The Guantánamo Files: Website Extras (6) – Escape to Pakistan (Uyghurs and others)

The Guantanamo Files

This article was originally published on October 25, 2008. For updated information, please check out the links (by prisoner name and number) in my four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, last updated on April 25, 2012.

Chapter 7 of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press/the University of Michigan Press) tells the stories of 54 prisoners from a variety of countries, including Algeria, Bahrain, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Spain, Sweden, Syria and Tunisia.

Like the 117 prisoners (mostly from Saudi Arabia and Yemen) whose stories are described in Chapters 5 and 6 (and in the additional online chapters here, here and here), they were all captured in Pakistan, after crossing the border from Afghanistan, during a frenetic period in the middle of December 2001, when almost a third of Guantánamo’s total population was captured.

At the time I finished writing The Guantánamo Files, in May 2007, 25 of these prisoners had been released, and since then another six have also been repatriated, but with the exception of one of these men — the joint Bahraini/Saudi national Juma al-Dossari, who has passed through the Saudis’ supportive and constructive rehabilitation program — all have faced a bleak or uncertain future on their return, as they have been returned — often under the cover of treacherously weak “diplomatic assurances,” purporting to guarantee that they would be treated humanely — to countries with dismal human rights records: one to Tunisia in June 2007 (imprisoned after a show trial), one to Libya in October 2007 (current status unknown), one to Morocco in May 2008 (currently in prison awaiting a trial), and two to Algeria in August 2008 (also awaiting trials). It also transpired that another Saudi discussed in Chapter 7, Khalid al-Hubayshi, had been repatriated and released as a result of the rehabilitation program.

This additional chapter tells the stories of another 15 prisoners not discussed in Chapter 7, either because their stories were not available at the time or to keep the book at a manageable length. In the case of the Uyghurs (or Uighurs), Muslims from the oppressed Xinjiang province of China, eight stories were omitted, because they were, essentially, identical to the stories of the ten other Uyghurs seized at this time, but I have included information about these men in this additional chapter as part of my project to present the stories of all the prisoners either in The Guantánamo Files or in these specific online chapters, and because, in some cases, it is the first time that their stories have been presented in public, and I continue to find it intolerable that people can be held by the US government for nearly seven years without anything at all being known about them.

Three previously unknown stories

The stories of three of the prisoners captured at this time were unknown while I was writing The Guantánamo Files, and only became available in September 2007, when the Pentagon released an even more comprehensive package of documents relating to the prisoners than they had between March and May 2006, when 8,000 pages of documents were released, which provided the basis for the majority of the research that I conducted for The Guantánamo Files.

None of the three men took part in the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) at Guantánamo, which were convened in 2004-05 to assess whether they had been correctly designated as “enemy combatants,” who could, according to the US administration, be held without charge or trial for the duration of the apparently endless “War on Terror.” The CSRTs were monstrously unjust, as the prisoners were prevented from having legal representation, and the military panel largely relied on classified evidence to make its decisions about the prisoners’ status, which was not revealed to the prisoners and was, moreover, often obtained through the torture, coercion or bribery of other prisoners.

Lt. Col. Stephen AbrahamIn most cases, however, this was the only opportunity any of the prisoners had to tell their own stories, and for those who refused to take part, all that is known is what can be gleaned from the Unclassified Summaries of Evidence against them. These, in turn, were condemned last year by Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham (photo, left), a veteran of US intelligence, who worked on the tribunals and declared that all of the supposed “evidence” on which the tribunals relied was based on intelligence “of a generalized nature — often outdated, often ‘generic,’ rarely specifically relating to the individual subjects of the CSRTs or to the circumstances related to those individuals’ status,” and were, essentially, designed to rubber-stamp the prisoners’ prior designation as “enemy combatants”.

The first of the three, Hassan Said, is from Algeria, and was 25 years old when he was seized. According to the US allegations against him, he left Algeria in August 2000, and traveled to Syria, where he lived for ten months. He then made his way to Iran, where representatives of Jamaat-al-Tablighi, a vast international missionary organization, helped him to enter Pakistan. In the Unclassified Summary, the US authorities alleged — as they did against numerous other prisoners — that Jamaat-al-Tablighi was “believed to be used as a cover to mask travel and activities of terrorists including members of al-Qaeda,” but there is no evidence that there is any truth to this allegation.

