Archive for March, 2019

Seven Years Since He Left Guantánamo, Judge Rules That Omar Khadr’s Sentence Is Over, and He Is A Free Man

Some rare good news regarding Guantánamo, as former child prisoner Omar Khadr finally receives confirmation from a Canadian judge that his Guantánamo-related sentence is over. For other ex-prisoners, however, the stigma of being an "enemy combatant" - and their complete lack of rights - continues.
Former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr with his lawyer, Nate Whitling, outside court in Edmonton on March 25, 2019, after a judge ruled that his Guantánamo- related sentence was finally over (Photo: Terry Reith/CBC).

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Some great news from Canada, where a judge has ruled that former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr’s sentence is finally over.

Back in December, I reported how, although Khadr was given an eight-year sentence after agreeing to a plea deal in his military commission trial at Guantánamo on October 31, 2010, the Canadian government continued to impose restrictions on his freedom — disregarding the fact that their ability to do so should have come to an end with the end of his sentence on October 31, 2018.  

As I explained in December, Khadr had been in court seeking “changes to his bail conditions, requesting to be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj (which would require him to be given a passport), and to speak unsupervised with his sister, who is now living in Georgia.” However, the judge, Justice June Ross of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, refused to end the restrictions on his freedom to travel, or to communicate with his sister Zainab, who I described as “a controversial figure who, in the past, had expressed support for al-Qaeda.”

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Video: I Discuss Guantánamo with Chris Hedges on His Show ‘On Contact’ on RT America

A screenshot of Chris Hedges and Andy Worthington discussing Guantanamo on Chris’s show ‘On Contact’ on RT America.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

An injustice does not become any less unjust the longer it endures, and yet, when it comes to the prison at Guantánamo Bay, you could be forgiven for not thinking that this is the case. Over 17 years since the prison opened, it is still holding men indefinitely without charge or trial, and yet these days the prison is rarely in the news, either in the US or internationally.

The is shameful, because, although only 40 men are still held (out of the 779 men held in total by the US military since the prison opened in January 2002), the blunt truth is that no one should be held indefinitely without charge or trial, because that is what dictatorships do, not countries that, like the US, profess to care about the rule of law.

I’m pleased to report that, in an effort to continue to shine a light on the ongoing horrors of Guantánamo, Chris Hedges, one of the most significant critics of America’s current lawlessness, interviewed me for his show ‘On Contact,’ on RT America, which was broadcast on Saturday, and is embedded below via YouTube:

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The Lonesome Death of Haji Naseem, A Mentally Ill Prisoner at Guantánamo

An undated photo of prisoners praying in Guantánamo (Photo: Andres Leighton / AP).

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

In the long and disgraceful history of Guantánamo, some of the most depressing occasions have involved the deaths of prisoners — nine in total — all of men completely deprived of justice, abused, imprisoned without charge or trial, and then lied about after their deaths by the US authorities.

I have covered these stories repeatedly over the years. The first deaths — three in total — occurred on one night in June 2006. These deaths — of Yasser al-Zahrani, Mani al-Utaybi and Ali al-Salami — were described by the US authorities as a triple suicide, although that claim has been challenged over the years, not least by former US personnel, present at the time, who have suggested that the men may have been killed in a secret prison within Guantánamo. 

Subsequent deaths at the end of May 2007 (of Abdul Rahman al-Amri) and the start of June 2009 (of Muhammad Salih aka Mohammed al-Hanashi) were also described by the authorities as suicides, but those claims have, in particular, been challenged by Jeffrey Kaye, a retired psychologist and investigative journalist, whose detailed analysis was featured in his 2017 book, Cover-up at Guantánamo: The NCIS Investigation into the ‘Suicides’ of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri. I’ve known Jeff for many years, and for further background, I recommend a couple of articles I published in 2017, Death at Guantánamo: Psychologist and Author Jeffrey Kaye Speaks to the Talking Dog and Guantánamo Suicides “Unlikely,” Says Investigator Jeffrey Kaye in New Edition of His Book, “Cover-up at Guantánamo”.

