Two London Events for Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Best-Selling Author Imprisoned in Guantánamo

13.4.16

The flier for the Parliamentary briefing about Mohamedou Ould Slahi on April 19, 2016.Please ask your MP to attend the Parliamentary briefing for Mohamedou Ould Slahi next Tuesday, April 19.

If you’re in London — or anywhere near — then I hope two events next week might be of interest to you, and even if you’re not, then I hope you’ll be interested in asking your MP to attend the first event, a Parliamentary briefing about Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, next Tuesday, April 19. Slahi has no UK connection, but his plight should be of interest to all MPs who care about the rule of law, as Guantánamo remains a place of shameful injustice, whose closure all decent people need to support.

Both events involve the campaign to free Mohamedou Ould Slahi, one of the best-known prisoners still held in Guantánamo. A notorious victim of torture by the US, he is also the author of the best-selling book, Guantánamo Diary, an extraordinary account of his rendition, imprisonment and torture, written in Guantánamo and published, with numerous redactions, after a long struggle with the US authorities, to widespread acclaim in January 2015.

On the evening of Tuesday April 19, there will be a Parliamentary briefing for Slahi, hosted by Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington), featuring the actors Jude Law, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Toby Jones, Slahi’s brother Yahdih and his lawyer, Nancy Hollander.

The following evening, Yahdid Ould Slahi and Nancy Hollander will be discussing Slahi’s case at ThoughtWorks in Soho.

The full details of both events are below, including RSVP information, but if you aren’t fully aware of Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s story, please first of all read my brief description from an article I wrote in February 2015, after his book was published:

A Mauritanian, born in 1970, Slahi was singled out for a specific torture program, approved by Donald Rumsfeld, in 2003. He had aroused US suspicions because he was related to Abu Hafs, the spiritual advisor to Al-Qaeda (who, lest we forget, opposed the 9/11 attacks), and because, while living in Germany in 1999, three would-be jihadists, including Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an alleged facilitator of the 9/11 attacks, had stayed for a night at his house.

However, although Slahi had trained and fought in Afghanistan in 1991-2, when, apparently, he had sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda, that was the extent of his involvement with terrorism or militant activity, as Judge James Robertson, a District Court judge, concluded in March 2010, when he granted Slahi’s habeas corpus petition.

The Obama administration appealed Judge Robertson’s ruling, and in November 2010 the court of appeals — the D.C. Circuit Court — backed the government, vacating Judge Robertson’s ruling, and sending it back to the lower court to reconsider.

That never happened, and Slahi ended up abandoned. The high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in January 2009 had recommended him for prosecution in its final report two months before his habeas corpus petition was granted, and this stood until April 2013, when he was determined to be eligible for a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards, along with 24 other men who had initially been recommended for prosecution by the task force, and 46 others who had been recommended for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial, on the profoundly dubious basis that they were too dangerous to release, but that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial.

Slahi’s Periodic Review Board has now been scheduled — for June 2 — and it is to be hoped that the review board — which includes representatives of of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — will approve his release, as with 20 of the 26 men who have been through the PRB process since it was established in November 2013, and who have had decisions taken. Four other men are awaiting the results of their PRBs, and 35 others are awaiting reviews.

Nevertheless, it is by no means apparent that Slahi’s PRB will approve his release, hence the need to maintain pressure on the Obama administration — and to push for support from diligent allies of the US, like the British Parliament.

I need hardly add that what is extraordinary about Slahi’s predicament is that it is impossible to imagine an American, held for 14 years without charge or trial — and tortured — by some other government, writing an account of his experiences, and eventually getting it published to widespread acclaim, with it topping several best-seller lists, without there being a huge uproar leading to his release, and yet Slahi has still not been freed.

Below are the full details of next week’s events:

Tuesday April 19, 2016, 6-7.30pm: Parliamentary briefing on the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi
Grimond Room, Portcullis House, Westminster, London SW1A 2LW
With Jude Law, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Toby Jones, Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s brother Yahdih Ould Slahi, his lawyer Nancy Hollander, Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN and Jamie Byng, Publisher and Managing Director, Canongate Books. Moderated by Tom Brake MP.

Anyone can attend this event, although please allow time to clear security at Portcullis House. You can also let Bernard Sullivan know if you are coming, so that the organisers have some idea of how many are planning to attend.

