Sami al-Hajj hits out at US captors

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by redgrain, May 3, 2008.

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  1. Sami al-Hajj hits out at US captors

    Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj has hit out at the US treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison where he was held for nearly six and a half years.

    Saying that "rats are treated with more humanity", al-Hajj said inmates' "human dignity was violated".

    Al-Hajj, who arrived in Sudan early on Friday, was carried off the US air force jet on a stretcher and immediately taken to hospital.

    Later, he had an emotional reunion with his wife and son.

    His brother, Asim al-Hajj, said he did not recognise the cameraman because he looked like a man in his 80s.

    Still, al-Hajj said: "I was lucky because God allowed that I be released."

    But his attention soon turned to the 275 inmates he left behind in the US military prison.

    "I'm very happy to be in Sudan, but I'm very sad because of the situation of our brothers who remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo are very, very bad and they get worse by the day," he said from his hospital bed.

    "Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values.

    "In Guantanamo ... rats are treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than 50 countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges.

    "And they will not give them the rights that they give animals," he said.

    Al-Hajj complained that "for more than seven years, [inmates] did not get a chance to be brought before a civil court to defend their just case".

    The US embassy in Khartoum issued a brief statement confirming that a "detainee transfer" to Sudan had taken place and saying it appreciated Sudan's co-operation.

    Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, visited al-Hajj in hospital.

    A senior US defence official in Washington speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that al-Hajj was "not being released [but] being transferred to the Sudanese government".

    But Sudan's justice minister told Al Jazeera that al-Hajj was a free man and would not be arrested or face any charges.

    Two other Sudanese inmates at Guantanamo, Amir Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali, were freed along with al-Hajj.

    The two said they were blindfolded, handcuffed and chained to their seats during the flight home.

    The Reprieve organisation that represents some Guantanamo inmates said Moroccan detainee Said Boujaadia was also released and flown home on the same aircraft as the three Sudanese.

    According to a US defence department statement, five detainees were "transferred" to Afghanistan as well. It said that all those detainees, nine in total, had been "determined to be eligible for transfer following a comprehensive series of review proccesses".

    Al-Hajj was the only journalist from a major international news organisation held at Guantanamo and many of his supporters saw his detention as punishment for the network's broadcasts.

    He was seized by Pakistani intelligence officers while travelling near the Afghan border in December 2001.

    Despite holding a legitimate visa to work for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel in Afghanistan, he was handed to the US military in January 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

    Al-Hajj, who is originally from Sudan, was held as an "enemy combatant" without ever facing trial or charges.

    Al-Hajj was never prosecuted at Guantanamo so the US did not make public its full allegations against him.

    But in a hearing that determined that he was an enemy combatant, US officials alleged that in the 1990s, al-Hajj was an executive assistant at a Qatar-based beverage company that provided support to Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya.

    The US claimed he also travelled to Azerbaijan at least eight times to carry money on behalf of his employer to the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now defunct charity that US authorities say funded armed groups.

    The US also clamed he met Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, allegedly a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden who was arrested in Germany in 1998 and extradited to the United States.

    His lawyers have always denied the allegations.

    Al-Hajj had been on hunger strike since January 7, 2007.

    David Remes, a lawyer for 17 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, told Al Jazeera that the treatment al-Hajj received "was more horrific than most" and that there was "an element of racism" in the way he was treated.

    He said he had been in contact with the lawyer representing al-Hajj and it appeared the cameraman had been "psychologically damaged".

    "The Europeans would never receive this treatment," Remes said.

    About 275 detainees remain at Guantanamo and the lawyer said European detainees had all been returned to their country, leaving nationalities such as Yemenis - who now constitute one third of the inmate population.

    Amir Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali were freed along with al-Hajj [EPA]
    Remes said al-Hajj had been released because the Bush administration "wants to flush as many men out of Guantanamo as quickly as possible … as Guantanamo has become such an international badge of shame".

    "Once the Supreme Court said the men could have lawyers the pressure increased [on the US] and condemnation isolated the US administration. Guantanamo was a PR disaster," he said.

    "Unfortunately Americans appreciate violations of rights but they have no sympathy for men held at Guantanamo as the [Bush] administration has done such a good job in portraying them as the worst of the worst and as evil doers.

