Prisoners in Guantánamo Ask to be Freed Because of the End of the War in Afghanistan

Guantanamo prisoner Obaidullah before his capture, in a photo provided to his lawyers by his family in Afghanistan.I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

On March 30, lawyers for five Afghan prisoners still held at Guantánamo wrote a letter to President Obama and other senior officials in the Obama administration asking for their clients to be released.

The five men in question are: Haji Hamdullah (aka Haji Hamidullah), ISN 1119; Mohammed Kamin, ISN 1045; Bostan Karim, ISN 975; Obaidullah, ISN 762; and Abdul Zahir, ISN 753.

The lawyers wrote, “Their continued detention is illegal because the hostilities in Afghanistan, the only possible justification for detention, have ended. Therefore, these individuals should be released and repatriated or resettled immediately.” They referred to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, on January 20 this year, at which the president said, “Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.” Read the rest of this entry »

Please Read “Dispelling the Myths of Guantánamo Bay,” Tom Wilner and Andy Worthington’s Chicago Tribune Op-Ed

Tom Wilner calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the Supreme Court on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the prison's opening.I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

Yesterday, March 26, the Chicago Tribune ran an op-ed about Guantánamo by the co-founders of “Close Guantánamo,” Tom Wilner and Andy Worthington. Tom represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008, and Andy is an independent journalist who has spent the last nine years working on Guantánamo.

The op-ed, “Dispelling the Myths of Guantánamo Bay,” is a response to recent inflammatory — and totally mistaken — comments made by Sen. Tom Cotton, the new Republican Senator for Arkansas. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on February 5, Sen. Cotton said, “In my opinion, the only problem with Guantánamo Bay is there are too many empty beds and cells there right now. We should be sending more terrorists there. As far as I’m concerned, every last one of them can rot in hell. But as long as they can’t do that, they can rot in Guantánamo Bay.”

As Tom Wilner and I point out in our op-ed, Sen. Cotton’s “assumption” about the  Guantánamo prisoners “is both false and dishonest.” Of the 122 men still held, 56 have been approved for release by high-level, inter-agency review processes, and only ten have been referred for prosecution. Read the rest of this entry »

13th Guantánamo Prisoner Seeks Release Through Periodic Review Board

Mashur al-Sabri, in a photo included in the classified US military documents (the Detainee Assessment Briefs) released by WikiLeaks in April 2011.

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

On March 3, a Periodic Review Board (PRB) was held at Guantánamo for Mashur al-Sabri (ISN 324), a 37-year old Yemeni “forever prisoner,” born in December 1977 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia to Yemeni parents. He is one of 71 men designated for PRBs in 2013 — 46 recommended for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2010 (on the extremely dubious basis that they were too dangerous to release but that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial), and 25 others who had been recommended for prosecution, until the military commission trial system began to severely collapse following a devastating appeals court ruling in 2012.

The reviews began in November 2013, and twelve took place between then and February this year. Ten decisions have been taken to date, with seven men recommended for release, and two of those seven freed. See here, here and here for my archive of articles about the Periodic Review Boards.

Mashur al-Sabri’s PRB, on March 3, was the 13th case to be looked at by the board, which consists of representatives 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. It was the first time al-Sabri’s case had been looked at since February 2011, when his habeas corpus petition was denied, because the judge in his case, Judge Ricardo Urbina, concluded that he had received military training and had “traveled to the battle lines in Afghanistan as part of the Taliban or al-Qaida and remained part of those forces at the time of his capture in early 2002.” Read the rest of this entry »

As Last Egyptian Is Cleared for Release from Guantánamo, Another Yemeni Faces Periodic Review Board

Guantanamo prisoner Tariq al-Sawah as a young man, prior to his capture and transfer to Guantanamo, where his weight has ballooned, and, as a result, his health is severely threatened. Photo made available by his family.I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we have been campaigning, since we launched in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, for all the prisoners held at Guantánamo to be freed, unless they are to be charged and tried, and we are pleased to note that, as part of a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards (PRBs), established in 2013, seven men who had long been regarded as “too dangerous to release” have had those decisions overturned, and have had their release recommended.

Six of these decisions were taken last year, but the latest decision, which was taken on February 12 but was not reported until today, was for Tariq al-Sawah, the last Egyptian in Guantánamo, to be released — which, we hope, will happen soon. I wrote about his PRB, on January 22, here, describing the 57-year old’s serious health problems, as well as the absurdity of continuing to hold someone regarded as having provided a wealth of useful information, and I find it entirely appropriate that the board has recommended his release.

