Guantánamo Diary, book by tortured prisoner


Mohamedou Ould SlahiBy Tom Carter:

6 February 2015

Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems; Little, Brown & Company, 2015

Guantánamo Diary, written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi and edited by Larry Siems, is a remarkable book that deserves the widest possible audience within the United States and internationally.

The recently published book, written by a current inmate of the infamous torture camp, contains a first-hand account of the author’s ghastly mistreatment at the hands of the intelligence agencies of the United States and their foreign accomplices. It is one thing to read about the sadistic methods employed by the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies in an executive summary of a Senate report. It is another thing to endure them from the standpoint of the eyes, ears, nose, nerves, stomach, and mind of one of the victims.

But the book is much more than a terrifying exposure of the secret US torture program. The book also contains—unexpectedly—wonderful literary passages, devastating portraits of the idiotic personalities and social types Slahi encounters among his torturers, wry humor, self-critical reflections and insights, and a humane, hopeful, and sensitive touch. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that Slahi wrote it by hand in the summer of 2005—in English, his fourth language—from a Guantanamo Bay “segregation cell.”

Slahi (sometimes spelled “Salahi”) was born in Mauritania in 1970. Apparently an exceptional student, he received a scholarship to study engineering in Duisburg, Germany in 1988. In 1991, Slahi traveled from Germany to Afghanistan to join the mujahedin movement, and while in Afghanistan he allegedly swore allegiance to Al Qaeda. However, after the central government fell, he returned to Germany and (by his own account) had no further involvement with Al Qaeda. He later spent time in Montreal, Canada working as an electrical engineer.

He was subsequently detained and interrogated by the authorities of various countries—Canada, Mauritania, the United States, and Senegal—but each time he was released for lack of evidence against him. However, in November 2001, he was asked to voluntarily report to a police station in Nouakchott, Mauritania for questioning, which he did. Then he disappeared.

Slahi was the subject of a secret, illegal “extraordinary rendition” to Jordan (in violation of the Mauritanian constitution) that was organized by the US Central Intelligence Agency. With his family completely unaware of his whereabouts, he was abducted and smuggled through the CIA’s network of illegal “black site” torture facilities before arriving in the infamous Guantanamo Bay camp, where he was tortured and where he remains to this day.

In March 2010, on a petition for habeas corpus filed by Slahi’s pro bono attorneys, US federal district judge James Robertson reviewed Slahi’s file and determined that he was innocent of the government’s accusations and should be immediately released. However, the Obama administration appealed this ruling and it was vacated by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals—notoriously stacked with right-wing, pro-intelligence judges.

“I have, I believe, read everything that has been made public about his case, and I do not understand why he was ever in Guantanamo in the first place,” writes the editor Larry Siems in the book’s introduction. At this point, as Slahi himself suggests, he is being detained for no reason other than the embarrassment his release would cause to the US intelligence agencies as well as to the Mauritanian and Jordanian governments that facilitated his illegal rendition.

The published book with redactions

A significant portion of Guantánamo Diary has been censored by the American authorities. To the publisher’s credit, all of the government’s black bars have been reproduced on the printed page, so the reader can get a sense of the extent of the redactions. The censorship is often clumsy and absurd, with names censored in one place appearing without censorship in other places. In one place, the name of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) is censored. Interestingly, the words “she” and “her” are always censored when referring to a female torturer, while male torturers are referred to as “he” and “him” without censorship. In many cases, the editor’s helpful footnotes reconstruct the missing text from other publicly available sources.

In 2003 and 2004, Slahi’s US captors tortured him at Guantanamo Bay pursuant to a “special interrogation plan” personally approved by then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The torture included long-term isolation, mock executions, sleep deprivation, and what the editor describes as “a litany of physical, psychological, and sexual humiliations.” Torturers threatened to hurt members of his family, kept him in a freezer and doused him with cold water, blasted his ears with rock music, sexually assaulted him, threatened to kill him, and repeatedly beat him within an inch of his life.

There is not space in this review to give a full account of Slahi’s torture—for that, one must read the book—but a few memorable passages can be highlighted.

At Guantanamo Bay, the guards apparently announce the impending interrogation of an inmate by shouting, “Reservation!” Each inmate is assigned a number, so “Reservation 760!” means that the interrogators are coming for Slahi. When Slahi hears the word “reservation,” he remembers, “My heart started to pound heavily because I always expected the worst.”

Suddenly a commando team consisting of three soldiers and a German shepherd broke into our interrogation room. Everything happened quicker than you can think about it. [Redacted] punched me violently, which made me fall face down on the floor.