From Pakistan, Said made his way to the city of Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, where countless Muslim wanderers from Europe, the Gulf and North Africa sought a new life. While some undoubtedly undertook military training, either to join the Taliban or, in some cases, to export the knowledge back to their homelands, others were drawn by the promise of the Taliban’s supposedly ideal Islamic state — or simply the attraction of a Muslim country where they could live cheaply.

The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent US-led invasion of Afghanistan brought these various scenarios to an abrupt end, of course, and like dozens of other prisoners who wound up in Guantánamo, Hassan Said fled Jalalabad for Pakistan, staying in the mountains while he and a group of other men (around 20, according to the US allegations) sought an Afghan guide to lead them over the mountains, where they were subsequently arrested and handed over — or sold — to US forces.

Whether Said was involved in any kind of militant activity is unknown. There are certainly allegations that he was, but all are unsubstantiated claims made by various other prisoners in unknown circumstances. These include claims that he “was identified as training at al-Farouq” (the main training camp for Arabs, established by the Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf in the early 1990s, but associated with Osama bin Laden in the years before 9/11), that he “was identified” as being “in charge of weapons inventory” in Tora Bora, where Northern Alliance soldiers (with US back-up) fought al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in late November and early December 2001, and — even less convincingly — that he “was identified as having been chosen to be a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.” For his part, Said stated unambiguously that he “did not participate in jihad actions,” although he conceded that “political motivation and a properly declared fatwa are legitimate reasons for participating in jihad.”

The second of the three, Muieen Abd al-Satter, who was also 26 years old when he was seized, is one of two prisoners ostensibly from the United Arab Emirates — although the UAE claims not to know who he is, and his Unclassified Summary also states that he “has a Pakistani passport and originally went to Pakistan on vacation in September 2001.” All that is known of this man — listed by the US authorities as Muieen A Deen Jamal A Deen Abd Al Fusal Abd Al Sattar — is contained in this slim document, released in September 2007, but it makes clear that al-Sattar taught at the Private Holy Koran School in Mecca, that he paid for his own travel, that he was “convinced by a friend to go to Afghanistan and teach the Five Pillars of Islam,” and that he “thought if he traveled to Afghanistan that he would get credit from God and that, since the trip was only going to be for a week, there would be no harm in going.”

This seems fairly straightforward, and is certainly more comprehensible than other claims from unattributed sources: that he “was identified as a trainer at the al-Farouq training camp in Afghanistan” (which would have been impossible if he arrived in Pakistan in September 2001, as al-Farouq closed after the 9/11 attacks), and that he was “a fighter in Tora Bora who moved around encouraging people to fight and be religious.” Perhaps what actually happened, as was indicated in other passages in the Unclassified Summary, was that the “friend” who convinced him to travel to Afghanistan — actually a Syrian named Abdul al-Moaz, whom he had just met in Karachi — tricked him into traveling to Tora Bora to take part in the jihad. According to the allegations, al-Sattar “advised that if he saw al-Moaz again, he would be very upset with him and would want to do him physical harm for getting him into so much trouble.”

Even less is known of the third man, Moammar Dokhan, a Syrian who was 29 when he was captured. His Unclassified Summary explains only that he “traveled from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan with the stated intention of joining the Taliban,” that he “served as a rear-echelon guard and manned an observation post” near Bagram, and that he “carried a rifle while on duty at the observation post.”

While this seems to establish him as one of the lowliest Taliban recruits in an inter-Muslim civil war that predated the 9/11 attacks and had nothing to do with al-Qaeda (although Dokhan himself “denies ever having been in Afghanistan”), the US authorities have tried to spice up this meager list with claims that “his name was contained on a list of incarcerated associates found on a computer used by suspected al-Qaeda members in Pakistan in early 2002,” and that his name “was contained on a list of captured mujahideen found in Pakistan on a hard drive associated with a high-ranking al-Qaeda operative.”

It is not known if these two claims in fact refer to the same computer file, but neither provides proof of anything other than the fact that he was caught and imprisoned as a suspected militant. The “list,” as in the cases of many other prisoners, may have been nothing more than a report of the prisoners’ names, mentioned in the media or leaked by the men’s jailers, and it appears to be no more useful as evidence than the US administration’s claims that those in Guantánamo are “enemy combatants,” because the President decided, without the need for evidence, that that was the case.

