Archive for March, 2022

In Abu Zubaydah Case, Justice Gorsuch Lays Bare the US Government’s Shameful and Enduring Torture Problem

An image using a photo of Abu Zubaydah at Guantánamo, created by Brigid Barrett for an article in Wired in July 2013.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

As we settle into the third decade since the 9/11 attacks, and the US’s brutal and counter-productive response to it — the establishment of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and a global program of kidnapping, rendition and torture in CIA “black sites” — the US government is still furiously engaged in efforts to hide the evidence of what it did to whom, and where, even though much of that information is in the public domain, and has been for many years.

A case in point is a recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Abu Zubaydah, for whom the post-9/11 torture program was first developed, in the mistaken belief — which the US government has since walked back from — that he was a major player in Al-Qaeda. Zubaydah, a stateless Palestinian, whose real name is Zain al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, was seized in a house raid in Pakistan on March 28, 2002, and was taken to the CIA’s first black site, in Thailand. He was then moved to further “black sites” in Poland, in Guantánamo itself, and in Morocco and Lithuania, before ending up back at Guantánamo in September 2006, with 13 other “high-value detainees,” where he has been held ever since without charge or trial.

The case before the Supreme Court didn’t involve the question of whether, after 20 years, Abu Zubaydah should be released, as one of a number of “forever prisoners” who have never been charged, although that is a perfectly valid question — and one that, in the last year, prompted 99 lawmakers to write to President Biden to urge him to release everyone still held at Guantánamo who hasn’t been charged, a total of 26 of the 38 men still held, including Abu Zubaydah.

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It’s Back! ‘Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster’ Blows Minds at Hackney Empire, Now Heads to Canterbury on UK/Ireland Tour

BAC Beatbox Academy performing ‘Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster’ at Hackney Empire on March 11, 2022.

A week last Friday, at Hackney Empire (the legendary Grade II listed theatre in east London), BAC Beatbox Academy, a group of young beatboxers, singers and rappers based in Battersea Arts Centre in south west London brought back to life their show ‘Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster’, the top-rated show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019, which was in the early stages of a British Council-backed world tour — having wowed the Adelaide Fringe in February and March 2020 — when Covid hit, and everything ground to a halt.

The performance at Hackney Empire on March 11 — when the theatre, with support from Hackney Council, put it on as a free performance for 11-18 year olds — marked its return after two years, and it was a raging, resounding success.

Devised over two years (from 2016 to 2018) by six members of the Beatbox Academy (including my son Tyler), under the direction of Beatbox Academy founder Conrad Murray and visiting director David Cumming, and with wonderfully powerful choreography and lighting, the show takes the themes of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, and, eschewing a linear narrative, updates them via reflections on alienation and the dangerous power of social media in a largely impressionistic manner.

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How I Finally Met Former Guantánamo Prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi As A Free Man

Mohamedou Ould Salahi and Andy Worthington meeting for the first time at Chatham House in London on March 10, 2022 (Photo: Bernard Sullivan).

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Last Thursday, at Chatham House, the independent policy institute in St. James’s Square in London, I finally got to meet someone I greatly admire, who I’ve been writing about since 2006 — Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi), former Guantánamo prisoner, torture survivor, and the author of the best-selling memoir Guantánamo Diary, who was taking part in a discussion about Guantánamo with Rachel Briggs, a Chatham House Fellow, and Sonya Sceats of Freedom from Torture, as part of his ongoing UK speaking tour.

I’ve taken part in various online events with Mohamedou over the last year (see here, here and here), but meeting him in person was a particular thrill. He was as witty and as playful as I expected, and, at the event, spoke compellingly about the importance of forgiveness, which he has extended to all those who tortured and abused him, and which is a defining aspect of his philosophy.

I first came across Mohamedou’s case in 2006-07, while I was researching and writing about the stories of all the men held at Guantánamo for my book The Guantánamo Files, published in September 2007.