    "I've met many prisoners, gotten to appreciate their suffering ... we know them as humans not as worst of worst, we've met their families.

    "I've been to Guantanamo and the human dimension of Guantanamo is a story yet to be told," Remes said.

    Al Jazeera had been campaigning for al-Hajj's release since his capture nearly six and a half years ago.

    Wadah Khanfar, the network's director-general who was in Khartoum to welcome al-Hajj, said "we are overwhelmed with joy".

    But he criticised the US military for urging al-Hajj to spy on his employers.

    "We are concerned about the way the Americans dealt with Sami, and we are concerned about the way they could deal with others as well," he said.

    "Sami will continue with Al Jazeera, he will continue as a professional person who has done great jobs during his work with Al Jazeera.

    "We congratulate his family and all those who knew Sami and loved Sami and worked for this moment."
  2. What was this man guilty of, if anything? Where was the proof? How was he held for so long without trial or charges being lodged? Gitmo may yet come back to haunt Bush and company - it doesn't say much for 'spreading democracy.'
  3. Would this gentleman be happier if someone had sawn his head off with a buck knife and posted it on the internet? (See below)

    "Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values."

    Reality cheque, table six please.
  4. the bloke would come out with all that wouldn't he? I suspect Gitmo compares favourably with many islamic countries' prisons
  5. So that's alright then..
  6. Oh it's much nicer than being a detainee in Israel or almost any Gulf Kingship dungeon let alone Egypt, Syria or Pakistan. From what I hear Gitmo compares favorably with a lot of high security US prisons as well but that's really not the point

    The mind numbing stupidity very publicly banging up an al Jaz journo on not much more than a whim is what gets me. Must we manufacture the enemies propaganda for them?
  7. Or Saddam Hussein's. But that is not the point. US was seen to be a beacon of the free world and for them to establish 'gulags' wrecks havoc with this image and undermines them 'bringing democracy' to others, though of course was not the true intent of going to Iraq.
  8. You voted Liberal Democrat didn't you?
  9. Don't want to get into personal politics here. :wink:
  10. Fair enough. Have you served as a member of the Armed Forces in either Iraq or Afghanistan?
  11. With respect, I would rather not get into that either, mate.
  12. Well ok. I have a few points I would like to share with you then.

    1. The original post is a cut n paste from Al Jezeera. Like all media outlets it comes with a certain amount of spin, a certain agenda persay.

    2. I can't think of a single sane man who has enjoyed a stay at a location against his will. The politics of gitmo aside, it serves a purpose. There may well be a small percentage of the population that doesn't deserve to be there, but I believe the majority of the population were involved in some way in bringing pain and suffering to a group or several groups of people. For isolating those kind of people from civilization I applaud Gitmo and all it brings.

    3. There are no guilty men in prison. Ask around your local pokey.

    4. I cant really comment on the conditions at Gitmo. I haven't been there. Read it about it, and seen it on TV a few times. I think old boy should rejoice that he made it back home to his wife and family. If the shoe was on the other foot his family might have seen his scorched, headless corpse hanging from a bridge in Baghdad for all to see, possibly his genitals shoved in his mouth for good measure.

    5. I am former Armed Services, having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I have very little sympathy for any of the population at Gitmo. Maybe spending a certain amount of my life in that part of the world has jaded me some.

  13. Give you that. The whole gitmo thing hasn't exactly been media relations at their best, especially in the beginning when they exhibited the prisoners all masked & trussed up, then they come out with "good riddance" or words to that effect when 3 of them top themselves. Would've thought the US of all countries would be a lot more media savvy than that.
  14. Look on the bright side he's got 6.5 years of backdated wages to burn
  15. Gitmo is a violation of all that we used to value in England.
    Stripping men women and children of their basic human rights, holding them indefinately without recourse to the law, denying them basic human dignity, torturing them- these things were all done effectively by the coalition- by the USA, our allies- and because we continued to co operate with them as their allies and we have done ostensibly nothing to help those men and at least 60 children incarcerated and tortured we must take our share of responsibility for it.
    Gitmo was a disgrace and there is no excuse for its existance.