An Italian resident, a Libyan and two released Turks

One of two Egyptians remaining at Guantánamo, Sherif El-Meshad, who was 25 years old when he was seized, had traveled to Italy in 1997, staying with his uncle (an Italian citizen) in Como, and working as a legal resident. In July 2001, he traveled to Afghanistan, planning to stay for two months, during his summer vacation, after meeting a man at a mosque in Rome, who told him about the possibilities of providing humanitarian aid. According to his mother, who is the deputy principal of a school in Egypt, he then disappeared off the face of the earth, until his uncle called to say that he had received a postcard from Guantánamo (via the International Committee of the Red Cross), in which El-Meshad wrote that “he had been visiting a friend in Afghanistan and subsequently enlisted in a ‘rescue organization’ that offered ‘humanitarian aid to the Afghani people,’” and that he had been arrested while crossing into Pakistan as he tried to make his way back to Italy.

There seems to be no reason to dispute this story, and El-Meshad has clearly explained it at length to his interrogators, telling them how he traveled to Kabul, how he met up with the man from the mosque in Rome, how he “heard of the attacks in America while listening to the radio,” how he and “all who were present with him were sorrowful and none of them were happy,” and how he and his companions fled after the US-led invasion began, hiring an Afghan guide who took them to the Pakistani border, where they were seized and imprisoned.

Noticeably, however, even though the US authorities admit that a “senior al-Qaeda operative” identified El-Meshad as someone he had seen during the flight of hundreds of foreigners from Afghanistan after the US-led invasion, and stated that he “did not have any affiliation with a group because he was new in Afghanistan and did not receive any training,” he has also run up against a number of other wild allegations which, in the gullible world of Guantánamo, have been regarded as “evidence.”

An unidentified source “stated he believed [he] was a trainee at al-Farouq,” another unidentified “individual” claimed to have met him at a training camp in Bosnia, another “source” apparently “identified a photo of the detainee as an individual who was selling VHS tapes of the USS Cole bombing,” and, most outrageously of all, another “source” — almost certainly a prisoner who was tortured by al-Qaeda as a spy, and is known to have lied about other prisoners in Guantánamo — stated that when he was taken to Kandahar to be interrogated by al-Qaeda, “the detainee made the trip specifically to see him and beat him,” and “would torture him through beatings and electric shocks.”

With such obvious lies passing as “evidence,” it is no wonder that El-Meshad’s mother asked, in an article in Egypt Today in January 2006, “If he is accused of something, why won’t they let him stand a fair trial and not a nominal one that infringes on his rights? He has the right to defend himself and to have a lawyer to defend him.”

Little is known of Salem Gherebi, a Libyan who was 40 years old when he was seized, as he did not take part in his CSRT at Guantánamo, and has also refused to take part in any of the annual Administrative Review Boards (ARBs) in the years since, although he has a certain cachet in legal circles, as his habeas petition, Gherebi v. Bush, was the case in which, on December 18, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a previous refusal to grant habeas corpus rights to the Guantánamo prisoners and held that federal courts could indeed exercise jurisdiction over challenges to their detention (a ruling which, in another case, Rasul v. Bush, was eventually endorsed by the Supreme Court in June 2004).

Not only did Gherebi refuse to attend his CSRT hearing, but in his pre-hearing interview he “recited verses from the Koran during the entire interview, [and] would not acknowledge the presence of either the PR [his Personal Representative, a military officer appointed to the CSRTs in place of a lawyer] or translator.” As a result, the allegations against him in his Unclassified Summary of Evidence went unchallenged.

These included claims that from 1992 onwards he “traveled to numerous areas of conflict throughout the Middle East and former USSR,” and that he arrived in Afghanistan in 1995, having lost most of the fingers of his right hand in an explosives accident in Tajikistan the year before, It was also alleged that he was an al-Qaeda operative in Kabul, and that one of his aliases appeared on a list of people who “reportedly” trained at an al-Qaeda training camp in 1996 (an allegation that borders on the implausible, as Osama bin Laden only returned to Afghanistan from Sudan in 1996).