Details about a discussion of the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi in Soho on April 20, 2016.Wednesday April 20, 2016, 6-8pm: Discussion about the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi
ThoughtWorks, 76-78 Wardour Street, 1st Floor, Soho, London W1F 0TA
With Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s brother Yahdih Ould Slahi and his lawyer Nancy Hollander

There will be a buffet and drinks. If you would like to attend, please contact Suzie Gilbert.

Please also sign the ACLU’s Free Slahi petition to the US Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, which currently has just over 50,000 signatures, and see the ACLU’s Free Slahi page here.

And finally, I’m posting below an excerpt from Guantánamo Diary, published at the time of the book’s publication in the Guardian:

‘The torture squad was so well trained that they were performing almost perfect crimes’
The Guardian, January 18, 2015

I started to recite the Koran quietly, for prayer was forbidden. Once ________ said, “Why don’t you pray? Go ahead and pray!” I was like, How friendly! But as soon as I started to pray, ____ started to make fun of my religion, and so I settled for praying in my heart so I didn’t give ____ the opportunity to commit blasphemy. Making fun of somebody else’s religion is one of the most barbaric acts. President Bush described his holy war against the so-called terrorism as a war between the civilized and barbaric world. But his government committed more barbaric acts than the terrorists themselves. I can name tons of war crimes that Bush’s government is involved in.

This particular day was one of the roughest days in my interrogation before the day around the end of August that was my “Birthday Party” as _______ called it. _______ brought someone who was apparently a Marine; he wore a ________ _____________________________________________ __________________________________________.

_______ offered me a metal chair. “I told you, I’m gonna bring some people to help me interrogate you,” _______ said, sitting inches away in front of me. The guest sat almost sticking on my knee. _______ started to ask me some questions I don’t remember.

“Yes or no?” the guest shouted, loud beyond belief, in a show to scare me, and maybe to impress _______, who knows? I found his method very childish and silly.

I looked at him, smiled, and said, “Neither!” The guest threw the chair from beneath me violently. I fell on the chains. Oh, it hurt.

“Stand up, motherfucker,” they both shouted, almost synchronous. Then a session of torture and humiliation started. They started to ask me the questions again after they made me stand up, but it was too late, because I told them a million times, “Whenever you start to torture me, I’m not gonna say a single word.” And that was always accurate; for the rest of the day, they exclusively talked.

_______ turned the air conditioner all the way down to bring me to freezing. This method had been practiced in the camp at least since August 2002. I had seen people who were exposed to the frozen room day after day; by then, the list was long. The consequences of the cold room are devastating, such as ______tism, but they show up only at a later age because it takes time until they work their way through the bones. The torture squad was so well trained that they were performing almost perfect crimes, avoiding leaving any obvious evidence. Nothing was left to chance. They hit in predefined places. They practiced horrible methods, the aftermath of which would only manifest later. The interrogators turned the A/C all the way down trying to reach 0°, but obviously air conditioners are not designed to kill, so in the well insulated room the A/C fought its way to 49°F, which, if you are interested in math like me, is 9.4°C—in other words, very, very cold, especially for somebody who had to stay in it more than twelve hours, had no underwear and just a very thin uniform, and who comes from a hot country. Somebody from Saudi Arabia cannot take as much cold as somebody from Sweden; and vice versa, when it comes to hot weather. Interrogators took these factors in consideration and used them effectively.

You may ask, Where were the interrogators after installing the detainee in the frozen room? Actually, it’s a good question. First, the interrogators didn’t stay in the room; they would just come for the humiliation, degradation, discouragement, or other factor of torture, and after that they left the room and went to the monitoring room next door. Second, interrogators were adequately dressed; for instance ______ was dressed like somebody entering a meat locker. In spite of that, they didn’t stay long with the detainee. Third, there’s a big psychological difference when you are exposed to a cold place for purpose of torture, and when you just go there for fun and a challenge. And lastly, the interrogators kept moving in the room, which meant blood circulation, which meant keeping themselves warm while the detainee was _________ the whole time to the floor, standing for the most part. All I could do was move my feet and rub my hands. But the Marine guy stopped me from rubbing my hands by ordering a special chain that shackled my hands on my opposite hips. When I get nervous I always start to rub my hands together and write on my body, and that drove my interrogators crazy.