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Torture Victim Mohammed Al-Qahtani Finally Released from Guantánamo, Sent to Mental Health Facility in Saudi Arabia; But 19 Other Cleared Prisoners Remain

Mohammed al-Qahtani, photographed before his capture (on the left), in a photo provided by one of his lawyers, Ramzi Kassem, and, on the right, photographed at Guantánamo.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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 Monday (March 7), Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi prisoner at Guantánamo, who was shamefully tortured at the prison in 2002-03, despite suffering from schizophrenia, related to a car accident as a child, was released from Guantánamo, and sent back to Saudi Arabia to receive appropriate mental health care in a rehabilitation facility. His release brings to 38 the number of men still held at the prison.

Al-Qahtani had been tortured, over many months in Guantánamo’s first year of operations, because it had emerged that he had tried to get into the US in August 2001 to be the 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, but had been turned away by the authorities, presumably because he was incapable of disguising his already existing mental health problems. He then made his way to Afghanistan, where he was seized and sent to Guantánamo.

At Guantánamo, US personnel had been persistently unable to cope with his profound mental health problems, exacerbated by his torture, and yet it had taken until March 2020 for anyone in a position of authority to recognize that a valid case could be made that he should be sent back to Saudi Arabia because the authorities at Guantánamo were unable to adequately deal with his illness.

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Quarterly Fundraiser: Seeking $2500 (£2000) to Support My Work to Get Guantánamo Shut Down and to Hold Accountable Those Responsible for Its Existence

Andy Worthington holding up a poster marking 7,306 days of the existence of the prison at Guantánamo  Bay on Jan. 11, 2022, the 20th anniversary of its opening. The poster is part on an ongoing Close Guantánamo photo campaign, and today, Mar. 7, the prison has been open for 7,361 days.

Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,500 (£2,000) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo into 2021, and/or for my London photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’.




Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months, I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support my ongoing work on Guantánamo — telling the stories of the men still held, and campaigning to get the prison shut down. As a reader-funded journalist and activist, I rely on your support to enable me to keep running three websites (Andy Worthington, Close Guantánamo and the Gitmo Clock), maintaining the associated social media, and engaging in public speaking and media events.

It’s now 16 years — over a quarter of my life — since I began working on Guantánamo on a full-time basis, inspired by three particular events in March 2006: the publication of former prisoner Moazzam Begg’s memoir, Enemy Combatant, the release of the documentary-drama ‘The Road to Guantánamo’ (about the three British prisoners known as ‘The Tipton Three’), and the release — after the Pentagon lost a Freedom of Information lawsuit — of thousands of pages of documents relating to the prisoners.

When the names and nationalities of the prisoners were finally released in the months that followed, I was able to begin analyzing them, to work out who the prisoners were, and to compile a timeline of their capture, for my book The Guantánamo Files, which was published in September 2007.

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Former Guantánamo Prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi Embarks on a UK Speaking Tour

A screenshot of former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi) speaking by Zoom to a meeting of the Lewes Amnesty Group on January 11, 2021 (the 19th anniversary of the opening of the prison), which also featured journalist and activist Andy Worthington.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I’m delighted to report that former Guantánamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Salahi (aka Slahi) has safely arrived in the UK for his first ever speaking tour, and appeared yesterday evening (March 3) at the University of Bristol’s Human Rights Implementation Centre, where, according to the human rights activist Bernard Sullivan, who has organised his tour, he spoke “to a packed auditorium of academics, students and guests, with many others watching via Zoom”, and where copies of his book Guantánamo Diary, which he was signing, sold out.

Mohamedou is here for the rest of the month, taking part in nine other events, and I’m pleased to note that I will be joining him for two of these, at the University of Brighton and at the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells. Some of the events will also involve a screening of ‘The Mauritanian’, the feature film based on Guantánamo Diary, directed by Kevin Macdonald, and featuring Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch.

I’ve been following Mohamedou’s story since I first began working on Guantánamo full-time 16 years ago, and I first met Bernard when he and his wife Susie helped to arrange a Parliamentary meeting about Mohamedou’s case, in April 2016, hosted by the Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, at which the actors Sanjeev Bhaskar and Toby Jones read out passages from Mohamedou’s book, and those in attendance also heard from his brother Yahdih, who lives and works in Germany, Nancy Hollander, Jo Glanville, the director of English PEN, and Jamie Byng of Canongate Books, Mohamedou’s UK publisher.

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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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