In the years since, little has been added to this rather thin list. In his latest publicly available Summary of Evidence (for the second round of the ARBs in 2006), the US authorities decided that his name was actually Rafdat Muhammed Faqi Aljj Saqqaf and dropped the claims about his wide travel, losing his fingers and being an al-Qaeda member in exchange for a new set of allegations, most of which centered on his purported links with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a group opposed to the dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi that became a “terrorist group” when Gaddafi strategically switched sides in the “War on Terror” and hooked up with the US and the UK in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In this new scenario, it was claimed that, after obtaining a visa to leave Afghanistan for Pakistan in 1992, he stayed at a Libyan guest house in Peshawar, and then, fearing that talks between the Libyan and Pakistani governments would lead to the deportation of all Libyans from Pakistan, moved back to Afghanistan, where he stayed in refugee camps in Taloqan and Kunduz.

Although the allegation about training at an al-Qaeda camp in 1996 remained, this was supplemented only by unsubstantiated claims that he was “identified as a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group by a senior al-Qaeda member,” and that a LIFG member identified him as “part of a group who had returned to Pakistan from fighting the Russians in Tajikistan.” Rather undermining any kind of case against him, a “senior al-Qaeda operative” stated that he “did not go to any training camps in Afghanistan.”

Of the two Turks not mentioned in Chapter 7, the first, Salih Uyar, who was 20 years old when he was seized, was one of 38 lucky prisoners who were judged to be “No Longer Enemy Combatants” at the end of the CSRT process. He was freed in April 2005, and was questioned and released without charge on his return to Turkey. In his CSRT, Uyar confirmed allegations that he traveled to Afghanistan via Iran and Pakistan in 2000, and that he lived with someone in Kabul for two months before the US-led invasion began, although he denied that the person was associated with al-Qaeda, as was also alleged. When the tribunal asked for clarification of his friend’s business in Kabul — his occupation, for example — Uyar said, “When I was there with him, I didn’t see him do anything. I don’t think he had an occupation. He himself was actually a refugee from Iran and that’s how we became friends.”

In another allegation, the US authorities claimed that Uyar had “traveled in and out of Turkey multiple times, including multiple trips to Syria under the guise of Arabic language studies,” which he responded to by saying that he had indeed traveled to Syria numerous times for Arabic language studies. He added that his visit to Afghanistan was “mainly to see the place,” denied an allegation that he was associated with Turkish radical religious groups, saying, “It is just lies,” and fended off a ludicrous allegation — also leveled against numerous other prisoners — that his Casio watch could be used a timer for an Improvised Explosive Device by saying, “If it’s a crime to carry this watch, your own military personnel also carry this watch. Does that mean that they’re terrorists as well?”

A more worrying fate befell the other Turk, 21-year old Ibrahim Shafir Sen, who was released in November 2003, before the tribunals began. In an interview after his release, he said that he went to Afghanistan to study religion, and was captured after his madrassa was bombed and he tried to return to Turkey via Pakistan. From the account given by Salih Uyar, who said that he left Afghanistan with some other Turkish people, one of whom was called Ibrahim, it’s probable that the two men were seized at the same time, along with another man, Yuksel Celik Gogus also released in November 2003, who is discussed in Chapter 18. In Sen’s case, however, he was arrested by the Turkish authorities on January 2008, and charged as the leader of an active al-Qaeda cell.

The Uyghurs

Map of the Uyghurs' homelandThe 18 Uyghurs captured at this time constitute the largest single group of prisoners whose detention has illuminated Guantánamo as a depressing icon of arbitrary imprisonment and contempt for the law. All 18 had fled persecution in their homeland (known to them by its historic name, East Turkestan), and had made their way to a run-down hamlet in the Tora Bora mountains, where life was hard but they were, at least, free from oppression. There they struggled to build a viable community, and occasionally undertook training on the settlement’s only weapon, a solitary Kalashnikov AK-47.

As one of the men, 27-year old Hajiakbar Abdulghupur, explained when asked in his tribunal about the hamlet (which was, predictably, described as a “training camp”), “They called this place a camp but that’s way too much of a name for that place we stayed. They did not have enough bathrooms to use or housing or anything. That is way too big of a name for the place where we stayed,” He added, “the conditions were really bad and stressful and there was lots of hard work, [but] I decided to stay there because our goal was to be against the Chinese government and I wouldn’t give up my goal even in the bad conditions to live.”