“Motherf—er, I told you, you’re gone!” said [redacted]. His partner kept punching me everywhere, mainly on my face and my ribs. He, too, was masked from head to toe; he punched me the whole time without saying a word, because he didn’t want to be recognized. The third man was not masked; he stayed at the door holding the dog’s collar, ready to release it on me…

“Blindfold the Motherf—er, if he tries to look –”

One of them hit me hard across the face, and quickly put the goggles on my eyes, ear muffs on my ears, and a small bag over my head. I couldn’t tell who did what. They tightened the chains around my ankles and my wrists: afterwards, I started to bleed. All I could hear was [redacted] cursing, “F-this and F-that!” I didn’t say a word. I was overwhelmingly surprised, I thought they were going to execute me.

The torture continues, taking countless forms. In one episode, the guards placed Slahi in a specially prepared freezing cold room “full of pictures showing the glories of the US: weapons arsenals, planes, and pictures of George Bush.” The guards told him that he was forbidden to pray. “For the whole night I had to listen to the US anthem. I hate anthems anyway. All I can remember was the beginning, ‘Oh say can you see…’ over and over.”

Throughout the book, Slahi repeatedly asks his torturers, “Why am I here? What have I done?” They reply, “You tell me!”

In one revealing episode, upon learning that Slahi speaks German, an interrogator (context suggests German intelligence) threatens him, “Wahrheit macht frei [truth will set you free].” This is a variation on the infamous slogan erected on signs leading into the Holocaust death camps: “Arbeit macht frei [work will set you free].” In other words, the interrogator was identifying himself in no uncertain terms with the Nazis. Slahi writes, “When I heard him say that I knew the truth wouldn’t set me free, because ‘Arbeit’ didn’t set the Jews free.”

In the midst of these frightening passages—and this is one of the most incredible features of the book—Slahi manages a humane, delicate, even literary touch. Waiting for the next torture session (“waiting for torture is worse than torture”) his mind wanders over his life, the places he has lived, and the people he loves. The morning breeze from the sea displaces the sandy air over the impoverished city of Nouakchott; a muezzin sings twice in the early morning during Ramadan; a traditional Mauritanian wedding features intricate customs and intrigues; he imagines conversations with his mother over a cup of hot tea. (Slahi’s mother died on March 27, 2013, while her son was still held at Guantanamo.)

In a recurring dream, Slahi sees members of his family. He asks them, “Am I with you for real, or is it a mere dream?” His family replies, “No, you are really home!” He tells them, “Please hold me, don’t let me go back!” But he always wakes back up “to the dark bleak cell, looking around just long enough to fall asleep and experience it all again.”

Amidst descriptions of unimaginable suffering, the distinct voice of a writer emerges. Slahi describes the following scene at the conclusion of the illegal rendition flight to Amman, Jordan.

One of the guards silently helped my feet get into the truck that was parked inches away from the last step of the ladder. The guards squeezed me between them in the back seat, and took off in the truck. I felt comforted; it was warm inside the truck, and the motor was quiet. The chauffeur mistakenly turned the radio on. The female DJ voice struck me with her Sham accent and her sleepy voice. The city was awakening from a long, cold night, slowly but surely. The driver kept accelerating and hitting the brakes suddenly. What a bad driver! They must have hired him just because he was stupid. I was moving back and forth like a car crash dummy.

Guantánamo Diary can even be darkly funny in parts, such as those passages featuring Slahi’s contempt for the lazy, hopeless, American-boot-licking secret police in Mauritania and Jordan. “The funny thing about ‘Secret Police’ in Arab countries is that they are more known to the commoners than the regular police forces. I think the authorities in Arabic countries should think about new nomenclature, something like ‘The Most Obvious Police.’”

Slahi’s literary sketches of his torturers are simply devastating. “You could see that he had been doing this work for some time: there were no signs of humanity in his face,” Slahi writes of one American torturer. “He hated himself more than anybody could hate him.”

Guantánamo Diary exposes the American intelligence agencies and their foreign accomplices as sorry collections of sadists, racists, ignoramuses, and incompetents. “Of course he threatened me with all kinds of painful torture should it turn out I was lying,” Slahi says of one American interrogator. “‘You know we have some black motherf—ers who have no mercy on terrorists like you,’ he said, and as he proceeded, racial references kept flying out of his mouth. ‘I myself hate the Jews.’”

