The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (10) – Seized in Pakistan (Part Two)

This article was originally published on February 1, 2009. For updated information, please check out the links (by prisoner name and number) in my four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, last updated on April 25, 2012.

Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, and available from Amazon here and here) tells the stories of 41 prisoners — mostly Arabs from other countries — who were seized in Pakistan between February and July 2002. As in the previous chapter, some were seized randomly in the street — in a car at a checkpoint in Peshawar, for example — although the majority were kidnapped in house raids, often based on dubious intelligence on the part of both the US and Pakistani intelligence agents, or because the Americans were offering substantial bounty payments for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects.”

There was, however, one apparent success: the capture of Abu Zubaydah, a supposedly senior al-Qaeda operative, who was seized in a raid on a house in Faisalabad in March 2002. However, although a handful of alleged al-Qaeda suspects were also captured with him, it appears that not all were involved with terrorism, as I explained in an article following the release from Guantánamo of Labed Ahmed, an Algerian, in November 2008, and the case of another of these men is discussed in this online chapter. In addition, there appears to be no evidence that another 16 prisoners, seized in another house raid on the same day, had anything to do with Zubaydah or terrorist activities. I discussed the plight of these prisoners (all of whom are still held) in the article that followed the release of Labed Ahmed, and this additional chapter features the stories of another of these 16 men, which was unknown when I was writing The Guantánamo Files.

In total, this extra chapter tells the stories of 12 prisoners who were not discussed in Chapter 13 of The Guantánamo Files, either because their stories were not available at the time, or to keep the book at a manageable length. Of the 41 prisoners discussed in Chapter 13, 14 had been released at the time I completed the book (in May 2007), and another, Ali Abdullah Ahmed al-Salami, had died (apparently by committing suicide). Another nine have been released since. In addition, three of the 12 prisoners discussed in this online chapter have also been released. As with the previous chapter, a few of the 26 who remained in US custody at the time of writing have been cleared for release, but cannot be repatriated because of fears that they will be tortured in their home countries, and many of the others are Yemenis, whose release — as I have discussed before — is contingent on successful diplomatic negotiations between the US and Yemen, rather than notions of justice.

Others, however, are clearly part of the substantial number of prisoners that the Pentagon regards as too dangerous to be released, but who, it is argued, cannot be put forward for trial because the evidence against them is sensitive or possibly corrupted by torture. As I have reported before, this is an unacceptable argument, as the overriding problem with the supposed evidence against the majority of the prisoners is that it consists primarily of dubious allegations made by other prisoners, which, as Judge Richard Leon recently demonstrated in two sets of habeas corpus cases, does not stand up to any kind of independent scrutiny. It seems to me that the stories in this additional chapter follow this pattern, demonstrating how the Bush administration tried to build cases against prisoners based not on evidence that led to their capture but on interrogations — often in deeply unpleasant circumstances — that were designed to justify rounding them up in the first place.

Captured far from the battlefields of Afghanistan

To varying degrees, the stories of the six prisoners who have not been either released or cleared for release illustrate these problems. In the case of Mohammed Tahamuttan, for example — a 22-year old Palestinian, and one of the 16 prisoners rounded up in the house raid in Faisalabad on the night Abu Zubaydah was captured — the government has failed, after nearly seven years, to establish that he was anything other than a missionary who was staying in a guest house with a group of students.

A member, since the age of 14, of Jamaat-al-Tablighi, a vast missionary organization that is unfairly regarded as a front for terrorism by the Guantánamo authorities, Tahamuttan had traveled to Pakistan in October 2001, and had been part of two missions from the Tablighi headquarters in Raiwand. Subjected, in Guantánamo, to claims that he had traveled to Afghanistan for military training, the truth may instead be that (as also stated in the government’s evidence) “he met two Afghani men during a lecture at the Jamaat-al-Tablighi headquarters in Raiwand, Pakistan, who pressured him into traveling to Afghanistan … even though the Jamaat-al-Tablighi expressly forbade travel to Afghanistan as too dangerous,” but that, although “he traveled with the two Afghan men to Quetta, Pakistan, where he was taken to a compound containing Afghan refugees and Arab men who looked like fighters,” he “was advised not to travel to Afghanistan, and his travel was arranged to Lahore, Pakistan.”

