Radio: I Discuss the Death of the Tories, Labour’s Dubious Victory and Israel’s Guantánamo with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

On the left: Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak, and, on the right, before and after photos of Moazzaz Obayat, a Palestinian from Bethlehem, held for nine months in Israel’s Negev Prison, and released as a broken man.

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Many thanks to my truth warrior colleague Chris Cook, in western Canada, for having me on his Gorilla Radio show again to discuss last week’s General Election in the UK, following up on my article, Despite the Landslide, Labour Have No Vision and Only Won the UK General Election Because the Tories Lost So Spectacularly.

Our interview, available on Chris’s Substack here, took place in the second half of the one-hour show, following his interview with journalist and author John Helmer about Russia and Ukraine.

Chris and I spent most of our half-hour interview discussing the collapse of the Conservative Party — who lost two-thirds of their seats — after the 14 unbearably long years of their increasingly deranged rule, which became noticeably more septic after the vote to leave the EU in 2016, and also discussing the largely empty promise of their replacements, the Labour Party under Keir Starmer, who, because of the vagaries of Britain’s antiquated and anachronistic ‘First Past the Post’ voting system, won a landslide victory, despite securing less votes than Jeremy Corbyn did as Labour’s leader in the General Elections of 2017 and 2019.

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Held for 900 Days Since Being Approved for Release from Guantánamo: Sanad Al-Kazimi, a Yemeni Torture Victim

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Today marks 900 days since Sanad al-Kazimi, a 54-year old Yemeni, and a father of four, was unanimously approved for release from Guantánamo by a Periodic Review Board, a high-level US government review process established under President Obama.

This article, telling his story, is the ninth in an ongoing series of ten articles, published since early February, telling the stories of the 16 men (out of 30 still held at Guantánamo in total) who have long been approved for release. The articles are published alternately here and on the Close Guantánamo website, with their publication tied into significant dates in their long ordeal.

While most of the 779 men held at Guantánamo since it opened over 22 years ago were picked up — or bought — in Afghanistan or Pakistan and processed through military prisons in Afghanistan before their arrival at  Guantánamo (mostly between December 2001 and November 2003), al-Kazimi was one of around 40 prisoners whose arrival at Guantánamo involved a more circuitous route, through the network of CIA “black sites” established and run in other countries between March 2002 and September 2006, and, in some cases, in proxy prisons in other countries run on behalf of the CIA.

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Video: Guantánamo at 22 – Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and Andy Worthington at New America

A screenshot of “Guantánamo at Twenty-Two: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?”, hosted by New America on January 11, 2024.

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On January 11, the 22nd anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, I was delighted to take part in an online panel discussion, “Guantánamo at Twenty-Two: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?”, hosted by New America, the US think-tank located close to the White House in Washington, D.C.

I’ve been taking part in annual panel discussions about Guantánamo at New America since 2011, normally with Tom Wilner, the US attorney with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign in 2012, but this year Tom wasn’t available, and I was pleased that my suggestions for two compelling replacements — former prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the author of the best-selling Guantánamo Diary, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism — were met with enthusiasm.

The moderator was Peter Bergen, New America’s Vice President, and the video, via YouTube, is posted below. It was a powerful event, and I hope that you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

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Video and Report: The Incredibly Powerful “Close Guantánamo!” Event in the EU Parliament, September 28, 2023

A photo taken at the end of the “Close Guantánamo!” event in the EU Parliament on September 28, 2023. In the front row, from L to R, Alka Pradhan, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Lakhdar Boumediene, Belgian former Guantánamo prisoner Moussa Zemmouri, Moazzam Begg, Andy Worthington, Mansoor Adayfi, Clare Daly, James Yee, Valerie Lucznikowska, Mick Wallace and Beth Jacob.

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I’m just back from the most extraordinary three-day trip to Brussels, the centrepiece of which was “Close Guantánamo!,” an astonishing and deeply moving three-hour event in the EU Parliament featuring nine speakers.

Three of the speakers were former prisoners, including Mansoor Adayfi, held for over 14 years at Guantánamo and subsequently resettled in Serbia, where, after nearly seven years, he has only this year secured a passport and been able to travel outside the country. Also speaking were two lawyers, a UN Rapporteur and myself, as well as the former Muslim Chaplain at the prison, and the relative of a victim of the 9/11 attacks.