After the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the Uyghurs’ hamlet was bombed by US forces, in a devastating raid that completely destroyed the settlement and killed the group’s leaders. As Hajiakbar Abdulghupur explained, “it looked like no one ever even stayed in that place.” Describing what happened afterwards, he said:

After that there was no stopping. There was constantly bombing all the time. In the mountain we stayed in a cave because we didn’t know where to go … We were waiting for our leaders to come and tell us to go to the city or somewhere else but no one showed up and we decided to go to Pakistan. When we got to Pakistan, the local people came to us with tea, bread and meat, really good stuff. In the middle of the night they came to take us to the mosque. We went to the mosque and then they turned us over to the Pakistani authorities … They put us in cars and took us to jail. After that they turned us over to the US.

As I explained in The Guantánamo Files, and in a recent article about the Uyghurs, the US authorities recognized almost immediately that the Uyghurs were not a threat to the United States, and this is abundantly clear from the men’s testimony when questioned about their associations. All, when given the opportunity, said that they had no involvement with any other groups, and that their only enemy was the Chinese government.

Nevertheless, in a diplomatic trade-off with China over the invasion of Iraq, the US administration obligingly designated the East Turkestan Independence Group (ETIM), a Uyghur separatist group, as “terrorists,” and claimed that the Uyghur prisoners were all members of ETIM. It was declared that ETIM was “suspected of having received training and financial assistance from al-Qaeda,” that it “reportedly has financial support and direction from Osama bin Laden,” and that the training available included “religious extremist theory, terrorism, explosives, and assassination.” “Some camps,” the allegation continued (even though there was only one “camp”), “also include the manufacturing of weapons, ammunitions, and explosive devices.”

These allegations provoked outraged responses from many of the Uyghurs. As 25-year old Bahtiyar Mahnut explained:

What the Uyghurs want, we need a country like the US, like a powerful country to help us. Osama bin Laden is against the US and every democratic country in the world. If we associate with these people then we will lose our independence, but Osama bin Laden, he has his own country, and he has his own money. He can do whatever he wants to do. I don’t even know what their goal is. Why are they fighting against you and your allies? I [have] no idea. What I’m trying to say is our goal and their goal doesn’t match, because we have ours and they have theirs.

Despite the US authorities’ attempts to tie the Uyghurs to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, many of their tribunals were unconvinced, and at least seven of the men were declared to be “No Longer Enemy Combatants” after their CSRTs. In the cases of five of these men, the administration recognized that it could not return them to China, and spent two years locating a third country that would take them instead, finally persuading Albania to take them in May 2006.

In two of the cases, however, the administration refused to accept the tribunals’ verdict, and held a second CSRT, without the prisoners even being present, at which the verdict was duly reversed. Little is known of the first of these men, 27-year old Anwar Hassan (known to the Pentagon as Hassan Anvar), because no information is publicly available in his case beyond the thin list of allegations in his Unclassified Summary of Evidence (primarily, that he “joined” ETIM), but his lawyers have spoken out about his second tribunal, as I explained in an article last summer:

Cleared by a CSRT, Hassan was subjected to a second tribunal, on the orders of Matthew Waxman, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, when he too had his status indiscriminately revised. His lawyers, Angela Vigil and George Clarke, noted that, “[c]ontrary to the government’s suggestion,” the change of determination between the first and second CSRTs was not based on “additional classified information,” (of which there was none) but seemed, instead, to have been based solely on “communications” from Matthew Waxman “pressing for [a] reversal” of the first CSRT determination.

More information is available about the second man, 24-year old Hammad Mohammed (known to the Pentagon as Ahmed Mohamed), because he took part in his CSRT, in which he explained why his desire for military training was aimed at China and not America. “The Chinese people have tortured and pressured the Uyghur people really bad,” he said. “The Uyghur people are trying to go all over the world now. One sixth of the world’s population is in China. They are a threat to the whole world. If I have such a large enemy, why would I go and fight with another enemy?”

Throughout his CSRT, the only explanation for the administration’s determination to continue holding him as an “enemy combatant” was an allegation that he was a weapons instructor from May to October 2001. In response, Mohammed called one of his compatriots as a witness, who explained, “I saw that he was sick during that time. He has a stomach problem and he was helping with the kitchen work and helping the cook. He was also studying the language.” The allegation was then dropped (presumably after the second CSRT that reconfirmed him as an “enemy combatant”), but it took another two years before the authorities once more cleared him of being an “enemy combatant,” and in the meantime ludicrous new allegations were added to his Unclassified Summary of Evidence, in which it was claimed that he “was identified as Abdul Jabar, an al-Qaeda member with the Islamic Movement of Turkistan,” and was also “identified as a visitor to known al-Qaeda guest houses.”