In its Unclassified Summary of Final Determination, the review board stated: Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Speaks at “Guantánamo At 13: How Obama Can Close the Illegal Prison” in Northampton, Massachusetts

Andy Worthington speaks at a meeting in Northampton. Massachusetts on January 14, 2015 (Photo: Debra Sweet for Andy Worthington).Since my return from my US tour nearly three weeks ago — after nearly two weeks traveling around the East Coast talking about Guantánamo and campaigning for the prison’s closure on and around the 13th anniversary of its opening — I’ve been steadily making available videos of the various events I took part in (in New York, outside the White House, at New America in Washington D.C., and at Western New England School of Law), links to the various radio interviews I undertook (see here and here), and photos of some of the events I was involved in — in particular, the invasion of Dick Cheney’s house and a protest outside CIA headquarters on January 10, and the annual protest outside the White House on January 11.

Unless video surfaces of my last event, in Chicago, on January 15, the video below — at the Friends Meeting House in Northampton, Massachusetts on January 14 — will be the last video I can provide from this particular tour. It was filmed by Ari Hayes, and made available through the AmherstMedia.org website, and it was a great event — with friends old and new; including many Witness Against Torture activists, who I’d been with in Washington D.C., the lawyer and radio host Bill Newman, and the lawyer Buz Eisenberg, who had been presented with a human rights award before my talk and yet insisted on lavishing such praise on me that I thought “This Is Your Life” had been revived and I was the star of the show.

Nancy Talanian of No More Guantánamos, who I stayed with while I was in western Massachusetts, introduce the event, and then Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who organized my tour (as she has been doing every January since 2011) introduced me. My talk starts at eight minutes in and for the first ten minutes I spoke about how I had started researching and writing about Guantánamo, and had come to write my book The Guantánamo Files. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Two Recent Interviews with Andy Worthington About Guantánamo as the Prison Begins Its 14th Year of Operations

A photo taken at the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantanamo's event in Chicago on January 15, 2015 with Andy Worthington, Candace Gorman, and Debra Sweet (first, second, and fifth from left). The group also includes (L to R) CCSDG regulars Barbara Lyons, Jerry Parker, Mario Vanegas, Jay Becker, Marie Shebeck, Joe Scarry, and Eldon Grossman. Barbara holds a poster from the "We Stand with Shaker Aamer" campaign. (Photo: Lina Thorne.)A week and a half ago, I posted links to three radio interviews I had undertaken while in Massachusetts on my recent US tour, highlighting the prison at Guantánamo Bay as it began its 14th year of operations, and calling for its closure. Two of those interviews were broadcast locally, and another was broadcast from Chicago, which I visited on January 15, taking part in a lively panel discussion with Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who organized my tour, and Candace Gorman, a lawyer who has represented two Guantánamo prisoners, one released in 2010, and one still held (also see here).

I hope that a video of that panel discussion will be available soon, but in the meantime you can, if you wish, hear a radio interview I undertook by phone the day after the Chicago event, on my return to New York, with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC). I spoke with CIOGC’s Communications Director Aymen Abdel Halim, who had been directed to me by an activist who had been present at the Chicago event the evening before.

The 30-minute interview is here, via SoundCloud — although, in the interests of fairness, I should point out that, for the first 16 minutes, it is a monologue, as I had been asked to run through Guantánamo’s history in detail, more or less as I had been doing during my speaking events. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Talks About Guantánamo and the Need to Close the Prison at Western New England School of Law

Andy Worthington and the We Stand With Shaker poster at the protest against Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Medea Benjamin for Andy Worthington).Following my recent US tour, calling for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison I have, to date, posted videos from an event in New York, of me speaking outside the White House, and of a panel discussion at New America in Washington D.C., but, with the exception of a very brief TV appearance (included here), I haven’t yet posted any videos from the three days I spent in Massachusetts — although I did post links to two radio shows here.

I’m pleased to be able to correct that now, with video of the talk I gave at Western New England School of Law at lunchtime on January 14, the first of my Massachusetts events to be recorded, unlike my first two talks, in Boston and at Harvard Law School. My thanks to Richie Marini of the World Can’t Wait for making it available.