The only evidence against him, therefore — as opposed to irrelevant claims, masquerading as evidence, that two of his uncles were involved with Hamas in Palestine — was that he was associated with al-Qaeda because the house in Faisalabad apparently had some connection with Abu Zubaydah, even though, as I explained in The Guantánamo Files and in my recent article, the supposed connection with Zubaydah appears to be remarkably weak.

On the same night that Mohammed Tahamuttan was seized, Abdullah Azak, a 32-year old Algerian (originally identified by the Pentagon as Abdelrazak Ali Abdel Rahman, a Libyan, and identified by his lawyer as Abdel Razak Ali), was apparently seized in the house raid that resulted in the capture of Abu Zubaydah (photo, left). Accused of having “lied for a period of two years eight months prior to revealing his real name and actual place of birth” — which may not have been advisable, but was understandable — he stated that he traveled to Pakistan “to go to school to learn how to read and write,” but was accused, by an unidentified “source,” of staying in various guest houses in Afghanistan from July to October 2001, and of attending the Khaldan training camp “circa 1996/1997,” and by an unidentified “al-Qaeda operative” of being “a member of his Martyrs’ Brigade.’”

The truth, of course, is difficult to ascertain. Azak, like Labed Ahmed, claimed that he was taken to Zubaydah’s house by other people, and did not know the inhabitants, and, given that the allegations against him are such clear examples of unverifiable hearsay, it may well be that this is the case.

Confusion also shrouds the stories of the four other prisoners who are still held and have not been cleared. Ahmed Ould Abdul Aziz, for example, a 32-year old Mauritanian who was seized in a house raid on June 25, 2002, is accused of being a member of al-Qaeda, even though the US government has failed to come up with a single piece of evidence to support the claim.

Evidently an educated and articulate men (his first lawyers at Guantánamo noted that he studied literature and philosophy, and speaks French and English, in addition to Arabic), Abdul Aziz, according to the government’s account, traveled to Afghanistan in September 1999 to support the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, and undertook training in 2000. At the time of his capture, however, he was working as an Arabic language teacher at an institute in Pakistan, far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, and there is no evidence that he ever took up arms against anyone, and certainly no evidence that he was ever involved in any activities against the United States. Instead, he is quoted in the government’s documents as saying that he “believed his direct supervisor was more affiliated with the Taliban than with al-Qaeda,” that he “visited [the] supervisor’s house but never discussed things such as al-Qaeda,” and that, although “a man he worked for told him that al-Qaeda needed a good administrator and approached him on al-Qaeda’s behalf,” he turned down the offer.

Set against this are an array of unsubstantiated al-Qaeda allegations, which are in marked contrast to Abdul Aziz’s own account, in which he stated that he “spoke with Osama bin Laden about the Institute … for approximately five minutes in October 2000.” The claim that he was a member of al-Qaeda came from an unidentified “source,” who also claimed that he had pledged bayat (an oath of loyalty) to Osama bin Laden, and it was also claimed that he had been recruited to join al-Qaeda by “a personal adviser of Osama bin Laden, who leads the Mauritanian al-Qaeda cell,” and had attended the wedding of one of bin Laden’s sons in 1999 or 2000.

The story of Jihad Diyab (or Deyab), a 31-year old Syrian, is also spotted with unsubstantiated allegations. A former driver for the Syrian Air Force, Diyab stated that he left Syria with his family in May 2000 and traveled to Kabul, via Iran and Pakistan, “to start a business selling honey,” and he has maintained this story throughout his imprisonment. When he arrived at Bagram in June 2002, the following comments were made by the interrogators who first spoke to him (these were reproduced by Chris Mackey, the pseudonym of one of the interrogators in the US prisons in Afghanistan, in his book The Interrogators, in which he also noted that Diyab and the other prisoners who arrived with him had already been interrogated in Pakistani prisons with the assistance of the CIA): “31 years old; Lebanese; speaks Arabic well, English. Was in the Syrian Air Force. Severe kidney problems. Think he is lying. Says he was a honey trader. Captured in Lahore. Doctor says good to go. Watch him.”