By 2006, all of the Uyghurs had been cleared for release from Guantánamo, but of the other men whose stories are not mentioned in The Guantánamo Files, little is known of one of them, 24-year Saidullah Khalik, because he also refused to take part in his tribunal — and in his absence was accused of being in Afghanistan during the US bombing campaign, and of receiving “wounds to his face and arm as well as other flesh wounds” during the bombing. However, three others — 24-year old Abdul Helil Mamut, 24-year old Emam Abdulahat, and 30-year old Huzaifa Parhat — gave accounts that mirrored those of their compatriots.

Abdul Helil Mamut, who is probably Bahtiyar Mahnut’s brother, told his tribunal that he had arrived at the “camp” in June 2001, and that during his time there — until it was bombed by the US — he trained on the camp’s one and only gun. He said, “I don’t know if it was an AK-47. It was an old rifle, and I trained for a couple of days. I went to the camp to train because the Chinese government was torturing my country, my people, and they could not do anything. I was trying to protect my country, my country’s independence and my freedom. From international law, training is not illegal in order to protect your freedom and independence. I did it for my country.”

Emam Abdulahat told his tribunal that he left home “to escape from the torturing, darkness and suffering of the Chinese government,” and “wanted to go to some other country to live in peace.” He added, “The government, if they suspect us for anything, would torture and beat us, and fine us money. Lately, the young Uyghurs would get caught just doing exercising. They would stop us and say it was not our culture, and put us in jail for it.” He also explained, “For the females, if they have [more than] one child, they open them up and throw the baby in the trash.”

Speaking of the “camp,” he explained that he spent most of his time in “construction,” mending the settlement’s decrepit buildings, and indicated that he and his compatriots would have been happy to assist the United States if their home had not been bombed. “If the Americans went to Afghanistan and didn’t bomb our camp,” he said, “then we would be happy and support America; we would’ve stayed there continuously. The reason we went to Afghanistan doesn’t mean we have a relationship with al-Qaeda or some other organization; we went there for peace and not to be turned back over to the Chinese.”

The final Uyghur, Huzaifa Parhat, explained that he arrived at the “camp” in May 2001, and refuted allegations that it was a facility operated by ETIM that was funded by Osama bin Laden and Taliban. He also made a heartfelt statement about the Uyghurs’ support for the United States (available here), and was one of several Uyghurs to mention the threats made by Chinese interrogators who had been allowed to visit Guantánamo, and also to point out that he had had no contact whatsoever with any members of his family.

Parhat’s story is particularly significant, because this summer, after the Supreme Court concluded years of stalling and legislative reversals on the part of the administration by ruling that the prisoners had constitutional habeas corpus rights, his case was finally reviewed by three judges in a US District Court, who demolished the case against him (and, by extension, against the other Uyghurs), by ruling as “invalid” the CSRT’s decision that he was an “enemy combatant.” The judges criticized the government for relying on flimsy and unsubstantiated allegations and associations (primarily the alleged ETIM connections), and in a memorable passage compared the government’s argument that its evidence was reliable because it was mentioned in three different classified documents to a line from a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

This, in turn, led to the government to concede that it would “serve no purpose” to continue trying to prove that the Uyghurs were “enemy combatants,” and on October 7, in the District Court in Washington D.C., Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered the Uyghurs’ release into the United States, explaining, “Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detentions without cause, the continued detention is unlawful.”

This was a triumph for justice, but the government immediately appealed, resuscitating long-discredited claims about the men’s supposed militancy. At the time of writing (October 21), the appeals court had given the government two more weeks to prepare evidence, but as I hope to have demonstrated in some of the other stories in this additional chapter — and as is clear from my research for The Guantánamo Files — although the Uyghurs’ imprisonment since December 2001 has been monstrously unjust, they are not the only prisoners at Guantánamo for whom evidence of militant activity against the United States is sorely lacking.


