Shrapnel-Damaged Libyan Amputee Seeks Release from Guantánamo via Periodic Review Board

Guantanamo prisoner Omar Mohammed Khalifh in a photo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.On June 24, Omar Mohammed Khalifh (ISN 695, identified by the US authorities as Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker or Omar Khalifa Mohammed Abu Bakr), a Libyan prisoner at Guantánamo who is 42 or 43 years old, took part in a Periodic Review Board, a process that involved him talking by video-link, accompanied by his civilian lawyer and two US military personal designated as “personal representatives,” who also spoke on his behalf, to 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, in a secure facility near Washington D.C.

Khalifh is one of 39 prisoners still held who were designated for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009 to review the cases of all the prisoners held at that time and to recommend whether they should be freed or prosecuted, or whether they should continue to be held without charge or trial, because they were regarded as too dangerous to release, but it was acknowledged that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial.

In a world that respects the rule of law, this third option is a disgrace, as it gives weight to information that is too flimsy to be regarded as evidence and should therefore be discredited — often because it was derived through the use of torture or other abuse. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington and Omar Deghayes Discuss Aafia Siddiqui in East London, Saturday February 23, 2013

The power of Islamophobia, it seems, is such that when a tabloid newspaper — the Daily Star — published an article with the headline “Mosque terror doc fundraiser,” claiming that “Britain’s biggest mosque is under investigation after it scheduled a fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” it led to the event being moved.

The mosque in question was the East London Mosque, in Whitechapel, and the alleged investigation was by the Charity Commission. The Star reported that the Charity Commission “said it had started a probe into the mosque,” and had “not yet launched a full investigation,” but was “looking into the issue.” That sounds very vague, but it was enough to get the mosque jumpy, and the event has, as a result, been moved to another venue in Whitechapel.

As for the “fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” another way of putting it would be that the Justice for Aafia Coalition (also see here) is putting on a fundraising event for a US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist who disappeared for nearly five and a half years, from March 2003 to July 2008, when, they contend, she was kidnapped and she and two of her three children were held in secret prisons run by or for the CIA and the US government. The third child, a baby at the time of her disappearance, may, it appears, have been shot and killed at the time of Dr. Siddiqui’s kidnapping. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo and Shaker Aamer: Andy Worthington and Omar Deghayes in Conversation on Radio Free Brighton

Listen here to my show with Omar Deghayes on Radio Free Brighton. And please sign the petition calling for the release of Shaker Aamer.

Last week, when I visited Brighton to take part in “Freedom from Torture,” an event organised by the University of Sussex Amnesty International Society, I stayed overnight with my friend Jackie Chase and her family, and, the following day, recorded a radio show about Guantánamo on Radio Free Brighton, with my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner and Brighton resident Omar Deghayes. The 40-minute show is available here.

Jackie is a long-standing campaigner for justice, having been involved in the Save Omar campaign, to secure the return from Guantánamo of Omar Deghayes (who was freed in December 2007). Jackie then campaigned to secure the release of Binyam Mohamed, who was finally freed in February 2009, and now runs Under the Bridge Studios, a wonderfully busy community of rehearsal studios, which also houses Radio Free Brighton, which was recently recognised by Mixcloud as one of the 30 most popular online radio shows in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Brighton at Night, in the Rain – and a Guantánamo event at the University of Sussex

Arriving at Brighton railway stationDeparting for FalmerFalmer station stairsUnderpass, University of SussexStudy room, University of Sussex"Freedom from Torture," an event about Guantánamo
Communal area, University of SussexJubilee building, University of SussexLight and shadowsBrighton shadowsBrighton at nightTrafalgar Street at night

Brighton at Night, in the Rain, a set on Flickr.

On January 29, 2013, I travelled to Brighton, one of my favourite places in England, for “Freedom from Torture,” an event about Guantánamo organised by the University of Sussex Amnesty International Society, featuring myself, my friend Omar Deghayes, a former Guantánamo prisoner, and Elspeth Van Veeren, a researcher and writer about Guantánamo in the university’s International Relations Department.

