Video: Mansoor Adayfi, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis and I Discuss Guantánamo’s 20th Anniversary and Its Chronic and Persistent Lawlessness at Revolution Books

A screenshot of “America’s Torture Chamber: 20 Years of Guantánamo … It Must Be Closed NOW!”, an event hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem, featuring Mansoor Adayfi, Andy Worthington and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, and moderated by Raymond Lotta.

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On Sunday (January 30), I was delighted to take part in a powerful online discussion, hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem, about the prison at Guantánamo Bay, marking the 20th anniversary of its opening, on January 11, with former prisoner and author Mansoor Adayfi, in Serbia, and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, an attorney who represents a number of the men still held.

Until Covid hit, I visited the US every January, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the anniversary of its opening, and one of my regular events was a discussion at Revolution Books — in 2016, for example, discussing the successful campaign for the release of Shaker Aamer, in 2017, with the attorney Ramzi Kassem, in 2018, with Carl Dix, and in 2020, with Shelby.

Last year, as a resurgence of Covid shut down foreign travel, the event took place online, and I was again joined by Shelby, and so this year, as another Covid variant again shut down foreign travel, we again turned to Zoom to facilitate an online event. And while I miss my friends and colleagues in the US, and the thrill of a live event, Covid — and Zoom — have enabled us to hear directly from former prisoners, in a way that was not previously possible. This is particularly powerful when it comes to Guantánamo, as former prisoners are prevented from setting foot on US soil, and yet Zoom has now effortlessly dissolved that prohibition.

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Video: I Discuss “Guantánamo at Twenty: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?” with Tom Wilner, Karen Greenberg and Peter Bergen at New America

A screenshot of Andy Worthington with Tom Wilner, Karen Greenberg and Peter Bergen at “Guantánamo at Twenty: What is the Future of the Prison Camp?”, an online discussion hosted by New America on Jan. 11, 2022, the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

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The 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay was marked by a flurry of mainstream media activity, and, for those us who work on Guantánamo regularly (or even incessantly), it was extraordinarily busy.

I worked almost non-stop on Guantánamo from 8.30 in the morning until 3am the day after, in what was probably the busiest day of my life, starting with a brief but helpful interview with BBC Radio Scotland (about two hours and 45 minutes into the show), and proceeding with a half-hour Turkish TV show with other experts, an online panel discussion at New America in Washington, D.C., and a Virtual Vigil hosted by Amnesty International and other groups. In between these events, I wrote and published an article calling for action from President Biden, posted 50 photos of Close Guantánamo supporters holding up posters calling for its closure, and also uploaded and posted a video of my band The Four Fathers playing ‘Forever Prisoner’, a new song I wrote about Khaled Qassim, one of the men still held indefinitely at Guantánamo without charge or trial.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting articles linking to these events, doing what I’ve been doing for most of the last 16 years: trying to keep a focus on the injustices of Guantánamo, and the ever-urgent need for it to be closed, when the mainstream media moves on (as it has done already after briefly remembering the prison on Tuesday).

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Video: Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Powerfully Endorses Closure of Guantánamo, But Republicans Still Mired in “War on Terror” Hysteria

A screenshot of Sen. Dick Durbin introducing the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing, “Closing Guantánamo: Ending 20 Years of Injustice,” on December 7, 2021.

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Last Tuesday (Dec. 7), the Senate Judiciary Committee held a powerful hearing, “Closing Guantánamo: Ending 20 Years of Injustice,” which presented an unerring case for the prison at Guantánamo Bay to be closed. The committee’s chair, Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, and the second most influential Democrat in Congress, is a longtime opponent of the existence of Guantánamo, and has been doing all he can to ensure its closure since Joe Biden became president in January.

in April, Sen. Durbin was the lead signatory of a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison, which was also signed by 23 other Democratic Senators (a House version, in August, was signed by 75 Democratic members of the House of Representatives). The letters were particularly significant because the lawmakers recognized that holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial is unacceptable, and urged the Biden administration to release everyone still held who has not been charged (27 of the remaining 39 prisoners), with plea deals to be negotiated for the prisoners charged with crimes, to bring to an end the irredeemably broken military commission system in which they are currently trapped.

The lawmakers also called for a senior White House official to be appointed to be accountable for the prison’s closure, and for the role of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the State Department, responsible for prisoner releases and post-release monitoring, to be revived, and they also urged the Justice Department to abandon its long-held position of resisting every legal challenge submitted by the prisoners, even in cases where the administration itself has endorsed their release. As the Senators explained, “If the Justice Department were not to oppose habeas petitions in appropriate cases, those detainees could be transferred more easily pursuant to court orders.”

