Photos and Report: The Ten Coordinated Global Vigils for the Closure of Guantánamo on July 3, 2024

Photos from the ten coordinated monthly global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on July 3, 2024. Clockwise, from top L: Washington, D.C., London, New York City and Mexico City.

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My thanks, as always, to the campaigners in ten different locations across the US and around the world who came together on Wednesday (July 3), to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay — in Washington, D.C., London, New York City, Mexico City, Brussels, San Francisco, Detroit, Cobleskill, NY, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, from organizations including Amnesty International, Witness Against Torture, the World Can’t Wait and the UK Guantánamo Network, and with supporting organizations including the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

Campaigners with Witness Against Torture outside the White House on July 3, 2024. Responding to a question about the recent Supreme Court decision — that any “official acts” a president takes, even beyond the office’s “core constitutional functions”, enjoy “presumptive immunity” from prosecution — Helen Schietinger wrote, “Well, they still let us stand here: so far, so good, but who knows how much longer we’ll be allowed to stand in front of this gigantic fence?”
Eight campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network gathered in Parliament Square on July 3, 2024, Including campaigners from across London and the south east, and Anna Fauzy-Ackroyd from the Isle of Wight (3rd from left), who joined the vigil before moving on to Australia House (with another three of us) for a celebration of Julian Assange’s freedom on his 53rd birthday. For the five years that Julian Assange was held in Belmarsh, campaigners held a vigil there every Wednesday, as well as holding vigils in Piccadilly Circus and outside Belmarsh itself. (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Via a Fundamentally Devious US Plea Deal, Julian Assange Will Soon Be a Free Man

Julian Assange flying out of the UK after his release from HMP Belmarsh on June 25, 2024, in a photo made available by his wife Stella.

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In unexpected and truly heartening news, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange will soon now a free man, reunited, in his home country of Australia, with his wife Stella and their two sons, Gabriel and Max (born in 2017 and 2019), who have only ever seen their father behind bars.

Assange was released from the maximum-security HMP Belmarsh in south east London, where he had spent over five years —1,901 days — in legal limbo, fighting extradition to the US to face espionage charges relating to his work as a journalist and publisher exposing US crimes and war crimes.

From Stansted Airport, he is being flown to the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States, where, in exchange for his freedom, he has agreed to sign a plea deal admitting that he had “knowingly and unlawfully conspired with Chelsea Manning” to commit espionage against the United States by obtaining and disseminating classified national defence information.

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Video: I Discuss “Is It Time for Gitmo to Close?” with Scottie Nell Hughes on Sovren Media

A screenshot from “Is It Time for Gitmo to Close?” with Scottie Nell Hughes on Sovren Media.

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If you have half an hour to spare, I hope you’ll watch my interview about the prison at Guantánamo Bay with Scottie Nell Hughes, on her show 360 View, as featured on the online TV channel Sovren Media, in which the other featured guest was the conservative talk radio host Steve Gill.

Scottie and I had spoken previously when she worked for RT America, between 2018 and the channel’s politically motivated closure in 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and it was good to be given an opportunity to elucidate some of the many incontrovertible reasons why this festering sore from the US’s brutal and lawless post-9/11 experiments in torture, dehumanization and endless imprisonment without charge or trial should be shut down.

I’m glad to say that I was given plenty of time to explain the reasons that Guantánamo must be closed, and should have been “a long, long time ago”, as I put it — because it is, as I also explained, “a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and a great shame for the United States every day that it remains open.”

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Quarterly Appeal: Please Support My Ongoing 18 Years of Campaigning to Close Guantánamo and My Work on Israel’s Genocide in Gaza

Andy Worthington calls for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on January 11, 2020.

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It’s over 18 years since I gave my life over to telling the true story of the prison at Guantánamo Bay and the men and boys held there, and to the seemingly endless task of trying to get the prison closed.

I began with a book, The Guantánamo Files, which absolutely consumed 14 months of my life, and since then I’ve written over 2,000 articles, about every aspect of Guantánamo’s story, mostly here, but also, at various times, for the New York Times, the Guardian and Al Jazeera, as well as on the Close Guantánamo website, which I established with the US attorney Tom Wilner in 2012.

I also co-directed a film, ’Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’, released in 2009, and have worked with the United Nations, WikiLeaks, Reprieve and Cagepisoners (now CAGE International). I’ve also spoken publicly about Guantánamo at every opportunity, have undertaken numerous TV and radio appearances, and, more recently, via podcasts and other online media outlets, have written and recorded songs about Guantánamo (and the CIA’s “black site” torture program), and have launched numerous campaigns.

