Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (3) Detainee U


You know me as Amer Makhlulif, because I have been arrested, but never charged, as a threat to the national security, and I was therefore afraid to disclose my real name for fear of threats. Amer Makhlulif was the name given me by the immigration officer when I sought asylum in the UK, as he was aware that there may be repercussions for my family, as there are for any family back in Algeria if the authorities knew I had applied for refugee status elsewhere.

After eight years in prison my incarceration was reviewed and bail recommended. During my bail, for eight months, under very strict conditions, I did abide by the conditions rigorously.

I truly believe that when my case gets to the European Court of Human Rights I will win. I believe in justice and although it is a long process to get justice I am patient. Justice takes much determination and dedication.

As I have said, I believe in justice and I would never abscond or run away from these proceedings. I am now 46 years old and I long for and want a wife, family and a stable life. I want everything to be resolved so that I can move on with my life. If I ran away I would be running forever and I would have nothing. I do not want this.

Education is very important to me — in fact my sole lifeline for the last eight years. This is the means by which I have managed to retain my mental stability.

When I was in prison I taught myself English to a sufficient standard so I could enrol in an Open University course. I achieved a degree while I was in prison and have just, after great difficulty due to my conditions, managed to enrol on a Masters course. My commitment to this is despite the difficulties I will have in studying without access to the Internet.

While I was on bail in Brighton I made very good friends who I admire and respect. I am very proud to have friends like these. I would never deceive them. They have opened their home and their hearts to me and I would never do anything to hurt them. This would include deceiving them, as it would be immoral and against Islam.

I understand that I have been held in custody because of secret evidence. I would very much like to know what the evidence is. If I do, then I can attempt to explain it. It may be a misunderstanding. I do not think it is fair that I do not know the evidence against me — it is to do with my liberty. I have racked my brains to think what it could be, but I truly have no idea.

We have to keep fighting this unfair system. We have to send this system of secret evidence to the rubbish bin of history. Tell my friends I miss them and to keep their spirits up.

With the permission of Detainee U, this was read out, by the actor Kate Dyson, at “Britain’s Guantánamo? The use of secret evidence and evidence based on torture in the UK courts,” a parliamentary meeting in the House of Commons, chaired by Diane Abbott MP, on March 30, 2009. The script was based on statements made by Detainee U, who has been a prisoner since 2001, and is now being held as a Category “A” prisoner in Belmarsh high-security prison.

This statement (the third of five) is part of a series of four articles and five statements examining the use of secret evidence in the British courts. For an introduction, see Britain’s Guantánamo: An Introduction, and for the first two articles, see Torture taints all our lives (published in the Guardian’s Comment is free), Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence and Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? For the other four statements, see: Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (1) Detainee Y, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (2) Detainee BB, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (4) Hussain Al-Samamara and Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (5) Detainee Z.

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). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportations and extraditions, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009).

3 Responses

  1. Ann Alexander says...

    I have had the privilege of knowing Amar for many years. I met him in Belmarsh in 2004 and we have corresponded over the years and had phone contact too. While Amar was in prison he sent me many cards, paintings and articles he had written for the prison magazine. It is incredible that he could not even speak english when he was first incarcerated. He now has a degree and he is too modest to say, but I know that in one OU examination, he came first in the UK. He never asked for any help and if anyone sent him a few pounds, he gave it to charity. While in prison he wasn’t in to small talk but he became animated after his release to Brighton. Despite 24 hour house arrest, he was happy as he had such incredible support there particularly from his elderly host. Everyone instantly became very fond of Amar. Amar found marvel in the smallest incidents he observed from his window and found great joy in his friendships. Ofcourse, the Home Office could not abide Amar’s happiness and set about destroying it. Now he is back inside due to secret evidence. It must be hard for him to bear but knowing Amar, he will stay strong, read lots of books and remain hopeful that he can rejoin his friends in Brighton eventually. Despite what they do to him,there is no way that Amar will lose his spark and considering he has the patience of a saint, he will sit and wait it out and keep reading.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Ann. You reminded me that one of Amar’s friends sent me a message after I publicized the Home Office’s last bout of executive overreach in his case:

    The friend wrote:
    “I think I can understand why the Home Office are so hard on U — he is pretty well the only one they have not managed to break yet. All the others seem to have been driven to some sort of mental breakdown at some stage, but U is incredibly stoical, and I’m sure that gets right up their noses!”

    We all know, of course, that it’s deliberate policy to “break” prisoners, on the cruel presumption that, if pushed hard enough, they may voluntarily opt to be repatriated, sparing the government the effort of having to justify breaking the universal torture ban — although in many cases, of course, the effect has been counter-productive from the government’s point of view, as (in Gareth Peirce’s words) several of the men have been driven into a state of “florid psychosis” instead.

    Again, I find the comparisons with Guantanamo uncanny, as the intention there was to “break” prisoners. This was ostensibly for intelligence-gathering purposes, but behind it lies the same absolute disdain for leaving the matter of punishment to a judge, should a jury deliver a guilty verdict after a fair trial, and the same presumption that, because “the gloves came off” after 9/11 (Cofer Black, CIA) or “The rules of the game have changed” (Tony Blair), punishment is now an extra-legal matter, to be dispensed by modern versions of the medieval kings.

    Certain pedantic types take exception when I mention the betrayal, since 9/11, of habeas corpus and 794 years of protection from arbitrary imprisonment, pointing out — correctly — that it took many hundreds of years for habeas to be extended to the common man, but those later developments built on the inestimably important principle, established in 1215, that, in matters of judgment and punishment, no one was above the law — neither the King nor his present-day successors: the President, the Vice President or the defense secretary of the Bush administration, and successive Home Secretaries in the UK.

  3. Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] Guantánamo: (1) Detainee Y, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (2) Detainee BB, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (3) Detainee U, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (4) Hussain Al-Samamara and Five Stories From […]

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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