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Video: Mansoor Adayfi, James Yee and I Discuss Guantánamo and Its Closure in a Zoom Event Organized by Veterans’ and Peace Groups in California

A screenshot of a Zoom event about Guantánamo, organized by veterans’ and peace groups, primarily in California, which took place on Feb. 21, featuring Andy Worthington, Mansoor Adayfi and James Yee as speakers.

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A week last Sunday, February 21, I was delighted to take part in a panel discussion about Guantánamo with former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, a talented, Yemeni-born author, who was resettled in Serbia in 2016 (and whose memoir, “Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo,” will be published this August), and James Yee, the former Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo, who, for two months in 2003, was wrongly imprisoned as a spy.

The meeting was organized by a number of activist groups in California — Veterans for Peace Los Angeles, the Peace Resource Center of San Diego, the Long Beach Area Peace Network, the MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles and ANSWER Los Angeles, as well as the national Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK: Women for Peace, and Close Guantánamo, which I co-founded with the US attorney Tom Wilner in 2012 to campaign for the prison’s closure, and it was streamed live on Facebook.

I’m pleased to discover that it has now been made available on YouTube, on the Veterans for Peace YouTube channel, and I’ve posted it below. I hope you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

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Video: Mohamedou Ould Salahi and I Discuss the Closure of Guantánamo with Lewes Amnesty Group on Jan. 11, 2021

A screenshot of former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi speaking to Lewes Amnesty Group on January 11, 2021, the 19th anniversary of the prison’s opening.

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On January 11, the 19th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, I was pleased to take part in a couple of events, to make up for my inability, because of Covid, to visit the US to campaign for the prison’s closure, as I have been doing every year since 2011.

To mark the occasion, I was interviewed by Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof, for a video that is available here, and earlier I had taken part in an online meeting organized by the Lewes Amnesty Group, a very active group, dating back to the days when campaigners across south east England, and beyond, including campaigners in Lewes, fought to secure the release from Guantánamo of Brighton resident Omar Deghayes (who was released in 2007), and Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was finally released in 2015 after a huge campaign that involved MPs, the media, celebrities and two particular groups, the long-running Save Shaker Aamer campaign, and We Stand With Shaker, which I set up with campaigner Joanne MacInnes in 2014, and which involved getting MPs and celebrities to stand with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker, to demand his release.

The featured guest of the Lewes Amnesty Group’s meeting was former prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi, the author of the best-selling Guantánamo Diary (UK edition here), and a survivor of US torture in Jordan, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, whose story has been adapted by Hollywood for a new feature film, ‘The Mauritanian,’ which will be released next month.

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Video: Guantánamo Attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis and I Discuss the Prison’s Ongoing Horrors for Revolution Books Online

A screenshot from “America’s Torture Colony: 19 Years of Guantánamo … It Must Be Closed NOW!”, an online event hosted by Revolution Books, featuring Andy Worthington and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, and host Raymond Lotta.

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Yesterday, I was delighted to take part in a two-hour online discussion about Guantánamo, with the attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, which was hosted by Revolution Books in New York, and live streamed on YouTube and Facebook.

Before the arrival of Covid, the Revolution Books event was one of the regular highlights of my annual visits to the US (every January from 2011 to 2020), to mark the anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2002 — and last year, Shelby joined me for the first time, in what was a highly-charged event, as we had just spent the day deep in discussion about Guantánamo, at an exhibition of art by the prisoners, at CUNY Law School in Queens, which Shelby had played a major part in organizing.

This year, of course, all live events on and around the anniversary were called off, and I wasn’t able to visit the US at all, but the Zoom event that replaced the in-store presentation was still a very powerful and emotional event, and while nothing quite compares to being in a room with an audience and interacting with them (and even going out for dinner in Harlem afterwards!), Zoom allows people to join an event from all round the world, and, as yesterday demonstrated, doesn’t necessarily hamper the ability to get a message across.

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Video: I Talk to Kevin Gosztola About Guantánamo on the 19th Anniversary of Its Opening — and Julian Assange

A screenshot of Andy Worthington’s interview with Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof on Jan. 11, 2021, the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo.

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Yesterday, on the 19th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, I was delighted when Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof got in touch to request an interview to be livestreamed on his YouTube channel.