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Celebrating 2,500 Days Since I First Started Photographing London’s 120 Postcodes for ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos from 'The State of London' Facebook page.

Check out all the photos to date here.

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Today is the eighth anniversary of an event that triggered the creation of my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’, and last Friday marked a milestone worth remarking on in the history of that project: 2,500 days since May 11, 2012, the first day I began cycling around London taking photos on a daily basis for the project that initially had no name, but that I soon called ‘The State of London.’

The eighth anniversary, today, is of when I was hospitalised following two months of serious agony as two of my toes turned black, but GPs and consultants failed to work out what was wrong with me for quite some time — only eventually working out that a blood clot had cut off the circulation to my toes — and also failed to prescribe me adequate painkillers. After I returned from a trip to Poland at the start of February 2011, for a short tour showing the film I co-directed, ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,’ until I was hospitalised on March 18, I was rarely able to sleep for more than five minutes at a time; almost as soon as I fell asleep, I awoke in agony. There was, I thought, something ironic about someone who campaigned for the rights of people suffering all manner of torments in US custody — including sleep deprivation — also ending up suffering from sleep deprivation, although in my case it was caused by my own body waging war on me.

After two days in Lewisham Hospital, where I was finally given morphine to take me beyond the pain, my wife figured out that they didn’t really know what to do with me, and so pushed for me to be transferred somewhere that they might have a clue. That somewhere was St. Thomas’s Hospital, opposite the Houses of Parliament, where I spent the next nine days, as consultants worked out that attaching me for five afternoons to a drip that pushed what felt like cement into my arteries might open up the blood supply to my toes, thereby saving them. 

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As Mohamedou Ould Slahi is Denied a Passport, Remember That All Former Guantánamo Prisoners Live Without Fundamental Rights

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, photographed in the desert after his release, with a message of peace. Photo from Mohamedou's Facebook page.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. 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.

In the long quest for justice for the 779 men and boys held at Guantánamo, it’s not just the 40 men still held who are victims of the US’s contempt for the law in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Although they, shamefully, remain held indefinitely without charge or trial, or are charged in a broken trial system, the military commissions, that seems incapable of delivering justice, those who have been released from the prison also face problems that, in many cases, will make the rest of their lives a misery.

This is an important fact that those paying attention were reminded of two weeks ago, when Literary Hub published an article about the tribulations of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, torture survivor and best-selling author, who, after nearly 15 years in US custody, was released in his native Mauritania in October 2016.

Although he was never charged with a crime, along with the majority of former Guantánamo prisoners, Slahi expected that there would be restrictions on his freedom following his release, and, sure enough, as Literary Hub described it, “the day after he returned to Nouakchott, Mauritania’s director of state security told him that he couldn’t leave the country for two years.”

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Quarterly Fundraiser Day 1: Seeking $2500 (£2000) to Support My Guantánamo Work, Campaigning and Creativity Over the Next Three Months

Three faces of Andy Worthington: as a campaigner working for the closure of Guantanamo, as a singer-songwriter, and as a housing activist.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,500 (£2,000) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo over the next three months of the Trump administration.




 

Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support my work as a freelance journalist and activist, working primarily to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, but also working on social justice issues in the UK, particularly involving housing.

This time of year is always significant to me, as it was when, 13 years ago, three things happened that brought me to where I am today. On TV, on March 9, 2006, I watched ‘The Road to Guantánamo’, a dramatization by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross of the experiences of three British prisoners known as ‘the Tipton Three.’ Around the same time I also bought and read ‘Enemy Combatant’, Moazzam Begg’s account of his life and his time in Guantánamo, and a few days earlier, on March 3, the Pentagon, in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Associated Press, released 5,000 pages of documents relating to the prisoners.

When two prisoner lists were subsequently released — one listing 558 prisoners on April 19, 2006, and another listing 759 prisoners on May 15, all the components were in place for me to begin what seems to have become my life’s work — going through all these documents, and thousands on other pages released by the Pentagon, telling the stories of the prisoners, and working to get the prison closed. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Guantánamo Kid’: A Graphic Novel Telling the Harrowing Story of Child Prisoner Mohammed El-Gharani by Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre Franc

Promotion for 'Guantanamo Kid' featuring a review by Andy Worthington.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

On Tuesday March 12, the British publisher SelfMadeKid is releasing ‘Guantánamo Kid,’ a graphic novel by Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre Franc, which tells the harrowing story of former child prisoner Mohammed El-Gharani. It was first published last year, in French, by Dargaud.