In another episode, Slahi remembers “one cowboy coming to me with an ugly frown on his face:”

“You speak English?” he asked.

“No English,” I replied.

“We don’t like you to speak English. We want you to die slowly,” he said.

“No English,” I kept replying. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that his message had arrived. “I’m an asshole,” a torturer tells Slahi. “That is the way people know me, and I have no problem with it.” Slahi reproaches another interrogator who repeatedly uses the N-word. The interrogator explains: “N—– is not black. N—– means stupid.”

These are the same charming individuals that President Obama has repeatedly hailed as “heroes” and “patriots.”

The depraved and scatological culture of the US military is on display from the moment Slahi arrives at Guantanamo. His torturers’ vocabulary consists primarily of the F-word. In scenes reminiscent of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs, Slahi describes how female torturers molest him, sexually humiliate him and other inmates, and attempt to have sex with him. “Having sex with somebody is not considered torture,” one female guard says mockingly. (A future war crimes tribunal may disagree.)

“What many [redacted] don’t realize is that men get hurt the same as women if they’re forced to have sex,” Slahi writes, in a heartbreakingly subtle (and heavily redacted) passage. In the book’s introduction, the editor quotes from official records indicating that at a 2005 Administrative Review Board hearing Slahi “became distraught and visibly upset” when he tried to describe his sexual abuse by female guards.

In the book’s darkest moments, Slahi struggles to retain his sanity. He frequently finds himself with confused emotions towards his captors, who spare no effort to degrade and manipulate him. Aggressively redacted passages near the end of the book appear to show Slahi connecting with several of the guards—but it is hard to tell whether these guards are sincere or whether it was all part of the “interrogation plan.” One looks forward to the day when Slahi is released and he can publish the book free from pressure and censorship.

Guantánamo Diary is also yet another confirmation of the fraud of the so-called “war on terror.” At several points in the book, Slahi writes about how his captors “offered to have me work with them.” Perhaps even Slahi does not grasp the full and sinister implications of these solicitations, which doubtless were made to other detainees as well. America’s dirty secret is that its intelligence agencies and their foreign accomplices are long-time collaborators with Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Al Qaeda, including from the 1980s in Afghanistan to the present day in Syria, Libya, and elsewhere.

As Slahi himself points out, if he is guilty of the crime of supporting Al Qaeda during the Soviet War in Afghanistan, then the United States and its intelligence agencies are similarly guilty, since at the time they gave fundamentalist militias such as Slahi’s their full support. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed that they were “freedom fighters.”

As far as Slahi’s political ideas can be glimpsed in Guantánamo Diary, they are not far from what one would expect from an individual who traveled to Afghanistan in 1991 to attend an Al Qaeda training camp. He describes his desire at the time to fight “communists.” In his view, the ongoing US “war on terror” is simply a pretext for a war of extermination against Muslims. (Given his treatment at the hands of the United States, it is hard to blame him for believing the latter.)

Slahi’s religious sentiments are a strong presence in the book, and one does not doubt that they are sincerely felt. In times of crisis, Slahi clings to his pocket Koran and prays. “During the whole procedure, the only prayer I could remember was the crisis prayer, Ya hayyu! Ya kayyum!” The guards mock him for praying: “Oh, ALLAH help me… Oh, Allah have mercy on me,” they say, mimicking his prayers. “There is no Allah. He let you down!”

Above all, Slahi’s humane sentiments—in spite of everything—are what endear him to the reader. “Human beings naturally hate to torture other human beings, and Americans are no different,” Slahi reflects. He concludes his book with a powerful address to the American people. “What do the American people think? I am eager to know. I would like to believe the majority of Americans want to see Justice done, and they are not interested in financing the detention of innocent people.”

Indeed, Slahi’s book is further evidence of grave violations of American and international law for which nobody yet has been held accountable. Guantánamo Diary deserves to feature as a prominent exhibit in future war crimes prosecutions of all the individuals with whom Slahi comes into contact in the course of the book, together with all the senior officials in the Bush and Obama administrations who presided over Slahi’s rendition and continue to block his release from Guantanamo Bay.

In an encouraging sign, the book has already risen to number fourteen on the New York Times bestseller list. There are reasons why the American political establishment has fought so hard for so long to suppress Guantánamo Diary, and these are the same reasons why the book needs to be read.

The author also recommends:

The death of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif
[3 December 2012]

FBI files indict Bush, Cheney and Co. as war criminals
[23 May 2008]

Guantánamo torturer led brutal Chicago regime of shackling and confession: here.