With six and a half years to come up with another story, the US authorities have certainly managed to do that, but it is impossible to know how accurate the allegations are, and very little information has come from Diyab himself, who, as the authorities noted under the sub-heading “Intent,” “would not talk; he spent the entire interrogation looking at the floor.” The allegations accrued from the interrogations of other prisoners include a claim that he was “identified as having fled to Afghanistan where he joined al-Qaeda’s military training camps,” a claim that he “allowed a senior al-Qaeda operative to stay in his house,” and other allegations made by two unidentified “senior al-Qaeda operatives”: one claimed to have met Diyab in the 1990s, when he noted that he was an expert in passport and document forgery, and added that he had met him again in Kabul in 2000 or 2001, and in Lahore in 2002, and another claimed that he had “showed up in Afghanistan in 2000 expecting to be able to attend Khaldan training camp because he had known another individual from their time together in Syria.” This source apparently “disapproved” of him, because he “expected to be accepted into the camps without prior vetting.”

Another story that appears to bear no relation to acts of terrorism against the United States is that of Ismael Ali Bakush, a 34-year old Libyan. Apparently a former mujahid in the dying days of Afghanistan’s Communist regime, Bakush reportedly stated that he returned to Afghanistan “to help the Taliban fight the Northern Alliance.” The US authorities alleged that he “and his group would fight sporadically whenever there was a fight between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance,” but he provided a detailed explanation for doing so, stating that “the reason he decided to help fight with the Taliban was because he lived in Afghanistan both prior to Taliban control and after Taliban control. Prior to Taliban control there were robberies, thefts, and fights between groups. After the Taliban took over the area became safe.”

Beyond these claims, there was nothing to indicate that he took up arms against the United States, or had any desire to do so. He stated that he “had never met bin Laden,” said that “at no time did he conduct any operations against the American Forces,” and, moreover, “said he had no feelings towards the United States and considered the United States like any other country.” “His main concern,” he explained, “is Libya and the overthrow of [Colonel] Gaddafi.” Much of the evidence against Bakush consisted of allegations about his involvement with Libyan groups opposed to the Gaddafi regime, and the question of Bakush’s continued detention, therefore, seems, as with other Libyans held in Guantánamo, to hinge on whether it is acceptable to hold dissidents opposed to a regime that, until the “War on Terror” began, was regarded as a terrorist dictatorship by the very government that has been holding Bakush for the last six and half years.

The last of these six stories is that of Mohammed al-Zahrani (most recently identified by the Pentagon as Mohammed Muti Zahran), a 33-year old Saudi who lost a leg in Afghanistan. According to the Pentagon’s own evidence, al-Zahrani “admitted to being proud that he was a low-level Taliban fighter,” and “stated he was proud that he came to Afghanistan to be a Mujahedin (sic), and stated that if he had not lost his leg, he still would have fought.” These admissions — plus a detailed list of statements, attributed to al-Zahrani, relating to his training at al-Farouq (the main training camp for Arabs in the years before the 9/11 attacks) and at an Algerian guest house in Afghanistan — would seem to confirm that he was indeed a foot soldier, and that he had undertaken advanced military training, but grafted onto these claims are others suggesting that he was a full-blown member of al-Qaeda.

These include allegations that he was friends with one of the 9/11 hijackers, that he swore bayat to Osama bin Laden, that he “met [Ayman] al-Zawahiri [al-Qaeda’s second-in-command] three or four times and they had a very good relationship,” that he “met with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [the future leader of “al-Qaeda in Iraq”] several times about logistics and personnel issues for the fight against the Northern Alliance,” and that he was involved in planning the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, who was murdered on September 9, 2001.