These include, most recently, an ongoing photo campaign involving posters marking every 100 days of Guantánamo’s existence, and ongoing monthly coordinated vigils for the prison’s closure, which take place across the US and around the world on the first Wednesday of every month, and which have specifically focused on the 16 men (out of the 30 still held) who have long been approved for release, but who are still held because the decisions taken to release them were purely administrative, meaning that no legal mechanism whatsoever exists to compel the government to free them if, as is abundantly apparent, the Biden administration has no interest in prioritizing their release. In fact, as recently became clear, in the cases of eleven of these men, the Biden administration specifically prevented their resettlement after the events of October 7, fearing the “political optics” of doing so.

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Photos and Report: Ten Close Guantánamo Monthly Global Vigils on June 5, 2024 Condemn Lawless and Unending Imprisonment

Photos from the ten global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on June 5, 2024. Clockwise, from top L: Washington, D.C., Mexico City, New York City and London.

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On Wednesday, campaigners in ten locations across the US and around the world held the latest monthly coordinated global vigils calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which, on June 23, will have been open for 8,200 days.

The monthly vigils, which I initiated last February, took place in Washington, D.C., New York, London, Mexico City, Brussels, San Francisco, Cobleskill, NY, Detroit, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, and focused, as usual, not just on calls for the prison’s eventual closure, but also for the immediate release of 16 men (out of the 30 still held) who have long been approved for release, but are still held because the decisions to release them — taken unanimously by high-level US government review processes — were, nevertheless, purely administrative. This means that no legal mechanism exists to compel the Biden administration to free them, if, as is increasingly apparent, President Biden and Antony Blinken have no interest in prioritizing their release.

As the poster that I update every month shows, as of June 5, these men had been held for between 621 and 1,315 days since the decisions were taken to release them, and, in three outlying cases, for 5,248 days. Any country that tolerates this cannot be said to have the slightest respect for the law, or, indeed, for any fundamental human notions of decency.

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Radio: I Discuss Israel’s Horrendous Prisons for Palestinians and the ICC Noose Tightening Around Netanyahu’s Neck on Gorilla Radio

A leaked photograph from inside Israel’s Sde Teiman prison, obtained by CNN, shows a blindfolded prisoner with his arms above his head in a crowded, open-air cell in which other prisoners are also blindfolded, as part of a regimen of unacceptable punishment in which, held without charge or trial and with the permanent threat of severe violence, they are permanently blindfolded and prevented from talking to one another.

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My thanks to the indefatigable Chris Cook, based in western Canada, for having me on his Gorilla Radio show to discuss Ending Israel’s Impunity for Genocide in Gaza, and the Threat to Those, Like Joe Biden, Who Are Most Complicit, my latest article on the defining horror of our times. Our discussion takes place in the second half of the one-hour show, available on Substack here, after an illuminating first half with Yves Engler, the Montreal-based political activist, whose latest book, co-authored with Owen Schalk, is ‘Canada’s Long Fight Against Democracy.’ I’m also pleased to note that Chris played my song ‘Forever Prisoner’, about Guantánamo prisoner Khaled Qassim, recorded with my band The Four Fathers.

Chris and I began by discussing Jonathan Cook’s latest article for Middle East Eye, The message of Israel’s torture chambers is directed at all of us, not just Palestinians, which drew on a detailed CNN investigation published on May 11, Strapped down, blindfolded, held in diapers: Israeli whistleblowers detail abuse of Palestinians in shadowy detention center, about Sde Teiman, a secret Israeli prison on a military base in the Negev Desert, where Palestinians seized in the Gaza Strip since October 7 are kept naked, blindfolded and handcuffed, and, permanently, “forced to remain motionless and silent”, as Cook describes it, adding, “At night, dogs are set on them. Anyone who speaks or moves risks being savagely beaten till bones are broken.”

The whistleblowers who spoke to CNN also explained that “doctors sometimes amputated prisoners’ limbs due to injuries sustained from constant handcuffing; of medical procedures sometimes performed by underqualified medics earning it a reputation for being “a paradise for interns”; and where the air is filled with the smell of neglected wounds left to rot.”

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Video: I Discuss Guantánamo and My Work with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks on Consortium News

A screenshot from ‘Guantánamo Andy & WikiLeaks’, my recent interview with Cathy Vogan and Elizabeth Vos of Consortium News.

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I’m delighted to be posting the video interview I undertook recently, discussing my work articulating and opposing the ongoing 22-year horror story of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and my work with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo in 2011, with Cathy Vogan and Elizabeth Vos of Consortium News, the independent news website established in 1995 by the late investigative journalist Robert Parry, which is now run by Cathy and Joe Lauria.