Three guards at the Attica, New York maximum security prison escaped jail time as the result of a last-minute plea bargain announced on March 2. On the eve of a trial for the brutal beating of inmate George Williams, the three pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of official misconduct. Their only punishment was the loss of their prison jobs: here.

‘Obama, close Guantanamo, as you promised six years ago’


This video is called Torture -The Guantanamo Guidebook. UK’s Channel 4 “Guantanamo Guidebook” documentary.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Obama Must Honour Gitmo Pledge’

Friday 23rd January 2015

HUMAN rights campaigners demanded yesterday that US President Barack Obama live up to his promise to close Guantanamo Bay, six years after he vowed to do so.

An executive order from the White House, signed by the President on January 22 2009, set out plans to close Guantanamo within a year.

But a total of 122 men are still held at the US prison camp without charge or trial today.

Fifty-four of those still detained have been cleared for release, a process involving unanimous agreement by six US federal agencies that a detainee poses no threat to the US.

Among the cleared men is British resident Shaker Aamer, from London, who has been held at the prison without charge or trial for nearly 14 years, despite having been cleared for release by both the Obama and Bush administrations.

Lawyers for Mr Aamer, who has a British wife and four children, the youngest of whom he has never seen, say that he has suffered appalling abuse.

Clive Stafford Smith, Mr Aamer’s lawyer and the director of legal charity Reprieve, said: “Obama must make good on his promise, and close the prison once and for all.”

President Obama and the Republican Congress Are on a Collision Course over Guantanamo: here.

OBAMA REGRETS NOT CLOSING GITMO ON DAY ONE President Obama said if given the chance to do his presidency over, he’d close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay on his first day in office. [Jennifer Bendery, HuffPost]

The US must return the territory it holds at Guantanamo Bay, Cuban President Raul Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States on Wednesday. He also said that Washington must lift the half-century trade embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two nations re-establish normal relations: here.

Torture in Guantanamo Bay, new book


This video says about itself:

Guantánamo Diary Trailer – exclusive video clip read by Dominic West

16 January 2015

Watch a short clip from our upcoming documentary about Guantánamo Diary, a book written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who has been a prisoner at the US detention facility for 14 years.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Guantánamo Diary exposes brutality of US rendition and torture

Memoir serialised by Guardian tells how Mohamedou Ould Slahi endured savage beatings, death threats and sexual humiliation

Spencer Ackerman in New York and Ian Cobain in London

Friday 16 January 2015 18.15 GMT

Memoir serialised by Guardian tells how Mohamedou Ould Slahi endured savage beatings, death threats and sexual humiliation

The groundbreaking memoir of a current Guantánamo inmate that lays bare the harrowing details of the US rendition and torture programme from the perspective of one of its victims is to be published next week after a six-year battle for the manuscript to be declassified.

Guantánamo Diary, the first book written by a still imprisoned detainee, is being published in 20 countries and has been serialised by the Guardian amid renewed calls by civil liberty campaigners for its author’s release.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi describes a world tour of torture and humiliation that began in his native Mauritania more than 13 years ago and progressed through Jordan and Afghanistan before he was consigned to US detention in Guantánamo, Cuba, in August 2002 as prisoner number 760. US military officials told the Guardian this week that despite never being prosecuted and being cleared for release by a judge in 2010, he is unlikely to be released in the next year.

The journal, which Slahi handwrote in English, details how he was subjected to sleep deprivation, death threats, sexual humiliation and intimations that his torturers would go after his mother.

After enduring this, he was subjected to “additional interrogation techniques” personally approved by the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. He was blindfolded, forced to drink salt water, and then taken out to sea on a high-speed boat where he was beaten for three hours while immersed in ice.

The end product of the torture, he writes, was lies. Slahi made a number of false confessions in an attempt to end the torment, telling interrogators he planned to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. Asked if he was telling the truth, he replied: “I don’t care as long as you are pleased. So if you want to buy, I am selling.”

Slahi’s manuscript was subjected to more than 2,500 redactions before declassification, ostensibly to protect classified information, but with the effect of preventing readers from learning the full story of his ordeal. The book is being published with all the censor’s marks in place, and the publishers – Canongate in the UK and Little, Brown in the US – hope they will be able to publish an uncensored edition when Slahi is eventually released.

Although one federal court has ordered his release on the grounds that the evidence against him is thin and tainted by torture, Slahi has been languishing in a form of legal limbo since December 2012 after the justice department entangled the case in an unresolved appeal. Several US officials have indicated that he is unlikely to be released this year. One, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity as he had not been cleared to do so, said getting Slahi out of Guantánamo was not a priority. “Our focus is acutely on the individuals who have been approved for transfer,” he said. Slahi is not among them.