Again, it is impossible to know how much truth there is to these allegations. They may be as they appear, or they may have been produced through the dubious interrogations of other prisoners connected with al-Qaeda. What’s for certain is that there are holes in al-Zahrani’s jihadist CV: in another statement attributed to him, for example, he “stated that he doubted the viewpoints of al-Qaeda because some of their operations contradict Islamic principles and go against Islamic laws.”

Three released prisoners, and a torture warning

In February 2002, two Sudanese men, 35-year old Mustafa Ibrahim al-Hassan (released in October 2008), and 30-year old Amir Yacoub al-Amir (identified by the Pentagon as Yakoub Mohammed), who was released in May 2008, were stopped in a car at a checkpoint in Peshawar, apparently while attempting to cross the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan in the hope of providing help to the Taliban.

Al-Hassan, a father of four, who had traveled to Malaysia and Thailand on a business trip in August and September 2001, in an attempt to buy clothes to sell in Sudan, explained that he had then traveled to Pakistan at the end of 2001 to study his religion and to seek out further business opportunities, but al-Amir (photo, left), an accountant and a relative of Sudan’s famous Caliph, who had fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1991, admitted in his tribunal at Guantánamo that he had intended to help the Taliban, but had been put off after arriving in Pakistan.

“I was affected by everything I saw on television that was happening in Palestine and Israel, with Israel using American weapons and money to kill 80-100 people a day and I did not want this to happen in Afghanistan,” he said. “Our religion tells us to defend Muslims against adversaries who come to take Muslims’ land and belongings. I was willing to go to Afghanistan to defend it against any adversary.” He added, however, that while spending time with “the office of Dawa Guidance (Irshad)” — which was probably Markaz Dawa al-Irshad, the political wing of the militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba — “I realized it was not worth it and the purpose I came for was not true.” He said that he couldn’t go to the airport to return home because the Pakistani government “was capturing any Arab and giving them to the United States as terrorists,” so he “moved from one place to another” with a group of other people until his capture.

Despite the fact that neither man had actually made it to Afghanistan — whether they intended to fight or not — and that they both strenuously denied supporting al-Qaeda, they were treated brutally in Pakistan custody, before being handed over — or sold — to the Americans. Al-Hassan explained, “When the investigators were interrogating me, when I told them I went there to trade and I went there to study, they hit me, they tortured me. They were torturing us with electricity and they made us walk on sharp objects. They hit us a lot, and because of the pain we just said anything.”

In addition, the interrogators’ comments from Bagram that were reproduced by Chris Mackey in his book did not mention militancy at all. The interrogators described al-Hassan as a Sudanese Arab, who was “traveling to Iran through Peshawar,” and al-Amir as “31 years old, Sudan. Caught with three other Arabs; had airline ticket and $2,000 to go to the Sudan, Syria and Qatar. Lived in the United Kingdom, speaks English, is an accountant.”

Despite their long imprisonment in Guantánamo, Mustafa Ibrahim al-Hassan and Amir Yacoub al-Amir were fortunate that they were immediately released without charge on their return home, to be reunited with their families. A more dire fate — and one that lawyers have been striving to prevent happening to other prisoners — befell Abdullah bin Omar, a 46-year old Tunisian, repatriated in June 2007, who was also identified as Abdullah al-Hajji, Abdullah al-Hajji ben Amor, and Abdullah bin Amor. A former mechanic for the Tunisian railways, bin Omar had left his homeland in 1989, because of religious persecution, and had traveled first to Saudi Arabia, and then to Pakistan, where he had been living for 13 years until he was seized by Pakistani police in April 2002, at a house he was renting, which allegedly belonged to a member of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

In Guantánamo, bin Omar faced an array of allegations, including claims that he had been a trainer at a military camp, that he was in charge of a Tunisian guest house in Afghanistan, and, bizarrely, that he “traveled to Pakistan under Osama bin Laden’s protection.” For his part, he refuted all the allegations, and stated that, “after he moved to Pakistan, he never left Pakistan and never went to Afghanistan,” and it may be that the authorities eventually believed him, as he was cleared for release in 2006.