After the interview, I met Joe and Cathy at an event for Julian Assange in London, and was pleased to find two like-minded souls in the unending struggle to expose the truth about the state of the world, and to resist further crimes and abuses of power by those in charge.

In the interview, I began by explaining how I had become involved in the Guantánamo story, in 2006, and the forensic investigative work that was required to piece together — from documents reluctantly made publicly available by the Pentagon through Freedom of Information legislation, including, for the first time, the names and nationalities of the prisoners — a coherent narrative about who was held in Guantánamo, and how the overwhelming majority of the 779 men and boys held there by the US military since January 2002 had no connection with terrorism, for my book The Guantánamo Files, published in 2007.

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Guantánamo Scandal: Eleven Men Were Set to Be Freed Last October, Until “Political Optics” Shifted After Hamas’ Attack on Israel

The eleven Yemeni prisoners who were supposed to be resettled in Oman in October 2023. Top row, from L to R: Moath Al-Alwi, Khaled Qassim, Toffiq Al-Bihani, Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah, Uthman Abd Al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman. Middle row: Sharqawi Al-Hajj, Abdulsalam Al-Hela, Sanad Al-Kazimi, Suhayl Al-Sharabi, Zakaria Al-Baidany. Bottom row: Hassan Bin Attash.

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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.

Thanks to NBC News, and the four anonymous US government officials who spoke to them, for exposing the latest scandal involving the US prison at Guantánamo Bay — the refusal of the Biden administration to release eleven men, for whom long months of negotiation had secured a safe and viable resettlement option, because of the perceived “political optics” of freeing them after the attacks on Israel by Hamas and other militants on October 7.

Within Guantánamo circles, this scandal was well known, but attorneys for the men had been subjected to a Protective Order issued by the government, preventing them from talking about it, and, as a result, they had all dutifully kept quiet, as had others, like myself, who had got to know about it.

Their silence is, in itself, an indictment of how the US government operates at Guantánamo, as I also recognised when I refused to publicize it, because of the fundamentally lawless situation in which these men are held.

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Julian Assange Wins A Major Battle in His Long War Against Punitive US Overreach

Campaigners for Julian Assange outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on May 20, 2024 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Today, in the High Court in London, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange secured a major legal victory in his long struggle against a blatantly unfair US extradition request, which seeks his extradition to the US to face espionage charges relating to the publication by WikiLeaks, in 2010 and 2011, of classified US files leaked by Chelsea Manning, a US private who had worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Assange’s victory today came when the High Court judges in his case refused to accept US assurances involving two aspects of the extradition request: his right not to be prejudiced against because of his nationality (he is an Australian citizen), and his entitlement to the protections of the US First Amendment, the guarantor of freedom of speech, and the bedrock of protection for journalists and publishers who make available classified information which it is in the public interest to know about, whether it embarrasses governments, or even exposes crimes that they hoped to keep hidden.

Assange’s long struggle against extradition began over five years ago, in April 2019, when he was arrested and taken to HMP Belmarsh, a maximum-security prison in south east London, after the Ecuadorian government withdrew the asylum granted to him in June 2012, which had allowed to him to live, for nearly seven years, in the cramped confines of the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge.

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Photos and Report: Eight Global Vigils For the Closure of Guantánamo on May 1, 2024

Photos from the the monthly coordinated vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on May 1, 2024. Clockwise from top L: Outside the White House in Washington, D.C., in New York City, in London, and in Cobleskill, NY.

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.





 

With Gaza, understandably, dominating the news, as Israel’s genocide continues, and peaceful pro-Palestinian protestors at campuses across the US are being violently assaulted by police on behalf of their universities’ administrators, it’s a tribute to the tenacity of human rights campaigners at five locations across the US — and in London and Brussels — that, on Wednesday, they came out onto the streets to also try to remind people of the ongoing existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and, in particular, the plight of the 16 men (out of 30 still held in total), who have long been approved for release but are still held.

Coordinated monthly vigils for the closure of Guantánamo have been taking place across the US and around the world on the first Wednesday of every month since I began organizing them last February, and on Wednesday, May 1, vigils took place in Washington, D.C., New York, London, Brussels, Cobleskill, NY, Detroit and Los Angeles.

San Francisco didn’t hold a vigil this month, but coordinator Gavrilah Wells took photos at two events at the weekend, and campaigners in Mexico City were also unable to take part, although Natalia Rivera Scott arranged instead for two former prisoners to take photos with posters calling for the prison’s closure.

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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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