Said (ISN 175): ARB 2 Factors Set 3, pp. 55-6; al-Sattar (ISN 309): ARB 2 Factors Set 5, pp. 64-6; Dokhan (ISN 317): ARB 2 Factors Set 5, pp. 75-6; El-Meshad (ISN 190): ARB 2 Factors Set 3, pp. 84-7; Gherebi (ISN 189): CSRT Factors Set 2, p. 98; ARB 2 Factors Set 3, pp. 82-3; Uyar (ISN 298): CSRT Set 29, pp. 15-21; Sen (ISN 297): private source; Abdulghupur (ISN 282): CSRT Set 2, pp. 65-81; Mahnut (ISN 277): ARB Set 6, pp. 43-55; Hassan (ISN 250): CSRT Factors Set 3, p. 81; Mohammed (ISN 328): CSRT Set 47, pp. 22-30, ARB Factors Sep 07 Set 4, pp. 89-90, ARB 2 Factors Set 5, pp. 98-100; Khalik (ISN 280): CSRT Factors Set 4, p. 22; Mamut (ISN 278): CSRT Set 46, pp. 7-14; Abdulahat (ISN 295): CSRT Set 43, pp. 99-111; Parhat (ISN 320): CSRT Set 4, pp. 9-20.

In addition, nothing is known about a solitary Pakistani, Kay Fiyatullah (ISN 247), who was also probably captured at this time.

Abbreviations used in the Notes (amended April 2012)

“CSRT” and “ARB” refer to the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which were held at Guantánamo from July 2004 to March 2005, and the first round of Administrative Review Boards, annual reviews held from December 2004 onwards. The transcripts of these hearings, released by the Pentagon in March and April 2006, can be found here. In addition to the transcripts of the CSRT and ARB hearings, this page also provides access to the Unclassified Summaries of Evidence for over a hundred ARB hearings.

“CSRB” refers to the Combatant Status Review Boards. These documents, which comprise the Unclassified Summaries of Evidence for 517 of the 558 CSRT hearings, were released by the Pentagon in 2005 under Freedom of Information legislation, although they are no longer online. For these transcripts, I have chosen a numbering system similar to that used for the CSRT and ARB hearings, so that, for example, “March 2005 Release” becomes “CSRB Set 3.”

“ARB 2” refers to the second round of Administrative Review Boards. The transcripts of these hearings, released by the Pentagon in September 2007 (after I completed The Guantánamo Files) can be found on the same Pentagon page as linked to above, under the heading “Administrative Review Board (ARB) Documents –- Round Two” and the sub-heading “Transcripts and Certain Documents from Administrative Review Boards (ARB) Round Two (held at Guantánamo in 2006).” Also included are the Unclassified Summaries for all the second round ARB hearings, under the sub-heading “Summaries of Detention-Release Factors for Administrative Review Boards (ARB) Round Two (held at Guantánamo),” which are referred to in the Notes as “ARB 2 Factors,” and below these are heavily redacted documents explaining decisions relating to the release or transfer of detainees. Also included are links to detailed and very useful indexes.

The documents released in September 2007 also augmented the information contained in previously released documents. This release has now been incorporated into the Pentagon page linked to above, but in the Notes above there are references to all the Unclassified Summaries from the CSRT process (with names and ISN numbers) — only 517 of which had been previously issued without names or numbers (see “CSRB” above) — which were included in this release of documents, and references to these documents are labeled as “CSRT Factors.” This release also included all the Unclassified Summaries from the first round ARBs, instead of the limited number released in 2006 (see “ARB Factors” above), and references to these documents in the Notes are labeled “ARB Factors Sep 07.” Also included are heavily redacted documents explaining decisions relating to the release or transfer of detainees.

“ISN” refers to “Internment Serial Numbers,” the unique number assigned to each prisoner in Guantánamo. A list of the 558 prisoners (identified by name, nationality and ISN) who went through the CSRT process can be found here. A list of 759 prisoners, including the 201 released or transferred before the CSRT process began (identified by name, nationality, date and place of birth and ISN), can be found here.

Some of the references in the Notes will not correspond to the files on the Pentagon’s current CSRT/ARB page, and if this is the case, then readers are directed to the New York Times‘ excellent project, The Guantánamo Docket, where all the CSRT and ARB documents can be searched for using the prisoners’ names or ISN numbers.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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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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