Slahi describes the toll the abuse has taken on his body and mind: “I started to hallucinate and hear voices as clear as crystal. I heard my family in a casual familial conversation … I heard Qur’an readings in a heavenly voice. I heard music from my country. Later on the guards used these hallucinations and started talking with funny voices through the plumbing, encouraging me to hurt the guard and plot an escape. But I wasn’t misled by them, even though I played along.” ‘We heard somebody – maybe a genie!’ they used to say. ‘Yeah, but I ain’t listening to him,’ I responded … I was on the edge of losing my mind.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an online petition calling for Slahi’s release. Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project, said: “Mohamedou Slahi is an innocent man whom the United States brutally tortured and has held unlawfully for over a decade. He doesn’t present a threat to the US and has never taken part in any hostilities against it.

“We’re asking the government to put an end to Mohamedou’s years-long ordeal by not contesting his habeas case and releasing him without delay. We hope everyone moved by Mohamedou’s story of abuse and unlawful detention will join us in seeking his freedom.”

The 44-year-old travelled twice to Afghanistan in the early 1990s. There, he swore allegiance to al-Qaida and joined the fight against the Soviet Union-backed regime in Kabul. He says he severed all connection with the group in 1992.

But after 9/11 he was detained on suspicion of being involved in an unsuccessful plot to bomb Los Angeles international airport while living in Canada in 1999. No evidence has been found to support the allegation, other than his own forced confessions. In 2004 a military lawyer refused to play any further part in the prosecution on the grounds that the evidence against him was the product of torture.

The chief military commissions prosecutor in the mid-2000s, Air Force colonel Morris Davis, later said he could not find any offence with which to charge Slahi.

The detainee’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander, said: “Mohamedou has never been charged with anything. The US has never charged him with a crime. There is no crime to charge him with. It’s not that they haven’t found the evidence against him – there isn’t evidence against him. He’s in what I would consider a horrible legal limbo, and it’s just tragic: he needs to go home.

“Mohamedou’s book takes us into the heart of this man the US government tortured, and continues to torture with indefinite detention. We feel, smell, even taste the torture he endures in his voice and within his heart. It is a book everyone should read.”

Publisher Jamie Byng said Slahi’s account was one of the most significant books Canongate would ever publish. “It’s a gracious, brutal, humbling, at times funny, but more often enraging, and ultimately heartbreaking testimony by a truly gifted writer. And all of his many international publishers hope that by bringing his story to the wider world we can play a part in ending his wrongful and barbaric imprisonment.”

Slahi’s memoir is published on the heels of a landmark US Senate study into CIA torture, and arrives as Republicans in Washington have redoubled their efforts to block Barack Obama from fulfilling his vow to close Guantánamo. The president is determined to reduce the detention centre’s population during 2015: on Wednesday, five more detainees left Cuba for Oman and Estonia, the latest in a flurry of post-election transfers. This leaves 122 inmates at Guantánamo. Among them is Shaker Aamer, a Saudi-born British resident. David Cameron was expected to raise Aamer’s plight with Obama during talks in Washington on Friday.

However, British ministers have raised his case at least 15 times in the last five years, according to statements to parliament. In the past, US diplomats have said privately that they are not convinced the British government is serious when it says it wished to see Aamer returned to the UK, where he could be reunited with his British wife and four children.

Though his captors have long since ceased treating Slahi as a security threat – he is said to inform on other detainees, and lives in a separate facility where he is allowed to garden – the US insists it has legal justification to deprive the Mauritanian of his freedom. Lt Col Myles Caggins, a defense department spokesman, said: “We continue to detain Mohamedou Slahi under the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force of 2001 (AUMF) as informed by the laws of war. He has full access to federal court for review of his detention by United States district court via petition for writ of habeas corpus.”

Guantanamo Diary is published on 20 January. To buy a copy for £15 (RRP £20), visit bookshop.theguardian.com or call the Guardian Bookshop on 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p on online orders over £10. A £1.99 charge applies to telephone orders.

Free innocent British Guantanamo Bay prisoner


This music video is called PJ HarveyShaker Aamer.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Guantanamo prison wife pleads with PM to secure release

Saturday 17th January 2015

THE wife of British Guantanamo Bay detainee Shaker Aamer has issued a desperate plea to David Cameron, urging him to secure her husband’s freedom during his visit to the White House this week.