Unfortunately, however, although he also insisted that he had never been a member of any militant groups in Tunisia, no one in the US administration informed him that, in 1995, the Tunisian regime run by the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had sentenced him in absentia to 10 years in prison (some statements say 23 years) for belonging to a terrorist organization operating abroad, even though the case against him relied primarily on a statement made by one of his 19 co-defendants, who had claimed, without providing any evidence, that he had been associated in Pakistan with a group called the Tunisian Islamic Front.

Although the US administration knows all about the Tunisian government’s human rights abuses, bin Omar’s repatriation was defended because the US government had secured a “diplomatic assurance” from the Tunisian government, which purported to guarantee that bin Omar –- and any other returned prisoners –- would be treated humanely on their return. Instead, however, bin Omar was imprisoned, told that his wife and daughters would be raped, and then subjected to a show trial and given a seven-year sentence based on the 1995 verdict, in which, as his Tunisian lawyer pointed out, the incriminating statement used to convict him was probably the product of torture and abuse.

Three prisoners cleared for release, and the perils of repatriation

The first of the three prisoners cleared for release is Abdul Rauf al-Qassim (referred to by the Pentagon as al-Qusin, and in court documents as Abdul Ra’ouf Zalita), a 37-year old Libyan, who has been cleared to leave Guantánamo since 2006. A soldier in the Libyan army from 1983 to 1989, he had then deserted, traveling to Afghanistan “to immigrate and to start a new life,” as he explained to his military review board in Guantánamo in May 2005. After fighting with the mujahideen until 1993, when the last remnants of the Soviet regime fell, he “traveled back and forth between Pakistan and Afghanistan” — at one point studying at university in Quetta — and also met and married an Afghan woman, Rahima, with whom he had a daughter, Khiria, who has spent the whole of her young life without her father (see photo, left).

Al-Qassim was captured in Lahore in May 2002, at the house of a Pakistani, after escaping from war-torn Afghanistan with his pregnant wife, but although it was clear that he had not taken up arms against the Americans, it was far less clear that he would not be regarded as a threat by the government of his home country. At his review in 2005, he explained — via a statement made to his Assisting Military Officer (the officer assigned to represent the prisoners instead of lawyers) — that he had received military training at two Libyan camps in Afghanistan, but only because he was living there, and also admitted that he had joined the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group — exiled opponents of the Gaddafi regime — but only “out of desperation — he was broke, had no place to go, was hungry, unemployed and had no way to support himself.” He added that his family “did not receive monetary support from the [LIFG], but he received food, shelter and an allowance for clothes.” He also agreed with previous statements he had made: that he “did not believe in violence,” and that he “angrily defined [al-Qaeda’s] leadership and members as ‘savages’ who twist the meaning of Islam, thereby hurting all Muslims.”

Although al-Qassim stated that a Libyan delegation, who visited Guantánamo in 2004 (and were actually flown there by the CIA), told him that they “knew he was with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group only by name,” that he was “obligated to be with them,” and that they would “take care of him,” he repeatedly told his Assisting Military Officer that he was “afraid of returning to Libya.” “He said he does not want to go to Libya because he feels he cannot trust them and because they put people in prison for no reason,” his AMO reported. “He said he feels that if he returns to Libya, even after being released by the United States, he would be sent back to prison.” Such was his concern that the Presiding Officer noted, “For the record, make sure that we put in our report that the Detainee is afraid of returning to Libya.”

