Sunday, December 13, 2009

Free Fayiz Al Kandari: New MSNBC Interview with Major Barry Wingard

Crooks and Liars has posted a recent interview with Major Barry Lingard, the Guantanamo attorney defending Fayiz Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari. Al-Kandari is a Kuwaiti citizen, imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2002. Al-Kandari's case has been championed by well-known blogger GottaLaff at The Political Carnival.

Like a number of idealistic Muslims, Fayiz al-Kandari was caught up at a young age by the suffering of Muslims in the war in Bosnia. He became very active in charity work, and this work led him to Afghanistan. As Andy Worthington told it in a recent essay:
After realizing that Afghanistan was one of the poorest countries in the Islamic world, and that its people might benefit from his assistance, [Fayiz] decided to visit, to provide assistance to the Afghan people, but was shocked to discover, on the ground, that “those people had less than anyone I had ever met.”

In a village, he met up with local officials, and agreed to provide work for some of the local people, building two wells and repairing a mosque. Life was peaceful and productive for two months — and the dreadful events of September 11, 2001 were far away, and of little import in this remote location — but in October, after the US-led invasion began, he recalls hearing the sounds of explosions in the distance and was surprised when the village erupted in celebration, as the locals were overcome with joy that they were again at war.

The reason was not to do with fighting, but with the opportunity to make money from the war’s fallout. As al-Kandari explained to Lt. Col. Wingard, in the days that followed, the local people clambered onto trucks and drove towards the places where bombs had dropped the day before, hoping to gather shrapnel to sell as scrap metal before rival villages beat them to it. Because they were short of manpower, the villagers sometimes took their children and sent them out to watch for explosions across the mountains, and al-Kandari recalls the children demonstrating how they would handle metal that was still hot by bouncing it between their hands.
But Fayiz became one of a number of Arabs (he is originally from a well-to-do Kuwaiti family) who was sold to the Americans for bounty money.

Andy Worthington describes what happened next:
In Guantánamo, Fayiz al-Kandari’s refusal to accept that “there is no innocent person here” has marked him out as a particularly resistant prisoner — and resistant prisoners are given a particularly hard time. Over the years, he has been subjected to a vast array of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which, as Lt. Col. Wingard described them, “have included but are not limited to sleep deprivation, physical and verbal assaults, attempts at sexual humiliation through the use of female interrogators, the “frequent flier program,” the prolonged use of stress positions, the use of dogs, the use of loud music and strobe lights, and the use of extreme heat and cold.”

Despite all this, he has not been “broken,” and has been able, unlike Fouad al-Rabiah and numerous other prisoners, to resist making false confessions about his own activities. He has also refused to make false confessions about the activities of other prisoners, despite being offered many opportunities to do so, and despite being told about others who have made false allegations against him.
Al Kandari's attorney, Major Barry Wingard, has made clear that the evidence against his client is based on far-fetched hearsay evidence. Wingard has been outspoken in his criticism of the Guantanamo military commissions and the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and other inhumane types of treatment.

Fayiz al-Kandari, along with over a hundred other Guantanamo prisoners, deserve their fair day in court. The prisoners who have been granted release via habeas petitions or other legal remedy, but who are still held in Guantanamo for an indefinite confinement, should be released immediately. Let them be allowed to live freely in the country that incarcerated and held them illegally, and tortured them. If there is some chargeable crime, and evidence of such crime, let them be tried as anyone would be, in a court of law, not a bogus military kangaroo court.

From a Washington Post op-ed by then Lt. Col. Wingard, last July 1:

Guantanamo has become a dark symbol of the standard of justice the United States has meted out in the "global war on terror." Protecting American lives is paramount, but it is not true that we can be safe only by ignoring our country's values and imprisoning people for the better part of a decade without their legal rights.

Each time I travel to Guantanamo Bay to visit Fayiz, his first question is, "Have you found justice for me today?" This leads to an awkward hesitation.

"Unfortunately, Fayiz," I tell him, "I have no justice today."
(H/T Tosfm)

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