All of my events in the US were rewarding, and this was no exception. I was given free rein to run through the story of Guantánamo, and took the opportunity to explain how I began working on the Guantánamo story, and then to discuss the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, explaining how important it is not to forget that it was not just the CIA that used torture, and that torture has been a part of the story of Guantánamo throughout its long history. For more about my reflections on the CIA torture report, see my articles “Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report” (for Al-Jazeera) and “Why Guantánamo Mustn’t Be Forgotten in the Fallout from the CIA Torture Report.” Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: “Close Guantánamo” Protest Outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th Anniversary of Prison’s Opening

Close Guantanamo: protestors outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo (Photo: Andy Worthington).Click here to see the whole of my photo set on Flickr.

January 11, 2015 was the 13th anniversary of the opening of the Bush administration’s prison at Guantánamo Bay, which has been President Obama’s responsibility for the last six years, and for the fifth year running I attended the protest outside the White House, on behalf of two campaigns that I’m deeply involved in — Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker — along with representatives of groups including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and World Can’t Wait, as part of a US tour that also took in New York City, Boston and other locations in Massachusetts, and Chicago.

See the video of me speaking outside the White House here, (and see more videos here), the video of a panel discussion in Washington D.C. that I took part in here, and videos of a panel discussion in New York that I took part in here. More videos will be forthcoming soon of talks I gave at various locations in Massachusetts, as well as links to radio interviews, to augment those collected here.

The anniversary event this year was generally uplifting, in part because the sun shone for a change, but also because of recent good news regarding Guantánamo (with the release of dozens of prisoners), and also because of the energy of those involved; in part, clearly, because of the passion of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which seemed to me to have the possibility of remaining a major force in grass-roots American politics — for the worst of reasons, of course (because of the homicidal nature of the police, especially for young black men), but with more power behind it than I recall seeing at any time since the Occupy movement (and that, of course, was not about the deadly everyday reality of racism). Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Speaks About Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker in New York, Plus Lawyers Ramzi Kassem and Omar Farah

Andy Worthington speaking at a Guantanamo event in Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York on January 8, 2015 (Photo: Cat Watters).I’m still catching up with some of the media from my recent US tour, and delighted that, just a few days ago, a film-maker called Edward Briody posted videos from the event I took part in in New York on January 8. Entitled, “Close the US Torture Camp at Guantánamo NOW: Stand with Shaker Aamer, Fahd Ghazy & all the Prisoners Unjustly Held,” the event was introduced by Debra Sweet, the national director of the campaigning group World Can’t Wait (who organized my tour), and, as well as me, featured two lawyers for Guantánamo prisoners — Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at City University of New York, where where he directs the Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, and Omar Farah of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

It was a great event, at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on West 73rd Street. Around 80 people braved the extremely inclement weather to come and listen to us talk — me speaking about We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I launched with activist Joanne MacInnes in November, to call for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and in particular to put pressure on David Cameron to secure Shaker’s return as swiftly as possible.

I also spoke about Guantánamo in general, just three days before the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison, making particular reference to the dubious information, masquerading as evidence, that, in 2009, President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force used to recommend that 48 of the remaining prisoners should continue to be held without charge or trial because they were “too dangerous to release,” even though the task force conceded that there was insufficient evidence to put them on trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Progress Towards Closing Guantánamo, As Periodic Review Boards Resume with the Case of a Seriously Ill Egyptian

Guantanamo prisoner Tariq al-Sawah as a young man, prior to his capture and transfer to Guantanamo, where his weight has ballooned. Photo made available by his family.I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

The last three months have been a period of commendable progress at Guantánamo, as 27 prisoners have been released, reducing the prison’s population to just 122 men. On December 30, two Tunisians and three Yemenis were given new homes in Kazakhstan, and on January 14 five more Yemenis were given new homes — four in Oman, in the Gulf, and one in Estonia. All of these men had long been approved for release, having had their cases reviewed in 2009 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which issued its final report in January 2010.

Obstacles raised by Congress — and the president’s unwillingness to spend political capital overcoming those obstacles — had led to these men being held for so long after the task force unanimously approved them for release, as well as a particular fear throughout the US establishment of repatriating Yemenis, because of unrest in their home country.

Two years ago, 86 of the men still held had been approved for release by the task force but were still held. That number is now down to 50, of whom 43 are Yemenis, and just seven are from other nations, including Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Campaigning investigative journalist and commentator, author, filmmaker, photographer, singer-songwriter and Guantánamo expert
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