In spite of this, the US government sought to return al-Qassim to Libya, and, as I noted in an article last June, his lawyers were obliged to take the government to court to prevent his return. As one of the more prominent long-term cleared prisoners, he has sought asylum in Switzerland, but the taint that hangs over all the Guantánamo prisoners — and which is willfully exacerbated by the Pentagon’s insistence that any cleared prisoner is still an “enemy combatant,” who has only been “approved for transfer” from Guantánamo — has so far made the Swiss refuse to accept his application. In December 2008, as part of his habeas corpus review (mandated by the Supreme Court in a ruling last June) and in an attempt to secure a ruling “proving that he does not pose a risk to any country that offers to resettle him,” his lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights submitted a Joint Status Report (PDF), in which they noted that his legal limbo was still ongoing:

The Government has cleared him for transfer from Guantánamo, and has twice attempted to repatriate him to Libya, the country from which he fled to Afghanistan more than a decade ago in order to avoid religious persecution. Petitioner has a credible fear that he will be subject to imprisonment, torture and possible summary execution if he is forcibly returned to Libya, and he has resisted all attempts to repatriate him to that country. He remains detained in Camp 6, an isolation facility, more than six years after his detention and nearly two years after the Government’s first notice of intent to transfer him out of Guantánamo.

Also cleared, and unwilling to return to their home countries are two Tunisians. The first, Lotfi bin Ali (also identified as Lufti bin Ali, and originally known to the US authorities as Mohammed Abdul Rahman), was 37 years old when he was seized. Essentially an economic migrant, bin Ali, who had been living in Italy, explained in Guantánamo that he went to Pakistan for medical treatment and to find a wife. “I have told my story five hundred times,” he said. “I went to Pakistan for drugs. I was sick and I wanted to heal myself, so I went to Pakistan.” He also traveled, he said, “to get married and relax and to get out of what I was in.”

As with Abdullah bin Omar, the authorities compiled an array of allegations that purported to undermine bin Ali’s story, including claims that he was involved in various North African terrorist groups, and a claim by “a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant” that he attended the Khaldan training camp in 1998 or 1999, but he refuted all the allegations, and insisted that he had only traveled to Afghanistan because the Pakistani government had started a campaign against Arabs. In his last review before he was cleared for release, he also retracted a confession, “admitted some time ago,” that he associated with “various amounts” of terrorists while in Jalalabad, saying, “I do not pose a threat. I am against terrorism … I am against the killing of innocent people … I live a normal life. I do not like problems. That’s it.”

Like bin Omar, bin Ali had also been sentenced in Tunisia in absentia, but after the experiences of bin Omar and Lotfi Lagha (another Tunisian returned in June 2007, who received a three-year prison sentence), a US District Court in Washington D.C. intervened to prevent his repatriation in November 2007, when Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that he “cannot be sent to Tunisia because he could suffer ‘irreparable harm’ that the US courts would be powerless to reverse.”

Since Judge Kessler’s ruling, Lotfi bin Ali has been stuck in Guantánamo, while the State Department has tried unsuccessfully to find a third country prepared to accept him and the other Tunisians who have been cleared for release. These include a number of other prisoners who were legal residents in Italy, as I explained in an article last year, as well as Abdul Haddi bin Hadiddi, the last prisoner to be discussed in this online chapter.

33 years old at the time of his capture, bin Hadiddi told a coherent story in Guantánamo about encountering representatives of Jamaat-al-Tablighi in November or December 1999 (probably in Italy, where he was living at the time), who convinced him “to abandon his wayward lifestyle and return to his Muslim roots.” As a result, he said, Tablighi representatives funded his travel to Karachi, Pakistan in early 2000, although he apparently admitted that he found them too strict and subsequently “went his own way.”

Quite what this involved, however, is difficult to ascertain. The evidence against him originally involved claims that he had attended various training camps in Afghanistan, but by the time of his most recent publicly available review, in 2006, these had been dropped. What remained were allegations that he was involved with the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, and was “known to have provided logistical support to terrorist organizations.” These allegations were presumably abandoned when he was cleared for release in 2007, but, like most of the other Tunisians, he cannot be returned to Tunisia because he too was subjected in absentia to a ten-year sentence “for belonging to a terrorist organization active on foreign soil in times of peace,” and his release — like that of at least 55 other prisoners, including Abdul Rauf al-Qassim and Lotfi bin Ali — is therefore dependent upon the US State Department finding another country prepared to accept him.

