactics. The professor was excited, and called in some of his colleagues. One of them, who had studied under him when she was a PhD student, admonished him, told him he must shut the experiment down early, immediately, because of how cruelly and unethically the subjects were being treated. His excitement had blinded him, and he embarrassedly followed her advice.
Forgive me Andy for repeating something you already know, but which your readers may not all know. Rapidly the GIs and officials lost whatever legitimate cover they might have had, for their brutal excesses, that went beyond what International law allowed, because they could look back and claim their efforts helped keep the public safe. Rapidly, many of the GIs and other officials forgot about public safety, and focussed their energy on vengeance taking — without regard to whether the individuals they were abusing had ever had a genuine tie to terrorism.
You’ve let me repeat before how, due to tacit encouragement by their superiors, or a shocking disinterest in enforcing discipline, the low level guards and interrogators at Guantanamo continued to use the sleep deprivation technique they called “The Frequent Flyer Program” long, long after the Bush administration clawed back the questionable permission they had given to use it. It seems that the paper trail, that shows when official permission was given to use this technique, only shows it was authorized for limited periods, on a small limited number of captives. But it was a great easy for the more junior GIs and other officials to feel they were getting vengeance for 9-11 that it was used very widely. My own reading of the record is that the unofficial use of this technique left alarming discrepancies between the official roster of which captive was in which cell. I think that during the crucial early years that the key falsehoods that justified the captives detention were being invented there was a five to ten percent chance that the wrong captive would be delivered for an appointment.
The weight records show otherwise anomalous spikes, which I believe can best be explained by realizing guards would come fetch the individual in a particular cell for his monthly checkup, and the guards on the block wouldn’t bother to tell them that, because they had been unofficially torturing some of the men by depriving them of sleep, by making them switch cells every couple of hours, the individual they were taking away wasn’t actually the captive they were supposed to bring.
Multiple habeas attorneys described waiting for their clients in the meeting huts in camp echo, only to have the guards bring them a complete stranger.
There were several CSRT hearings where the captive told the panel, “this summary of evidence allegations memo is new to me. I have never heard these allegations before.” The Tribunal Presidents always assumed the captives were lying, or mistaken. But this is consistent the assumption that the guards were continuing to play 3-card-monte with the prisoner population. I think we should consider that this testimony may have been reliable, and indicated that the allegation memos were delivered to the wrong men.
Seeking vengeance was much simpler than seeking intelligence. I read a very interesting article by an officer who had interrogated senior Nazis during World War Two, who compared the way those Nazis were interrogated, compared with what he knew about how the Guantanamo captives were interrogated.
First, of course, the Nazis weren’t threatened with violence.
Second, the interrogation teams weren’t switching interrogators.
Third, the questions to be put to the suspects were meticulously prepared, in advance. The interrogation teams had already assembled dossiers on their suspects, long in advance. So interrogators only asked questions where they could independently confirm or refute the answers offered to them.
During the 2004 CSRT hearings there were several captives who took that opportunity to drop false stories they had offered their interrogators, false stories their interrogators had never suspected, because the Guantanamo counter-terrorism analysts never tried to confirm or refute the captives’ accounts of themself.
It is my impression that the US military has successfully built a sub-culture where GIs can count on their comrades showing physical bravery, courage, when under fire. They will run into danger, to rescue a wounded colleague. But, intellectual courage — owning up to terrible mistakes? With notable exceptions like the admirable former prosecutors Darrel Vandeveld and Morris Davis, I think we see almost everyone involved willing to mis-use the secrecy our governments have allowed counter-terrorism officials to cloak their activities to hide their failures.
Thanks again Andy!
Thanks for the update, Martin. Much appreciated.
Thanks, arcticredriver. Very good to hear from you, as always.
You have indeed mentioned the frequent flier program before, but I don’t think you’ve expressed before as well as here how the use of it explains the delivery of misidentified prisoners to interrogations, and the unexplained spikes and drops in the prisoners’ weight records. When the full story of Guantanamo is told, details like these will be important.
My friend Jan Strain shared this on Facebook, and wrote:
The latest from On-the-Road, Andy Worthington:
Still making noise………
Thanks for sharing, Jan. I’ve had a last day of wintry weather and great company in NYC. Hopefully be back soon!
Cat Watters wrote:
Bon Voyage Andy Come back soon
I hope so, Cat.
Entisar Ibrahim wrote:
Thank you Andy.
Thank you is all I can say to you and I know that is not enough for all the work you are doing for our brothers in gitmo. May Allah bless you and reward for all your hard work.
Thank you, Entisar, for your kind and supportive words.
Cahide Sen wrote:
Thank you Andy. How could we support your effort?
I am always open to receiving donations to support my work, Cahide, however large or small. Details here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2015/12/07/quarterly-fundraiser-im-hoping-to-raise-3500-to-support-my-guantanamo-work/
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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