Saturday, July 23, 2016

Gitmo board refuses to release 'mistaken identity' prisoner after 9 years without lawyer

Reproduced below is a press release from the international human rights organization, Reprieve. It concerns the latest decision of President Obama's instituted Periodic Review Board (PRB) at Guantanamo. The unjust PRB has existed for years, the policies supported by the new Democratic Party presidential presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. Obama, who promised to close Guantanamo at the beginning of his term and has reneged on that promise, has after nearly 8 years stepped up the pace of release of prisoners from the torture camp at the U.S. naval base seized from land in Cuba decades ago.

After nine years held at Guantanamo without charges, Haroon Gul, aka Haroon Al-Afghani, who was one of the five last prisoners to arrive at Guantanamo, was finally allowed to meet with an attorney for the first time three days before his PRB hearing! His attorney, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis told what little he could about his client:
Very little is known to the world about Haroon, and secrecy laws currently ban me from filling in the blanks. What I can say is that he is every bit as heartbroken by the senseless violence in Orlando as I am, and presented for his Monday meeting with tears in his eyes.
According to the Reprieve website:
Haroon Gul is an 33 year-old Afghan citizen who has been held without charge or trial by the US government at Guantanamo Bay since June 2007.

For nine years, Haroon did not have legal representation....

Haroon was raised in a refugee camp in Pakistan, after violence in Afghanistan forced his family to flee their home there. Despite the disadvantages of his upbringing, Haroon was able to educate himself through the college level. He provided for his family by working as a trader in the local marketplace, selling household goods to other refugees.

With an economics degree and fluency in four languages, Haroon had just managed to rise above his difficult circumstances when he was captured by Afghan forces during a business trip to Afghanistan, and passed to the U.S.. He was rendered to Guantanamo Bay in 2007.
According to a January 2016 investigation at Al Jazeera, the U.S. claims "was a senior member of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, (HIG), an Afghan insurgent group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord who helped end the Soviet occupation in the country." He was "also said to have been a courier for alleged senior Al-Qaeda operations planner Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who was also transferred to Guantánamo from CIA custody in 2007."

But Al Jazeera investigators Sami Yousafzai and Jenifer Fenton dug deeper and found that the U.S. claim came "from just one source, identified in JTF-GTMO report footnotes as TD-314/08910-07, a CIA report serial number. The information comes from an unidentified human source. The -07 denotes the year 2007."

With a single informant or claim, Haroon was held essentially incommunicado at Guantanamo! Yousafzai and Fenton's reporting makes a strong case that the Afghan detainee was a victim or mistaken identity, or even a victim of some local jealousy. When he was finally allowed after many months to communicate with his family, who had no idea where he was, he wrote to them, "I am in Gitmo. Pray for me... I am OK." Family members had to wait six months before the next communication.

We don't know what was done to Haroon inside Guantanamo, but we do know that the regime inside Guantanamo was tortuous, and that indefinite detention itself is a form of torture. According to the organization Physicians for Human Rights, indefinite detention in prison places individuals at unreasonable risk of serious and long-lasting psychological and physical harm. (See full report here.)

Recently, I've shown, via documents released by The Washington Post, how when the CIA contracted with James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen for their "enhanced interrogation" program, the torture was inflicted on prisoners in part in order to get them to agree to become double agents for the Americans. We do know that when one family member was allowed to see Haroon, according to Yousafzai and Fenton, the Afghan prisoner "looked older than his age, he was complaining of headaches, and he had dark circles around his eyes."

What follows below is the Reprieve press release:
A little-known Afghan prisoner has been refused clearance to leave Guantánamo Bay, despite an apparent case of mistaken identity by the U.S. government.

Guantánamo's Periodic Review Board (PRB) ruled this week that Haroon Gul, 33, must continue to be detained indefinitely without charge or trial because his plan for what he would do post-release was insufficient. The Board also seemed unimpressed by Mr. Gul's insistence that the government's allegations against him are false.

The Board's hearing was the first time in nine years that Mr. Gul has been given the opportunity to defend himself. Yet the process was inadequate and unfair. Neither Mr Gul's attorney nor his military representative were allowed to discuss the allegations with him under attorney-client privilege, nor was he given the chance to rebut the classified allegations against him before the Board.

Mr Gul, who has never been charged nor received a trial since arriving at Guantánamo Bay in 2007, was originally passed to the US military by local Afghan forces, according to a report by Al Jazeera. His wife and young daughter now live in a refugee camp, the report says, but little more is known to the world about him.

Mr. Gul has previously had no defense attorney during his nine years at Guantanamo, despite his desperate and persistent attempts to find one. He was represented at his Periodic Review Board hearing by Reprieve U.S. attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who met him for the first time only four days before the hearing.

His file will become eligible for review in six months time.

Commenting, Reprieve U.S. attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis said:

"We have reason to believe that Haroon is one of the many proven cases of mistaken identity, but without a lawyer, he had no capacity to challenge his detention in federal court, as others did. He was given less than three hours out of the last nine years to prepare with an attorney for this hearing that determined his fate. This is status-quo justice in Guantánamo.

"When I met this bright-eyed, chatty young man I was blown away by his attitude. He was smiling and laughing and making American cultural references that even I didn't get.

"This denial is slap in the face to Haroon's persistent efforts to toe the line the government has drawn for its prisoners. Haroon has learned English from scratch; he learned math and science and computers; he has played soccer with fellow detainees and been kind to the guards that lock his cage at night. To this day, he says he does not understand why he's in there. 'Why me?' But day after day he makes the very best of his situation and treats those who have wronged him charitably.

"Haroon is not a bad man, Haroon is not even an irritable or ill-tempered man. He is a man who was tortured into speaking against himself and held captive by my government for nine years without an attorney.

"The allegations against our clients in Guantánamo, to this day, include information that the government admits is wrong. We are still relying on this torture-evidence to keep men hundreds of miles from their families for years on end.

"I went to law school to be a part of the American justice system, but in Guantánamo, I cannot find it."


Anonymous said...

Unjust PRB? They've approved 30 detainees for transfer. I'd say they are nothing but fair.

Valtin said...

Executive order establishing the PRB's under Obama is now 7 years old, and the process has been painfully slow. Then there are problems with the lousy due process, including fact the detainee can't have access to review secret evidence against him.

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