Notes

Tahamuttan (ISN 684): ARB 2 Factors Set 8, pp. 27-9; Azak (ISN 685): ARB 2 Factors Set 8, pp. 30-2; Abdul Aziz (ISN 757): ARB 2 Factors Set 9, pp. 6-8; Diyab (ISN 722): ARB 2 Factors Set 8, pp. 92-4; Bakush (ISN 708): ARB 2 Factors Set 8, pp. 72-4; al-Zahrani (ISN 713): ARB 2 Factors Set 8, pp. 75-8; al-Hassan (ISN 719): CSRT Set 42, 53-62; al-Amir (ISN 720): CSRT Set 12, 9-15; bin Omar (ISN 721): ARB 2 Factors Set 8, pp. 89-91; al-Qassim (ISN 709): ARB Set 8, pp. 127-131; Abdul Rahman (ISN 894); bin Hadiddi (ISN 717): ARB 2 Factors Set 8, pp. 79-81.

Abbreviations used in the Notes (amended April 2012)

“CSRT” and “ARB” refer to the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which were held at Guantánamo from July 2004 to March 2005, and the first round of Administrative Review Boards, annual reviews held from December 2004 onwards. The transcripts of these hearings, released by the Pentagon in March and April 2006, can be found here. In addition to the transcripts of the CSRT and ARB hearings, this page also provides access to the Unclassified Summaries of Evidence for over a hundred ARB hearings.

“CSRB” refers to the Combatant Status Review Boards. These documents, which comprise the Unclassified Summaries of Evidence for 517 of the 558 CSRT hearings, were released by the Pentagon in 2005 under Freedom of Information legislation, although they are no longer online. For these transcripts, I have chosen a numbering system similar to that used for the CSRT and ARB hearings, so that, for example, “March 2005 Release” becomes “CSRB Set 3.”

“ARB 2” refers to the second round of Administrative Review Boards. The transcripts of these hearings, released by the Pentagon in September 2007 (after I completed The Guantánamo Files) can be found on the same Pentagon page as linked to above, under the heading “Administrative Review Board (ARB) Documents –- Round Two” and the sub-heading “Transcripts and Certain Documents from Administrative Review Boards (ARB) Round Two (held at Guantánamo in 2006).” Also included are the Unclassified Summaries for all the second round ARB hearings, under the sub-heading “Summaries of Detention-Release Factors for Administrative Review Boards (ARB) Round Two (held at Guantánamo),” which are referred to in the Notes as “ARB 2 Factors,” and below these are heavily redacted documents explaining decisions relating to the release or transfer of detainees. Also included are links to detailed and very useful indexes.

The documents released in September 2007 also augmented the information contained in previously released documents. This release has now been incorporated into the Pentagon page linked to above, but in the Notes above there are references to all the Unclassified Summaries from the CSRT process (with names and ISN numbers) — only 517 of which had been previously issued without names or numbers (see “CSRB” above) — which were included in this release of documents, and references to these documents are labeled as “CSRT Factors.” This release also included all the Unclassified Summaries from the first round ARBs, instead of the limited number released in 2006 (see “ARB Factors” above), and references to these documents in the Notes are labeled “ARB Factors Sep 07.” Also included are heavily redacted documents explaining decisions relating to the release or transfer of detainees.

“ISN” refers to “Internment Serial Numbers,” the unique number assigned to each prisoner in Guantánamo. A list of the 558 prisoners (identified by name, nationality and ISN) who went through the CSRT process can be found here. A list of 759 prisoners, including the 201 released or transferred before the CSRT process began (identified by name, nationality, date and place of birth and ISN), can be found here.

Some of the references in the Notes will not correspond to the files on the Pentagon’s current CSRT/ARB page, and if this is the case, then readers are directed to the New York Times‘ excellent project, The Guantánamo Docket, where all the CSRT and ARB documents can be searched for using the prisoners’ names or ISN numbers.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — 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. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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