Mr Aamer, from south London, has been detained without charge or trial at the US prison camp since 2002.

This is despite his having twice been cleared for release, first by the Bush administration in 2007 and again by President Barack Obama in 2009.

In a heartfelt letter sent to the British Prime Minister, Zinneera Aamer said:

“Thirteen years ago my family was ripped apart when my husband was sold for a bounty and taken to Guantanamo Bay.

“He has never been charged with a crime. He has never faced a trial. He was cleared for release — told he could come home, in other words — by president Bush’s administration. He was then cleared for release a second time, by President Obama’s administration.

“We had such hope, when Mr Obama said he would close the prison — finally, we thought, our family’s ordeal will be over. It is hard to describe the crushing despair of having such hopes dashed.”

She went on to say: “I know that you know all of this. But I hope that if I lay out the desperate state of affairs once again — and it would be foolish to suggest we are anything other than desperate — you will be moved to raise Shaker’s case with President Obama when you meet him, and that you will get Shaker home.”

Grave concerns have long been expressed for Mr Aamer’s mental and physical well-being amid reports that he has suffered repeated abuse, almost daily beatings and long periods in solitary confinement.

Mr Aamer and his British wife, Zinneera, have four British children — the youngest of whom has never met his father.

Cori Crider, a director at legal charity Reprieve who represents Mr Aamer, said: “Successive British governments have claimed to have ‘raised Shaker’s case’ with the US over the years — yet he’s still locked up in Guantanamo without charge or trial, suffering terrible mistreatment every day.

“Enough delays. David Cameron must listen to Shaker’s wife and children, and come back from the White House with a clear timeline for Shaker’s release.”

Innocent Afghan prisoners leave Guantánamo torture camp after twelve years


This video from Channel 4 TV in Britain is called Torture -The Guantanamo Guidebook.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

US releases four Guantánamo Bay prisoners to Afghanistan

Martin Pengelly in New York and agencies

Saturday 20 December 2014 17.52 GMT

The US announced on Saturday the release of four more prisoners from the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. The four men were repatriated to Afghanistan.

The men, who had been in the camp for more than 10 years, were named as Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir. They had been cleared for transfer for some time and are not considered to represent security risks in Afghanistan, where US troops are still deployed.

A US official told Reuters the men were flown to Kabul overnight, aboard a US military plane, and released to Afghan authorities in the first such transfer since 2009. The official said the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, had requested the transfer.

The release of the men reduces the number of inmates held at Guantánamo to 132, eight of whom are from Afghanistan.

Khan, 51, was sent to Guantánamo 11 years ago “on the flimsiest of allegations”, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. His lawyers said he had been a driver for the Hamid Karzai government.

According to a database compiled by the New York Times and National Public Radio, Gul, 51, was arrested in 2002 and accused of being a Taliban intelligence officer. He said he never worked for the group and that two of his “enemies” had turned him over to US troops.

Ghani, 42, was captured in 2002 as a suspected member of a Taliban-linked faction and was originally accused of “war crimes”. He said someone falsely accused him of carrying out a rocket attack; he was cleared by an inter-agency review.

Zahir, 61, was arrested in 2003 and accused of links to Taliban weapons caches, but he denied any connection and was also cleared for transfer.

A Pentagon statement said the men had been “unanimously approved for transfer” by an inter-agency task force and that the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, had informed Congress of the decision to release them.

According to the Associated Press, the top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, had opposed the release. Officials said Campbell and all military leaders on the ground had now screened the move. The AP also reported that an official involved in the review said most of the terrorism accusations against the men had been discarded.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order to close Guantánamo in January 2009.

However, now, almost six lears later, it it is still open, with ill-treatment continuing.

Earlier this month, six inmates were released to Uruguay.

Among the men released to Uruguay was Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian man who is challenging in court the Obama administration’s use of force-feeding at the base.

Want to know the reality of US torture? Ask Shaker Aamer: here.

CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CALLS FOR GUANTANAMO CLOSURE General Martin Dempsey called the prison “a psychological scar on our national values.” [HuffPost]

Innocent prisoner still in Guantanamo torture camp


This video from the Center for Constitutional Rights in the USA says about itself:

Waiting for Fahd: One Family’s Hope for Life Beyond Guantánamo

2 December 2014

Share the film with everyone you know: http://www.ccrjustice.org/fahd, with #FreeFahd.