The event was filmed, and I’ll publicise it here as soon as it has been edited and is made available, but I can confirm that it was a powerful evening, very well attended, in which the 120 students and other members of the public who turned up were left in no doubt about the shameful history of Guantánamo, and the even more shameful truth that it is still open because of the failures of all three branches of the US government to deal appropriately with the wretched legacy of the Bush administration — primarily through cowardice and/or laziness on the part of President Obama, and opportunistic fearmongering and obstruction on the part of Congress and the D.C. Circuit Court (the court of appeals dealing with the Guantánamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions), as well as indifference in the Supreme Court. For more on these issues, see my recent article, “Eleven Years of Guantánamo: End This Scandal Now!” and also see the videos of my speech outside the White House on January 11, and a panel discussion at the New America Foundation on the same day. Read the rest of this entry »

Omar Deghayes and Andy Worthington Discuss Guantánamo at Sussex University, January 29, 2013

On Tuesday January 29, 2013, I will be in Brighton — and, specifically, the University of Sussex, in Falmer — for an event organised by the Sussex University Amnesty International Society entitled, “Freedom from Torture: Guantánamo Bay Panel Event with former detainee and leading world expert.” The event, which is free, begins at 6pm, and finishes at 8pm, and is taking place in Arts A1 (no. 22 on the map here).

This is the first event I’ve taken part in since my trip to the US, from January 7 to 16, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 11th anniversary of its opening, and I’m delighted to be bringing news of my visit to the enthusiastic students of Sussex University, in the company of my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, who I last shared a platform with at a peace conference in Sheffield in October, and also with Elspeth Van Veeren, a researcher and writer on Guantánamo Bay from Sussex University’s International Relations Department.

The Facebook page for the event is here, and I’m looking forward not only to a great event in the evening, but also to catching up with my friend Jackie Chase in the afternoon, and recording an interview for Radio Free Brighton, the community radio station based in Under the Bridge Studios, below the station. I’m also looking forward to staying the night, hanging out with Jackie and hopefully getting to cycle around Brighton a bit before returning on Wednesday afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »

A Message from Omar Deghayes on the 11th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo

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 the 11th anniversary of the opening of the lawless prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where 166 prisoners seized in the “war on terror” remain imprisoned, I am in Washington D.C., having traveled from my home in London to take part in events designed to raise awareness of the burning need for the injustices of Guantánamo to be brought to an end, for the 86 cleared prisoners still held to be released, and for the others to be tried or released — or, if the political courage exists, to be redefined as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, so that we can finally begin to ask how long this ill-defined and open-ended “global war” can actually last.

Only those paying close attention seem to know that, of the 86 cleared men still held, all were cleared for release under President Obama in 2009, through the sober and careful deliberations of an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and around half were also cleared for release by President Bush between 2004 and 2007, and yet they remain held because of political inertia, or cynical fearmongering, in all three branches of the US government — the administration, Congress and the courts. Read the rest of this entry »

Please Write to the Forgotten Prisoners in Guantánamo on the 11th Anniversary of the Opening of the Prison

Friday January 11 is the 11th anniversary of the opening of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an ongoing legal black hole, and an experimental prison for holding Muslim men and boys without rights, and subjecting them to torture and other forms of coercion and abuse, and medical and psychological experimentation.

At Guantánamo, the US authorities manufactured a rationale for holding these men and boys — calling them “the worst of the worst,” and disguising the fact that the majority of them were sold to the US military for substantial bounty payments by their Afghan and Pakistani allies. They did this through the extraction of false statements in which pliant prisoners — whether tortured or otherwise abused, or bribed or pushed until they could take the pressure no longer — made false statements about their fellow prisoners, and/or themselves, which continue to be regarded as something resembling evidence by all three branches of the US government, even though the closest analogy for what this information is in reality can be found in the false statements uttered by the victims of the witch hunts in the 17th century.