I’m pleased to note that the publishers asked me to write a review for the book, which they have used in the promotional image at the top of this article, and in which I stated, “Mohammed El-Gharani knows all about the horrors of Guantánamo, as a child subjected to torture by the US authorities and held in the prison for eight years. And yet far too many people still don’t know about Guantánamo’s long and abusive history, and one main reason is that no footage or photos of any of the torture and abuse has ever surfaced. Overcoming this critical lack of images, Jérôme Tubiana, a journalist who spent time with Mohammed after his release in 2010, hearing his story, has worked with the talented comic artist Alexandre Franc to bring his ordeal to life in a graphic novel that deserves to be read as widely as possible, as, in page after page of harrowing memories, Mohammed tells his story with wit, endurance and unbreakable spirit.”

I covered Mohammed El-Gharani’s story extensively while he was held at Guantánamo, originally in my book The Guantánamo Files, published in September 2007, in which I explained what I had been able to piece together at the time about his story, via US military documents, and his lawyers, at the London-based legal action charity Reprieve. Read the rest of this entry »

Please Watch ‘The Trial’, A Powerful Video About Guantánamo’s Broken Military Commission Trial System

A screenshot, from 'The Trial,' of Ammar al-Baluchi's defense team - from the left, Alka Pradhan, James Connell and Lt. Col. Sterling Thomas.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

In the long and horrendously unjust story of Guantánamo, the two key elements of America’s flight from the law since 9/11 have been the use of torture, and the imprisonment of men, indefinitely, without charge or trial. A third element is the decision to try some of these men, in a trial system ill-advisedly dragged out of the history books by former Vice President Dick Cheney and his legal adviser David Addington.

That system — the military commissions — has struggled to deliver anything resembling justice, in large part because it was designed to accept evidence produced through torture, and then to execute prisoners after cursory trials. The Supreme Court ruled this system illegal in 2006, but Congress then tweaked it and revived it, and, after Barack Obama became president, it was tweaked and revised again instead of being scrapped, as it should have been.

Throughout this whole sorry period, the US federal courts have, in contrast, proven adept at successfully prosecuting those accused of terrorism, but at Guantánamo the commissions have struggled to successfully convict anyone. Since 2008, just eight cases have gone to trial, but six were settled via plea deals, and, of the other two, one ended up with the prisoner in question (Salim Hamdan, a hapless driver for Osama bin Laden)  being released after just five months, while the other was an outrageously one-sided affair, as the prisoner in question (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a propagandist for Al-Qaeda) refused even to mount a defense. The commissions also have a history of collapsing on appeal — and with good reason, as the alleged war crimes most of the prisoners were convicted of were actually invented by Congress. For an overview of the commissions, see my article, The Full List of Prisoners Charged in the Military Commissions at Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

With 25 Days to Brexit, The Four Fathers Release New Single ‘I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back)’

The cover of 'I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back)' by The Four Fathers (cover image by Brendan Horstead).Today marks 25 days until the UK is supposed to leave the EU, and my band The Four Fathers are taking the opportunity to release — via Bandcamp — our anti-Brexit anthem, ‘I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back)’, which has become something of a live favourite over the last couple of years.

Please have a listen to it, share it if you like it, and, if you want, you can even buy it as a download (for £1/$1.25 — or more if you wish).

I wrote it in the weeks after the referendum, when the chorus came to me out of the blue — as often happens to me — and I then struggled to hammer out some verses, aimed at the stupidity, arrogance and lies of, variously, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and David Cameron. However, although the chorus arrived fully-formed and has never changed, I thoroughly revised the lyrics for the verses after discussions with my friend, the musician and producer Charlie Hart, whose suggestions led me in a direction that was — at least partly — more poetic, especially in the song’s opening lines:  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 (The State of London).
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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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