The heartrending documentary “Waiting for Fahd,” tells the story of CCR client Fahd Ghazy, a Yemeni national unlawfully detained at Guantánamo since he was 17 and who is now 30. Through moving interviews with his beloved family in Yemen, “Waiting for Fahd” paints a vivid portrait of the life that awaits a man who, despite being twice cleared for release, continues to languish at Guantánamo, denied his home, his livelihood, and his loved ones because of his nationality.

Stand in solidarity with Fahd by taking a photograph of yourself holding a #FreeFahd sign and upload it to our Tumblr page, FreeFahd.tumblr.com.

Plan a screening of the film in your town, at your school, your church/mosque/synagogue, your home – wherever you are. Contact CCR for a DVD copy and our screening toolkit. Please note whether you would like the Arabic version of the film and advocacy materials.

Educate yourself, and your family, friends and neighbors about the human rights disgrace that is Guantánamo. Visit ccrjustice.org/closegitmo for resources, more information about CCR’s work to end indefinite detention and close Guantánamo, and profiles of our other clients.

Prisoners tortured in Guantanamo and Bagram


Protest outside parliament in London, England demanding the release of Shaker Aamer from detention in Guantanamo Bay prison

From daily News Line in Britain:

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

TORTURE & FORCE FEEDING IN G-BAY AND BAGRAM PRISON

GLOBAL youth media company ‘Vice’ on Monday launched a week-long special edition of their website Vice.com about Guantanamo Bay, featuring testimony from clients represented by human rights organisation Reprieve.

The special edition includes first-hand testimony from detainees Shaker Aamer, Emad Hassan and Younous Chekkouri, who have been cleared for release from the prison yet remain detained without charge or trial.

It also includes original essay contributions from Jeremy Paxman, Melvyn Bragg, John le Carré and Frederick Forsyth.

British resident Shaker Aamer has been detained in Guantanamo since 2002 despite having been cleared for release under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

The British government has repeatedly stated that Shaker should be returned as a matter of urgency to his British wife and their four children in London.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond recently dismissed concerns over the abuse faced by Shaker in Guantanamo.

Reprieve has undertaken litigation in the US – on behalf of long-time hunger striking client Abu Wa’el Dhiab – challenging the legality of the methods used to force-feed men in Guantanamo Bay.

Video tapes of Dhiab being manhandled to the force-feeding chair – dubbed ‘torture chair’ by the detainees – and force-fed, have been ordered released by a US federal judge.

Cori Crider, Strategic Director of Reprieve and attorney for the men in Guantanamo, said: ‘Guantanamo is a legal black hole and an affront to justice the world over.

‘This special edition of Vice brings much-needed attention to the plight of those men who remain detained without charge or trial.

‘The US administration is currently trying to stop video tapes of force-feedings being released to public scrutiny as part of its continuing efforts to keep transparency far away from Guantanamo.

‘The US must release these tapes – and the prison from which they came must be closed at once.’

Vice.com article, Growing up, Guantanamo says:

Mohammed el Gharani, a citizen of Chad raised in Saudi Arabia, had just turned 15 when he arrived at Guantánamo Bay in February 2002, shepherded off a military cargo plane wearing shackles and blackout goggles.

‘He weighed 126 pounds, was too young to shave, and for months didn’t know where he was. “Some brothers said Europe,” he later recalled in an interview with the London Review of Books.

‘Others thought the unsparing winter sun suggested Brazil. When an interrogator finally told him he was in Cuba, Mohammed didn’t recognise the name. “An island in the middle of the ocean,” the interrogator said. “Nobody can run away from here and you’ll be here forever.”

Omar Khadr, born in Toronto, was also shipped to the offshore prison as a juvenile.

‘The 16-year-old made an early impression on the Army chaplain on base, who, walking by his cell, found Omar curled up asleep, arms wrapped tightly around a Disney book with drawings of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. “He definitely seemed out of place,” the chaplain told reporter Michelle Shephard, who wrote about Omar in her book Guantánamo’s Child?

‘Fahd Ghazy, who grew up in a Yemeni farming village, was seized when he was 17. He had recently graduated at the top of his high-school class.

‘One of Guantánamo’s earliest detainees, he was initially housed in the jerrybuilt, open-air cages of Camp X-Ray. Around the time he was transferred to a permanent cellblock, Fahd learned he’d won a university scholarship to study in Yemen’s capitol, Sana’a.

‘Nearly 13 years later, he’s still at the naval base – still without charge.