The full video is below, via YouTube, and I hope that you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share if if you find it as inspiring as those who attended it, and those who took part in it. An edited version will hopefully be available soon, including the contents of PowerPoint presentations that were made by some of the speakers, which are not visible in this recording of the event, and the removal of some of the dead time — for example, the general milling about between the first and second sessions.

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Despite 9/11 Accused Being Mentally “Unfit To Stand Trial,” Biden Refuses Plea Deal That Would Provide Mental Health Care, As Required By International Law

Ramzi bin al-Shibh, in a recent photo taken at Guantánamo by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and his trial judge, Air Force Col. Matthew McCall, who has recently accepted an assessment by a DoD Sanity Board that he is unfit to stand trial because he suffers from PTSD and psychosis.

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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.

In startling news from Guantánamo four days ago, Air Force Col. Matthew McCall, the judge in the military commission case against the five men accused of involvement in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, ruled that one of the men, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, is, as the Associated Press described it, “unfit for trial” after a medical panel found that “torture left him psychotic” — or “lastingly psychotic,” as the article’s opening line stated.

Bin al-Shibh, 51, a Yemeni, was 30 years old when he was seized in a house raid in Karachi, Pakistan on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He was subsequently held for four years in CIA “black sites” around the world — including Morocco, Poland, Romania and a “black site” that existed in Guantánamo in 2003-04 — before his final transfer to Guantánamo in September 2006, with 13 other “high-value detainees,” including the other four men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

After an abortive attempt, in 2008, to prosecute the five men in the military commissions under President Bush, and a subsequent commitment, in November 2009, to prosecute them in a federal court in New York, which was abandoned after a Republican backlash, the five were charged in a revived military commission system in May 2011.

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Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo’s Discredited Torture Trials with Scott Horton

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in a courtroom sketch by Janet Hamlin during his arraignment at Guantánamo nearly 12 years ago, on November 9, 2011. (Image copyright Janet Hamlin Illustration). Interestingly, his clean-shaven appearance was not a one-off. As the Spanish journalist Macarena Vidal Liy noted for El Pais after attending recent hearings, one of his lawyers, Anthony Natale, told her that, as she described it, he “loves pop music — he is a fan of Dua Lipa — which has helped him learn to communicate in English,” and, “[u]nlike other prisoners, he is not religious, generously hugs his defenders and has no problem with female prison staff.”

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Last week, hot on the heels of my interview about Guantánamo with Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek for their “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, I was delighted to speak again to Scott Horton, the indefatigable interviewer, author and libertarian, who I’ve been talking to on and off for the last 16 years. Scott works so hard that this was, astonishingly, his 5,935th interview!

The focus of our half-hour interview was my recent article, Trial Judge Destroys Guantánamo’s Military Commissions, Rules That “Clean Team” Interrogations Cannot Undo the Effects of Torture, about the recent devastating ruling by Col. Lanny Acosta, the trial judge in the military commission pre-trial hearings (now in their 12th year) for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of being the mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, who was held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for nearly four years before his transfer to Guantánamo in September 2006.

Al-Nashiri had made self-incriminating statements under torture, but the government knew that these could not be used in court, and so, four months after his arrival, a so-called “clean team” of interrogators interviewed him non-coercively, apparently securing voluntary self-incriminating statements. It is these statements, however, that Col. Acosta has just ruled inadmissible, because, as he established, the regime of torture and confession in the “black sites” was so enduring that al-Nashiri had essentially been “conditioned” to believe that, if he didn’t tell his interrogators what they wanted to hear, he would inevitably be subjected to horrendous torture.

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Video: I Discuss the Collapse of Guantánamo’s Military Commissions on “Unauthorized Disclosure” with Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek

A screenshot from “Nearly 8,000 Days of Injustice at Guantánamo Bay,” the latest “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, in which Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek interviewed Andy Worthington.