“What are you writing?” ___________ shouted. “Either you tell me or you stop the fuck doing that.” But I couldn’t stop; it was unintentional. The Marine guy started to throw chairs around, hit me with his forehead, and describe me with all kinds of adjectives I didn’t deserve, for no reason.

“You joined the wrong team, boy. You fought for a lost cause,” he said, alongside a bunch of trash talk degrading my family, my religion, and myself, not to mention all kinds of threats against my family to pay for “my crimes,” which goes against any common sense. I knew that he had no power, but

I knew that he was speaking on behalf of the most powerful country in the world, and obviously enjoyed the full support of his government. However, I would rather save you, Dear Reader, from quoting his garbage. The guy was nuts. He asked me about things I have no clue about, and names I never heard.

“I have been in __________,” he said, “and do you know who was our host? The President! We had a good time in the palace.” The Marine guy asked questions and answered them himself.*

When the man failed to impress me with all the talk and humiliation, and with the threat to arrest my family since the ______________ was an obedient servant of the U.S., he started to hurt me more. He brought ice-cold water and soaked me all over my body, with my clothes still on me. It was so awful; I kept shaking like a Parkinson’s patient. Technically I wasn’t able to talk anymore. The guy was stupid: he was literally executing me but in a slow way. _______ gestured to him to stop pouring water on me. Another detainee had told me a “good” interrogator suggested he eat in order to reduce the pain, but I refused to eat anything; I couldn’t open my mouth anyway.

The guy was very hot when _______ stopped him because ____ was afraid of the paperwork that would result in case of my death. So he found another technique, namely he brought a CD player with a booster and started to play some rap music. I didn’t really mind the music because it made me forget my pain. Actually, the music was a blessing in disguise; I was trying to make sense of the words. All I understood was that the music was about love. Can you believe it? Love! All I had experienced lately was hatred, or the consequences thereof.

“Listen to that, Motherfucker!” said the guest, while closing the door violently behind him. “You’re gonna get the same shit day after day, and guess what? It’s getting worse. What you’re seeing is only the beginning,” said _______. I kept praying and ignoring what they were doing.

“Oh, ALLAH help me…..Oh Allah have mercy on me” ____ kept mimicking my prayers, “ALLAH, ALLAH…. There is no Allah. He let you down!” I smiled at how ignorant ____ was, talking about the Lord like that. But the Lord is very patient, and doesn’t need to rush to punishment, because there is no escaping him.

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 (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), 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.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    If you’re in the UK, please ask your MP to attend next Tuesday’s Parliamentary briefing about the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the author of the best-selling “‪Guantanamo‬ Diary,” who is still imprisoned, and if you’re in London, or nearby, perhaps I’ll see you there too. Actors including Jude Law will be reading from Slahi’s book. The next day, April 20, there’s a discussion about Slahi’s case at a venue in Soho, which I’ll also be attending. Both events also feature Slahi’s brother Yahdih and his lawyer Nancy Hollander.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Mahfuja Ahmed wrote:

    Thanks Andy. Sharing.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    See you there, Mahfuja?

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Mahfuja Ahmed wrote:

    Yup of course 🙂

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Great!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Nancy Hollander wrote:

    See you there.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, great, Nancy. Looking forward to it.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    My friend Anna Minkiewicz in Poland wrote:

    I’m very tempted by the Ould Slahi meetings, I read his book some time ago, but doubt I’ll manage.

    Income tax forms to be finalised and two public appearences (refugees & Afghanistan respectively) to be prepared before the end of the month and most of all, it probaly will be hard to find a reasonably priced flight at such short notice, though we now have three (!) airlines flying to London.

    I’ll check tomorrow whether there would be one on Wednesday with return on Saturday, so I could also try and fit in a few other things in London as flying for just one meeting would be nonsense. I’ve admittedly done so a few years ago from Kabul, but then was young & wild :-). Will let you know whether I can find any solution.
    I’m flying to my brother in a few weeks time, pity the two cannot be combined.