‘Swept up as juveniles, Mohammed, Omar, and Fahd were among some 15 to 20 detainees whose adolescence and early adulthood unfolded within the desolate confines of the prison camp, marked by isolation, abusive treatment and the chronic stress of indefinite detention.

‘For years, the Pentagon misreported how many children had been seized. “They don’t come with birth certificates,” a Guantánamo public affairs officer told the New York Times in 2005.

‘To this day, the government considers Fahd to be older than he is, explains his lawyer, Omar Farah of the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

‘While visiting Fahd’s relatives in rural Yemen last year, Farah confirmed the birth date Fahd has consistently maintained, recorded in his family’s Koran.

‘“Because they’re developing, they’re more vulnerable to being traumatised,” says Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a retired brigadier general and child psychiatrist who’s served as a medical expert in several cases at Guantánamo. “They’re detached from their families, they don’t have schooling, and they’re thrown in with adults in this adversarial climate.”

‘International juvenile justice standards identify child soldiers first and foremost as victims in need of representation and rehabilitation.

‘The first prisoner Xenakis evaluated was Omar – deemed high profile because his father had ties to Osama bin Laden – who’d been accused of lobbing a grenade that killed an American medic during a firefight in Afghanistan.

‘Gravely injured in the confrontation, Omar was found under a pile of debris with two bullet holes in his back and shrapnel in his eyes.

‘But Omar was air-evaced to Bagram and interrogated almost immediately – pain relief for his injuries withheld during questioning.

‘Years later, in an interrogation room that doubled as an office for doctor-patient interviews, Omar would say to Xenakis, “I’ll tell you what happened in this room.”

‘He described being used as a “human mop”: after painful stress positions caused him to urinate on the floor, he said, military police poured pine oil on his body and dragged him through the liquid.

“These were kids,” says Xenakis. “They’re threatened and harshly interrogated, they’re frightened. I just didn’t think it was consistent with our values as a country.’

‘Dennis Edney, Omar’s longtime civilian lawyer, recalls his client’s bearing during their first meeting in 2004. “I went into one of those cold, windowless cells,” Edney says, “and saw a young boy chained to the floor, trying to keep himself warm. He was blind in one eye, with paralysis in his right arm. He reminded me of a little broken bird. I recall the absolute shock I felt witnessing this lonely, abject figure.”

‘Plagued by procedural snarls and an ever-changing rulebook, Omar’s military commissions case dragged on for years.

‘Had he gone to trial as scheduled in 2010, he would have been the first child soldier to be prosecuted for war crimes since World War II, “a terrible precedent”, according to Human Rights Watch.

‘Instead, after a military judge ruled admissible his statements obtained under torture, Omar pled guilty to all charges, avoiding further entanglement with a system he’d described before the court as “constructed to convict detainees, not find the truth”.

Now 28 and serving an eight-year sentence in Canada, Omar remains close to Xenakis, who provides ongoing support. “He’s going to have some real challenges when he’s out,” Xenakis says. “How does he recover the skills to communicate and socialise outside the prison setting? How does he act in an environment where he can make his own choices? He’s very conscientious and diligent, but he’s got a lot of ground to make up.”

‘According to Polly Rossdale, who directs the Life After Guantánamo project for the human rights group Reprieve, the most ordinary tasks and desires often strike former detainees as insurmountable and unachievable. “When they get out,” she says, “the main things that men call me up about are, ‘How am I going to find a wife?’ Or they want to go to computer class and get computer skills.” Some have been consumed by panic in the shampoo aisle, while others can’t remember how to put on a seatbelt.

The article reveals that an ex-G-Bay prisoner Mohammed, who finally made it out of Chad in 2011, is married now, his second child born earlier this year.

‘He named the baby Shaker, after Shaker Aamer, a mentor and friend still imprisoned at Guantánamo. “Shaker was one of the men who really looked after Mohammed because he was a young boy,” Rossdale explains. “This is his way of saying thank you.’

‘Of the 779 men imprisoned at Guantánamo, roughly 600 were eventually released without charge. Nevertheless, heavy stigma has burdened former detainees looking for work or community acceptance . . .

‘Eighty-seven of Guantánamo’s remaining 148 detainees are from Yemen, 58 of whom have been cleared for transfer . . .’

Poet Hilaire read out a piece for Shaker Aamer in Parliament at a meeting demanding the release of Britain’s last prisoner still held in Guantanamo Bay: here.

President Barack Obama’s half-hearted five-year bid to to close the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba suffered a major setback on Monday. Reactionary senators finalising the annual Defence Policy Bill rejected steps toward shutting the torture camp: here.