For those who are concerned about the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, this is a worthwhile time to write to the remaining 166 prisoners, to let them know that they have not been forgotten. Disturbingly, they have largely been abandoned by the Obama administration, by Congress, by the courts, by the media and by the American public, even though 86 of them were cleared for release three years ago by an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama to review the cases of all the prisoners, and even though around half of them were previously cleared for release, between 2004 and 2007, by military review boards established by President Bush. Read the rest of this entry »

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”: Amnesty Screening in Lewes with Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, Caroline Lucas and Norman Baker, October 21, 2012

On Sunday October 21, 2012, almost three years since it first premiered in London, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, is being screened by Lewes Amnesty International Group, in a high-profile event that involves a panel discussion after the screening with myself, former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes. The event is at All Saints Community Centre, on Friars Walk in Lewes, and begins at 7 pm. Entry is free.

Although this was planned many months ago, the timing is particularly apt, because  it was recently confirmed publicly, for the first time ever, that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose story features in the film, was cleared for release from the prison three years ago by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of officials and lawyers from the relevant government departments and the intelligence agencies.

Anecdotally, it has been known since 2007 that Shaker was cleared for release — at the time under President  Bush — and also that he was cleared under Obama, but such is the secrecy imposed on Guantánamo, and on lawyers for the prisoners, that his legal team were not allowed to speak about it until a month ago, when, unexpectedly, the US Justice Department, for the first time, released the names of 55 prisoners cleared for release, as part of a court case — a list that featured Shaker. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington and Omar Deghayes Speak about Guantánamo at Peace Conference in Sheffield on October 5, 2012

On Friday (October 5), I’m heading to Sheffield, in the company of my friend — and former Guantánamo prisoner — Omar Deghayes, to take part in a conference at Sheffield University, entitled, “Confronting US Power after the Vietnam War: Transnational and International Perspectives on Peace Movements, Diplomacy, and the Law, 1975-2012.” The conference, which concludes on Saturday, is sponsored by the university’s Centre for Peace History, and the Peace History Society, and was organised by Michael Foley, co-director of the Centre for Peace History and an organiser for the campaigning group Witness Against Torture, who I join in Washington D.C. every January 11 to protest about the continued existence of Guantánamo on the anniversary of its opening (on January 11, 2002).

The panel Omar and I are taking part in on Friday evening — the conference’s keynote event — is entitled, “Resisting Empire: Global Resistance to Guantánamo and Torture,” and it begins at 6:30pm in the Richard Roberts Building Auditorium, in the east wing of the Dainton Building, on Brook Hill (postcode S3 7HF).

Joining us will be Jeremy Varon, Associate Professor of History at the New School for Social Research in New York, who is also a member of Witness Against Torture. Also speaking is Katie Taylor of the London-based legal action charity Reprieve, for whom I used to work, whose presentation will mainly be focused on the challenges of resettlement and the work of Reprieve’s Life after Guantánamo Project. Omar will be talking about his experiences, and his work with the Guantánamo Justice Centre, and, as a representative of the campaigning group Close Guantánamo, I will be talking about the fundamental problems with the supposed evidence against the prisoners, and the injustice of the US continuing to hold 86 prisoners (out of the remaining 166) who have been cleared for release as a result of multiple review processes, some as long ago as 2004. Read the rest of this entry »

For Ramadan, Write to the Forgotten Prisoners in Guantánamo

Friday was the start of the holy month of Ramadan, and it seems to me that, for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, there is no better time to send a message of support to the remaining 168 prisoners in America’s reviled prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

This is a campaign initiated two years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and repeated every six months (see here, here, here and here), but it is depressing to note that just eleven prisoners have left Guantánamo alive in the last two years, and two others left in coffins.

The men still held at Guantánamo have been failed by President Obama, who promised to close the prison within a year of taking office in January 2009, and then resoundingly failed to do so. Compounding this failure, President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, comprising career officials, lawyers and experts from all the relevant government departments and from the intelligence agencies, who analyzed the prisoners’ cases throughout 2009, concluded that 87 of the remaining 168 prisoners should be released, although they are still held. 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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