“Choose Peace”: An Inspiring Message of Tolerance From Former Guantánamo Prisoner and Torture Victim Mustafa Ait Idir

Former Guantanamo prisoner Mustafa Ait Idir, photographed after his release from Guantanamo in December 2008 (Photo: Amer Kapetanovic).Please support my work! 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.

 

Last year, I was honored to be asked to write a short review to promote a Guantánamo memoir by two former prisoners, Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir, two of six Algerians living and working in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who had been kidnapped by the US authorities in January 2002 and flown to Guantánamo, where they were severely abused. The US authorities mistakenly thought they were involved in a plot to bomb the US embassy in Sarajevo, despite no evidence to indicate that this was the case. Before their kidnapping, the Bosnian authorities had investigated their case, as demanded by the US, but had found no evidence of wrongdoing. However, on the day of their release from Bosnian custody, US forces swooped, kidnapping them and beginning an outrageous ordeal that lasted for six years.

Five of the six — including Boumediene and Ait Idir — were eventually ordered released by a federal court judge, who responded to a habeas corpus petition they submitted in 2008, after the Supreme Court granted the Guantánamo prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, by telling the US government, in no uncertain terms, that they had failed to establish that they had any connection to Al-Qaeda or had any involvement in terrorism.

Ait Idir, who had worked for Qatar Charities in Bosnia before his capture, where he had been widely recognized as a talented athlete and coach, was returned to his wife and family in Sarajevo, where he is now a computer science teacher at a secondary school, while Boumediene, an aid worker for the Red Crescent Society in Bosnia before his kidnapping, who gave his name to the Supreme Court case establishing the prisoners’ habeas rights, was resettled in France in May 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

Fawzi Al-Odah Freed from Guantánamo, Returns Home to Kuwait

In this photo released by the al-Odah family, Fawzi al-Odah is shown with an unidentified relative on the left and his father Khalid on the right on his arrival in Kuwait on November 6, 2014.Congratulations to the Obama administration for arranging for Fawzi al-Odah, one of the last two Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantánamo, to be sent home, a free man, on the day after the US mid-term elections — although he will be held in Kuwaiti custody for a year and required to take part in a year-long rehabilitation program.

With control of the Senate passing from the Democrats to the Republicans, and the House of Representatives maintaining its Republican majority, it may be difficult for President Obama to engage constructively with lawmakers on the eventual closure of the prison during his last two years in office.

However, by releasing al-Odah, leaving 148 men still held at the prison, including the last Kuwaiti, Fayiz al-Kandari, the president has sent a clear signal that his administration remains committed to releasing prisoners approved for release by governmental review boards, following the rules laid down by Congress, which require the administration to give them 30 days’ notice prior to any release, and for the defense secretary to certify that he is satisfied that it is safe for the prisoner or prisoners in question to be released.

Al-Odah, who was born on May 6, 1977 and is 37 years old, was seized crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001 and transferred to US custody on January 2, 2002. He arrived at Guantánamo on February 13, 2002, and, as a result, spent over a third of his life at the prison, without ever having been charged or tried. Read the rest of this entry »

A Powerful Interview with Former Guantánamo Prisoner Lakhdar Boumediene

Last Saturday, the New York Times published an article based on an interview with former Guantánamo prisoner Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian whose case, Boumediene v. Bush, was regarded at the time as one of the most significant legal victories in the whole of the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” reversing Congressional attempts to strip the prisoners of the habeas rights that the Supreme Court had first granted them in June 2004.

Lakhdar Boumediene went on to become one of 28 prisoners freed as a result of winning their habeas corpus petitions in the District Court in Washington D.C., although that impressive run of victories for the prisoners from October 2008 to July 2010 was abruptly stopped in the summer of 2010 by right-wing judges in the D.C. Circuit Court — the court of appeals — who have insisted, for nakedly political reasons, in rewriting the rules of detention to ensure that no prisoner can now secure a victory in court and be released through legal means.

As well as being a well-known name in legal circles, Lakhdar Boumediene was also noteworthy in Guantánamo, as one of six unfortunate Algerian men seized nowhere near the battlefields of Afghanistan, but kidnapped by US agents in Bosnia-Herzegovina and flown to Guantánamo in January 2002. The kidnapping took place after a disgraceful episode of US paranoia, in which he and the other men — who had all settled in Bosnia-Herzegovina after traveling there during the Bosnian War of 1992-95 — were imprisoned for three months by the Bosnian authorities at the request of the Bush administration. They were then kidnapped on Bosnian soil after their release had been ordered by a Bosnian court, because there was no evidence whatsoever that they were involved in terrorism, or had, as the US initially alleged, been involved in plotting to blow up the US embassy in Sarajevo. 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.
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