We spoke for just over half an hour, covering Guantánamo for the first 24 minutes, in which I had the opportunity to explain in detail where we are, 19 long and shameful years since the prison opened, and four depressing years since Donald Trump promised there would be no releases from Guantánamo, and, with one exception, was true to his word.

For the 40 men still held at Guantánamo, it is impossible for their situation to be worse under Joe Biden than it was under Trump, and Kevin and I discussed what progress there might be under Biden after he takes office in a week’s time — releasing the six men already approved for release, and, with his control of both the Senate and the House, being able to reverse Republican prohibitions on bringing anyone to the US mainland for any reason — whether for urgent medical treatment that is unavailable at Guantánamo, or to face trials, in the federal court system, as opposed to the broken military commissions at Guantánamo.

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Covid Lockdown: Video of My Band The Four Fathers Playing at a Small Party in a London Park That Would Now Be Illegal

A screenshot of The Four Fathers playing in a park in south London on August 29, 2020.

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On the August Bank Holiday weekend, my band The Four Fathers played a largely acoustic set — and then joined other musicians in a jam session — as part of a little party in our local park in south London, parts of which were filmed by our bassist’s daughter, and which now constitute a record of what London looked like five months after the government first declared a lockdown to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The party normally takes place in a friend’s house, but this year, because of Covid-19, everyone concerned recognised that even a well-behaved house party wasn’t acceptable at the time, and so the proposal to move it to our local park was suggested instead.

In the earliest days of lockdown, London’s parks were patrolled by the police and local officials to make sure that no one stopped or mingled during their allotted one hour of exercise a day, but, as the peak of the panic passed, parks then became the focal point of human interaction, and while there were some obvious examples of slightly reckless behaviour — parties of young people drinking late into the night, provoking the wrath of the curtain-twitching brigade — for the most part people were aware of social distancing, and were simply trying to balance the need to avoid spreading the virus with an equally important need to socialise.

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Check Out The Four Fathers’ Video Trilogy from Our Pre-Covid Charlie Hart Sessions

A screenshot from The Four Fathers’ YouTube channel.

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Since the coronavirus hit, my band The Four Fathers have, like most musicians, been unable to do much at all. Initially isolated from each other — and with our bassist Paul having moved to San Francisco — we didn’t get together until June, when we played a few songs for my friend Neil Goodwin’s Virtual Stonehenge Free Festival, available on YouTube here.

Paul then returned from San Francisco, which was good news for us, and we’ve rehearsed a few times since, but, unsurprisingly, we haven’t played any gigs, although we did manage to release three new studio recordings, which we recorded in December with the great Charlie Hart, who, in a 50-year career, has played in Kilburn and the High Roads with Ian Dury, and in Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, has produced music for the legendary Congolese singer Samba Mapangala, and currently plays in a revived Slim Chance and in his own band The Equators, an extraordinary world-jazz-blues group of extremely talented musicians.

The recordings were of three new songs that I wrote in 2018/19, all available on Bandcamp, where they can be purchased as downloads: The Wheel of Life, a meditation on mortality and living in the moment, This Time We Win, an eco-anthem inspired by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, on which Charlie plays Wurlitzer piano, and Affordable, a punky blast of rock and roll about lying politicians and the housing crisis.

We also followed up the release of the new recordings with experimental videos using found footage that were made by our drummer Bren Horstead.

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Video: “Guantánamo in 2020: What is the Future of the Prison Camp after Eighteen Years?” at New America, Jan. 13, 2020

A screenshot of New America’s page for the “Guantánamo in 2020” event that took place on January 13, 2020.

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Today I’m delighted to be posting, via YouTube, the hour-long video of a panel discussion and Q&A session about the prison at Guantánamo Bay — and the need to close it — which I took part in at the New America think-tank in Washington, D.C. on January 13, two days after the 18th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

Also taking part was the attorney Tom Wilner, with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign in 2012. Tom was Counsel of Record for the Guantánamo prisoners as they successfully sought habeas corpus rights before the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008 — although those rights have since been gutted by ideologically malignant appeals court rulings — and we are grateful to New America for hosting a panel discussion about Guantánamo with us every year on or around the anniversary. The moderator for this year’s anniversary event was Melissa Salyk-Virk, Senior Policy Analyst in New America’s International Security Program.

As I hope readers have realized via my various articles about the anniversary, and my ten-day US visit to call for the prison’s closure — this year there was a real urgency, indignation and passion to the calls for the prison’s closure and of the need for urgent change in the political leadership in the US expressed by myself and other campaigners.

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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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