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Many thanks to Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof and The Dissenter for having me on his most recent “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast with Rania Khalek to discuss the latest news regarding the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The 40-minute podcast is entitled, “Nearly 8,000 Days of Injustice at Guantánamo Bay,” which is a helpful reminder of quite how long this wretched place has been open, and a reference to the photo campaign I’ve been running for many years now via the Close Guantánamo website (and its Gitmo Clock subsidiary, which counts in real time how long Guantánamo has been open), encouraging supporters to take photos with posters marking every 100 days of the prison’s existence.

The latest poster was for 7,900 days, on August 28, and you can see all the photos here, while the terrible milestone of 8,000 days takes place on December 6, and I hope you can take a photo with the 8,000 days poster and send it to Close Guantánamo.

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Trial Judge Destroys Guantánamo’s Military Commissions, Rules That “Clean Team” Interrogations Cannot Undo the Effects of Torture

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, photographed before his capture, and his trial judge in the military commissions at Guantánamo, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr.

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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.

In an extraordinary 50-page ruling in Guantánamo’s military commissions, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., the judge in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national of Yemeni descent, who is accused of masterminding the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, in which 17 US sailors died, has refused to allow prosecutors to use self-incriminating statements that al-Nashiri made to a so-called “clean team” of three agents from the FBI, the NCIS and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations on January 31 and February 1 and 2, 2007, five months after he was brought to Guantánamo, having spent nearly four years in CIA “black sites,” where he was subjected to horrendous torture.

At the heart of Col. Acosta’s measured and devastating opinion is an appalled recognition that the extent of al-Nashiri’s torture, and its location with a system designed to break him and to make him entirely dependent on the whims of his interrogators to prevent further torture, made it impossible for him to have delivered any kind of uncoerced self-incriminating statement to the “clean team” who interviewed him in 2007.

To establish this compelling conclusion, Col. Acosta painstakingly pieces together a narrative of al-Nashiri’s torture that tells this brutal story in more agonizing and forensic detail than any previous account has done, drawing largely on the accounts of al-Nashiri’s torture in the revelatory 500-page unclassified summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report about the CIA torture program — technically, the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program — which was released in December 2014, on the testimony of numerous experts called by the defense team in hearings between July 2022 and June 2023, and on the testimony of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two staff psychologists from the US Air Force SERE school, who were recruited to direct the torture program on the ground.

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After First Ever Guantánamo Visit, UN Rapporteur Finds Dehumanized, Traumatized Men Subjected to Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment That May Rise to the Level of Torture

Campaigners for the closure of Guantánamo outside a US government building in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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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.

On Monday June 26, 7,837 days since the prison at Guantánamo Bay opened, and on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council (“independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective”) issued a devastatingly critical report about systemic, historic and ongoing human rights abuses at the prison, based on the first ever visit by a Special Rapporteur — Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, who visited the prison in February.

At the time of her visit, just 34 men were held at the prison (a number now reduced to 30), out of the 779 men and boys who have been held by the US military throughout the prison’s long history, and, as the Special Rapporteur admitted, she agreed with every “detainee or former detainee,” who, “[i]n every meeting she held” with them, told her, “with great regret,” that she had arrived “too late.”

However, it is crucial to understand that the lateness of the visit was not through a lack of effort on the part of the UN; rather, it was a result of a persistent lack of cooperation by the US authorities — part of a pattern of obstruction, secrecy and surveillance that prevented any UN visit because the authorities failed to comply with the Terms of Reference for Country Visits by Special Procedure Mandate Holders, which require “[c]onfidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons, including persons deprived of their liberty.”

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Searching for Justice at Guantánamo: The New Arab Podcast About Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, Featuring One of His Lawyers, Mansoor Adayfi and Me

The image for The New Arab Voice podcast about Guantánamo, released on June 23, 2023.

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Many thanks to Nadine Talaat of The New Arab for interviewing me for a new podcast, “Searching for Justice at Guantánamo: Tainted evidence and the fight for accountability,” which you can listen to here.

The particular focus of the half-hour podcast is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a “high-value detainee,” who was held and tortured for nearly four years in CIA “black sites,” before ending up at Guantánamo in September 2006, where he has been held ever since.

Charged with terrorism-related offences in 2008, which were subsequently dropped, al-Nashiri was charged again in 2012, and has been caught up in pre-trial hearings ever since.

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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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