Close Guantánamo: Abdul Ghani, An Insignificant Afghan Villager Held for Nine Years


As published on the “Close Guantánamo” website. Please join us — just an email address required.

As we at “Close Guantánamo” continue our series profiling prisoners still held at Guantánamo — and specifically, at this time, the Afghans who are still held — our latest profile is of Abdul Ghani, an unfortunate villager from Kandahar province, who farmed pomegranates and scavenged for scrap metal, and was seized in November 2002 and arrived in Guantánamo nine years ago.

Alarmingly, Abdul Ghani was one of a number of insignificant Afghan prisoners put forward for a trial by military commission under President Bush in 2008. The authorities claimed that he had played a part in attacks and planned attacks as part of the insurgency against US forces, although Ghani himself, and his lawyers, have consistently disputed his purported involvement.

It should, however, be noted that, even if Abdul Ghani had been involved in the activities of which he is accused, it is extraordinary that, over nine years later, he remains in Guantánamo, a prison cynically described as holding “the worst of the worst” terrorists by the Bush administration, when, if he had been held in Afghanistan instead of being flown to Guantánamo, he would have been released many years ago.

As it is, the charges against him were dropped before George W. Bush left office, and have not been reinstated, but he remains held, with no end to his detention in sight. The following profile was written by his military defense attorney, Lt. Col. Barry Wingard. For further information, and to support Abdul Ghani, please feel free to become his friend on Facebook.

Why Not Release Abdul Ghani?
By Lt. Col. Barry Wingard

In the news recently there has been much speculation about the prospective peace talks between the Taliban and the American-led coalition in Afghanistan. As part of these peace negotiations, the Taliban has asked for the release of Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some specific names have been reported to have been discussed, such as Muhammad Fazl, the former Taliban deputy defense minister. To all the speculation I say: why not my client, Abdul Ghani, a man by all accounts guilty of nothing more than mistaken identity and kept ten years without trial for having a common name and being in the wrong at the wrong time?

Abdul Ghani was born around January 1972 in Khoshab, a small village in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Around 400 people live in the village, which is  approximately 45 minutes by foot from Kandahar Airport.

Before his capture, Abdul farmed and hustled to make ends meet by harvesting pomengranates and collecting metal for resale in the local markets. He speaks Pashtu, the native language throughout the province, and a little Arabic, and he has two brothers, who are active in the local community. One is the Imam for the village.

In November 2002, Abdul Ghani was seized from his village and sold to US forces for an unspecified amount of money. Once in US custody, he spent four months at an Afghan prison, where he was forced to endure harsh treatment, before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay on March 23, 2003, where he remains to this day. He has now been held for nine years without a trial, and the ninth anniversary of his arrival at Guantanamo passed last week, unnoticed by all except his family and his lawyers.

The main allegation against Abdul Ghani is that he was involved in carrying rockets (potentially to be used against US forces) for money. However, although his village is a poor one with limited resources, and money brings the necessities of life not the luxuries, there is almost universal recognition that he is the victim of mistaken identity, and has been held for nearly ten years because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All of the villagers in Khoshab are anxious for Abdul Ghani’s return. He continues to maintain a good reputation, and the villagers support his release and would support him in becoming reintegrated into his former profession as a farmer. He intends to once again become a valued member of the local village community, and will remain under the supervision of his brothers and village elders.

His fiancée, a lady who has patiently waited for him through all these years is even more anxious for the day Abdul Ghani returns and they are able to begin their lives together anew.

Abdul Ghani is nothing more than a hard working farmer and active member of his local village. For ten years, that simple lifestyle has been disrupted unnecessarily, and the time has long since passed for his return home. He has patiently waited for his release while maintaining his Afghan honor, and is ready to return to an active life of community involvement and farming his lands. Essentially, he is eager to reclaim the life that has been taken from him during all these years of captivity.

As Abdul’s attorney I can tell you first hand that we will not rest until he is reunited with his family and fiancée. If anyone should be returned back to their home to resume their now shattered life, it is Abdul Ghani.

I have little doubt that we will get Abdul Ghani home sooner or later, but I’m extremely mindful that it’s our job to make it sooner rather than later, for Abdul’s sake. You see, his captors may have the money and power, but we have the truth.

The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the United States government. Lt. Col. Wingard is a military lawyer who represents both Abdul Ghani (Afghani) and Fayiz al-Kandari (Kuwaiti) and has served for 28 years in the military. When not on active duty, he is a public defender in the city of Pittsburgh.

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.

23 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Johan van der Merwe ‎wrote:

    “Yes we CAN!” the man said in his election campaign. I completely misunderstood him. Never realized he meant: “Yes we CAN indefinitely hold people prisoner without trial.”

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Graham Ennis wrote:

    also, “Yes I can order the death of an innocent child, in a drone airstrike, without explanation……..

