Ten Yemenis Freed from Guantánamo, Given New Homes in Oman; Now 93 Men Remain

Fahd Ghazy, photographed before his capture and his rendition to Guantanamo.As the disgraceful US prison at Guantánamo Bay begins its 15th year of operations, President Obama has been busy attempting to show that, with just one year left in office, he is determined to close the prison, as he promised to do on his second day in office back in January 2009, when he promised to close it within a year. Last month, we heard that 17 men would be released in January, and the releases began just days before the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison with the release of two Yemenis in Ghana and the return to Kuwait of Fayiz al-Kandari, the last Kuwaiti in the prison. On the actual anniversary, a Saudi was returned home, and two days after the anniversary ten more Yemenis were released in Oman, Yemen’s neighbor, to add to the ten Yemenis sent to Oman last year.

David Remes, who represents three of the men sent to Oman, said it was “a particularly good fit for them,” as the New York Times described it. “I’m sure that they are ecstatic just leaving Guantánamo,” he said. “But it’s even better than that. They’ve been sent to Oman, an Arab country, whose language, culture and religion are their own. Oman is also one of Yemen’s neighbors, so their families will be able to visit them often.”

Three more releases — of unidentified prisoners to unidentified countries — are expected soon, and, after the release of the ten men to Oman, Lee Wolosky, the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure in the State Department, said, “We expect to be in a position to empty Guantánamo of all detainees who are currently approved for transfer by this summer.” Including the three men who are expected to be freed soon, Wolosky’s description currently applies to 34 of the 93 men still held  — 25 since January 2010, who were approved for release by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and nine in the last two years, by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Three Uighurs Are Freed from Guantánamo; 76 Cleared Prisoners Remain

As was reported on New Year’s Eve by Carol Rosenberg in the Miami Herald, one of Guantánamo’s burning injustices has finally been addressed with the release — to Slovakia — of the last three Uighur prisoners, five years and two months after a US judge ordered their release.

The Uighurs are Muslims from China’s oppressed Xinjiang province, in the north west of the country, and, prior to the 9/11 attacks and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, 22 of them, who subsequently ended up at Guantánamo, had been living in a small, rundown settlement in the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan — either because they had been unable to reach countries they hoped to reach in search of a new life (primarily Turkey, as the Uighurs are a Turkic ethnic group) or because they nursed far-fetched hopes of training militarily to rise up against their oppressors.

After the US-led invasion, their settlement was bombed by US planes, and the survivors fled, eventually making it across the border to Pakistan, where they were greeted warmly by villagers who then promptly handed therm over — or sold them — to US forces.

Although it should have been clear that the men were seized by mistake, as they had only one enemy, the Chinese Communist government (a point they made repeatedly), they were initially used as pawns in diplomatic games with the Chinese government, whereby they were designated as terrorists in return for a promise by China not to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Read the rest of this entry »

Abandoned in Guantánamo: WikiLeaks Reveals the Yemenis Cleared for Release for Up to Seven Years

In all of the mainstream media analysis of WikiLeaks’ recent release of Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) from Guantánamo, relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at the prison over the last nine years and four months, one group of prisoners has so far been overlooked: the Yemenis.

The most unfortunate group of men in Guantánamo, the Yemenis — 89 in total — make up over half of the 172 prisoners still held. In 2006 and 2007, when the majority of the Saudi prisoners were released, as part of a political settlement between the Bush administration and the Saudi government, which introduced an expensive rehabilitation program to secure the return of its nationals, no such deal took place between the US and President Saleh of Yemen.

Just 23 Yemenis have been released from Guantánamo throughout its history, and those who remain have found themselves used as political pawns. When President Obama established the Guantanamo Review Task Force to examine the cases of all the remaining prisoners in 2009, the Task Force — a collection of sober officials and lawyers from various government departments and the intelligence agencies — recommended that 36 Yemenis should be released immediately, and that 30 others should be held in a new category of imprisonment — “conditional detention” — until the security situation in Yemen was assessed to have improved. Read the rest of this entry »

The Abandonment of Guantánamo’s Uighurs and Attorney Sabin Willett’s Powerful Requiem for Habeas Corpus in the US

Before WikiLeaks unleashed a trove of classified military assessments from Guantánamo, revealing — to discerning eyes — how the entire edifice was buit on the lies extracted through the torture, coercion or bribery of the prisoners, and before Osama bin Laden was conveniently killed a week later, perhaps to divert attention back to the torture on which modern-day America is built, and the lies and the arbitrary detention of Muslims, which, to some dark and powerful forces at work in the United States, must not apparently be questioned, the prison at Guantánamo — the most visible icon of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” inherited and maintained by Barack Obama, despite his early enthusiasm for closing it — marked a particularly dark day in its miserable history.

On April 18, the Supreme Court, which had ruled twice that the prisoners at Guantánamo had habeas corpus rights, refused to consider the case of five men abandoned in the prison, despite being innocent.

These men — five Uighurs — are known to people who have been paying attention to what has been done in their name at Guantánamo, but are unknown to many others, even though their plight is emblematic of how cruel and paranoid America is in the 21st century. Read the rest of this entry »

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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