    Hope they’ll treat the freed Yemenis decently in Saudi – particularly Tariq ba Odah who will need specialised healthcare, which I suppose they have in that country but will it be available for him ? At least they’ll be in a country which speaks their language so they’ll probably feel more at home there than in Slovakia or Kazakhstan …

    AJE reported on it yesterday, but their Tom Ackerman needs some background info as he was stumbling and while mentioning that they never were charged with anything, he also mindlessly said that they were picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan, which by now any serious journalist should know is not true. But he also looked dreadful, wonder whether the poor guy is seriously ill, as his face was like the one of a severely malnourished person. Hope it was just unfortunate lighting.

    All the best and here’s for some good laughs the fruit of my recent Bernie-mania, including some completely over-the-top items by his ‘Birdie’ groupies.
    https://twitter.com/search?q=%23BirdieSanders&src=tyah , including a California magnate neighbour who organised a counter-Clooney-fundraiser at his home : http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/276571-clooneys-neighbor-throwing-saturday-fundraiser-for-sanders and … what was inevitable after his Vatican visit … :-))).

    I suppose he’s the logical sequence to Occupy and the much needed political edge to that somewhat amorphous grassroot movement.

    Is it the pendulum swinging back from rampant neo-imperialistic capitalism? And is such a reversal still possible with corporations, governmental mass spying etc having taken over politics?

    http://fair.org/home/shocker-wapo-investigates-itself-for-anti-sanders-bias-finds-there-was-none/
    http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2016/03/28/why-wont-sanders-quit-the-race-because-hes-winning/
    One ex-Clinton fan wrote: “I was going to vote gender, but then I remembered that I also have a brain and a heart …” May more US women realize that before it is too late ….
    and another lady : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dh78x0Pr1s

    And on a slighlty more serious note, if some evening you have nothing better to do:

    – Tracking the polls : http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/2016_democratic_presidential_nomination-3824.html

    Here you can follow voting results as they come in, and it’s funny too :-).
    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2016/apr/05/wisconsin-primary-results-live-election-2016 interactive results
    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/us-elections-2016 general info

    and this (also interactive) explained the basics of the superdelegate principle to me, although the whole primaries’ system still is as opaque as a glass of full-fat milk :-):
    http://www.vox.com/2016/2/12/10978302/what-are-democratic-superdelegates
    http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/2/22/11070364/list-all-superdelegates

    – On Clinton’s flip-flopping and sheer arrogance : https://twitter.com/NYDailyNews/status/719858258576596992?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw (several short clips)
    from https://www.google.pl/search?hl=pl&source=hp&biw=&bih=&q=Clinton%27s+NY+racist+joke&gbv=2&oq=Clinton%27s+NY+racist+joke&gs_l=heirloom-hp.12…1859.13500.0.14875.26.16.0.10.1.0.422.2561.0j8j4j0j1.13.0….0…1ac.1.34.heirloom-hp..13.13.2437.P0UCVgLeRwM

    – On Democratic Party’s support to Clinton over Bernie : http://www.denverpost.com/election/ci_29755029/colorado-democrats-admit-mistake-that-cost-bernie-sanders
    “The state party’s website reported March 1 that Sanders won 14,624 votes, or 54 percent, in Denver County and Clinton took 12,097 votes, or 45 percent.
    But the corrected numbers for Denver County give Sanders 15,194 votes, or 56.5 percent, and Clinton with 11,527, or 43 percent, according to official party results.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-a-goodman/sanders-become-democratic-nominee-even-if-clinton-leads-in-delegates_b_9657952.html :-)))

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Anna.
    I wonder if the three airlines will survive if my idiotic fellow citizens vote for us to leave the EU?
    Such crazy politics right now …
    I was away for the weekend, so missed the good news about the releases of the nine men to Saudi Arabia. 26 more men approved for release to go, and then it gets really difficult, as the arguments begin about how many men to continue holding without charge or trial. What a mess.
    Thanks also for all the Berniemania material. I haven;t been following his campaign all that closely, I confess, as the whole election circus in the US appals me – the time consumed by it, the insane cost …
    I’m supportive, however, of what his campaign signifies – a significant minority of people, including an even more significant proportion of young people, wanting socialism, as here in the UK with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, who continues, however slowly, to win more support, despite the outrageous efforts of the media and the establishment to get rid of him.
    Is the pendulum swinging, you ask? I think so, but slowly, as I say. I’m inclined to think that we the people need to “occupy” again, in such significant numbers that we can’t be resisted.

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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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