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Toia Tutta Jung wrote:

    The world has a problem, and that problem is U.S.A.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Nello Bucciero wrote:

    How disappointing Obama has become…him, his lies and his “killer” drones.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Toia Tutta Jung wrote:

    Focusing on Obama – or on just one administration is not the point. The United States has a long tradition of manipulating with the world´s political order, and they might not even know how to do their job other than this way.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you Johan, Graham, Toia and Nello. I’m glad that there is interest in men like Abdul Ghani, otherwise almost entirely forgotten. Please do feel free to friend him on Facebook:
    Also please join us at “Close Guantanamo” – just an email required:
    And do please read about the latest in the case of Omar Khadr if you missed it:

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Graham Ennis wrote:

    Thank You Andy, for your relentless pursuit of the truth. These prisoners have no one to speak for them, in most cases. They are kept alive like zoo specimens. What horrifies me is that after 1945, most Germans protested that “They did not know” about the atrocities, although, of course, vast rumours were circulating before the surrender. but the Amerikans have no excuse. Wikileaks, internet, and many other sources, all take away completely any excuse that the general Amerikan population “Did not know”. They know. Most do nothing, or actuallly support the torture and the killings, and want more. Decent people are now a persecuted minority in Amerika. The system of repression they now have there, with the new presidential powers of internal rendition, imprisonment without trial, and extra-judicial executions, etc, are worse than Hitlers enabling act. They know. They do nothing. They are silently complicit. This is now a country that has essentially transitioned to fascism. (of a very clever, electronic, big brother kind). Remain silent, and you have a life. Speak out, and………

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Charmaine Dolan wrote:

    Thanks Andy.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Graham and Charmaine, and everyone else who has liked and shared this. I agree, Graham, that the transition to modern fascism is largely unnoticed, and it’s worrying to see such changes in people’s mentality, as someone who grew up during Thatcher, and can see how different things were in the 70s and the early 80s (and even the early 90s), and how some of the most odious changes have taken place in the last 80s and in the last 15 years. People need to be worried — and trying to do something about it — in far more significant numbers than we’re seeing in any Western countries except Greece and Spain.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    I am sharing this Andy. Thank you so much.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Graham Ennis wrote:

    Hi Andy, Yes, the British state has a very dark underbelly. The UK “Deep State” with its core around the arms industry, city of london, corrupt politicans and officials, with the security service and police, now forms a dangerous mass of repression. The criminalization of any significant dissent, with protesters treated as possible terrorists, etc, means that most are now silent. Much of this is due to Blairism, Nu-Labor, and their nutty, Orwellian policies. As an “Old labour”, of the bedrock fundamentalist kind, when it comes to basic principles, I am horrified at how low things have now sunk. The new security regulations enacted “To make us safe” during the Olympics, are of course going to remain in place afterwards. lethal.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Graham, but don’t get me started on the Olympics! An excuse to ramp up “security,” and cleanse London permanently of any untidy “occupations” of public or privatised public places. We need to be prepared to resist …

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    And thanks also, Dejanka. Always good to hear from you.

  14. Dysfunctional Tragedy Inherent in the Function of War « Streams of consciousness says...

    […] Worthington: Close Guantánamo: Abdul Ghani, An Insignificant Afghan Villager Held for Nine Years “As it is, the charges against him were dropped before George W. Bush left office, and have […]

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Thank you, Andy. Shared and sent him request to be my friend, obviously, via his lawyer. I don’t just click and share your links if I truly believe in justice. Add him as your friend if you truly beleive he is a victim. That’s a test of how genuine you are.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Or scared to death.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Dejanka, for the powerful incentive to get involved. As I often say, if everyone who claimed to be concerned did something, we really could change the world …

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Graham Ennis wrote (in response to 12, above):

    I agree Andy. Kim il Boris will be “Sanitizing things”………

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui JS wrote:

    I like pomegranate farmers and hate torture and gtmo, so I friended.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    It’s dreadful to think how far I was in the past from all these stories about Guantanamo Bay prisoners before I became a friend of Andy Worthington on Facebook. I immediately bought his book and went to the screening of his film co-directed with Polly Nash in London. Although I did know, vaguely, what happened, I still needed someone like him to put me on the right track. Since that time, my understanding of the lives of these prisoners, left alone and forgotten by the whole world, is much deeper now. Our mainstream media failed terribly to educate us about the suffering of the innocent Muslims, captured and sold, just for one purpose to justify that dirty military adventure called ‘War on Terror’.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant ‎wrote:

    5000 friends of Andy Worhington, fighting for justice, admiring him, but only 20 dared to be Abdul Ghani’s friend. Why is that? If I lived during WWII I would have been the first to defend all those ‘undesirables’. Like my father, a communist, who spent 4 years in Fascist/Nazis camps. Don’t say like all cowards, after the end, “We didn’t know”. The difference from that time is that you know, thanks to social media. That’s Andy’s FB page.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    In Lt. Col. Wingard’s words, “I have little doubt that we will get Abdul Ghani home sooner or later, but I’m extremely mindful that it’s our job to make it sooner rather than later, for Abdul’s sake. You see, his captors may have the money and power, but we have the truth.” It’s my duty to help this man.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Graham. Thanks, Mui, and thanks again, Dejanka. Again, I thank you for pushing those who claim to care to do something to demonstrate it, Dejanka.

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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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