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Guantanamo: Al-Jazeera Journalist Close to Death

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    Al-Jazeera man close to death at Guantanamo Bay close to death By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor 13 September 2007 http://news.independent.co.uk An al-Jazeera
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2007
      Al-Jazeera man close to death at Guantanamo Bay 'close to death'
      By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor
      13 September 2007

      An al-Jazeera journalist captured in Afghanistan six years ago and
      sent to Guantanamo Bay is close to becoming the fifth detainee at the
      US naval base to take his own life, according to a medical report
      written by a team of British and American psychiatrists

      Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese national, is 250 days into a hunger strike
      which he began in protest over his detention without charge or trial
      in January 2002. But British and American doctors, who have been given
      exclusive access to his interview notes, say there is very strong
      evidence that he has given up his fight for life, experiencing what
      doctors recognise as "passive suicide", a condition suffered by female
      victims of Darfur.

      Dr Dan Creson, a US psychiatrist who has worked with the United
      Nations in Darfur, said Mr Haj was suffering from severe depression
      and may be deteriorating to the point of imminent death.

      He said the detainee's condition was similar to that of Darfuri women
      in Sudan whose mind suddenly experiences an irreversible decline after
      enduring months of starvation and abuse. He said: "In the midst of
      rape, slow starvation, and abject humiliation, they did whatever they
      could to survive and save their children; then, suddenly, something
      happened in their psyche, and, without warning, they would just sit
      down with their small children beneath the first small area of
      available shade and with no apparent emotion wait for death."

      In June this year a Saudi man became the fourth prisoner to take his
      own life at Guantanamo Bay. Guards found him dead in his cell. Two
      Saudis and a Yemeni prisoner were found hanged in an apparent suicide
      at Guantanamo in June last year. A senior US officer caused outrage at
      the time by describing the suicides of three men as an act of
      asymmetric warfare and a good PR move on the part of terrorist suspects.

      Mr Haj, 38, was sent on assignment by al-Jazeera television station to
      cover the war in Afghanistan in October 2001. The following month,
      after the fall of Kabul, Mr Haj left Afghanistan for Pakistan with the
      rest of his crew.

      In early December, the crew were given visas to return to Afghanistan.
      But when Mr Haj tried to re-enter Afghanistan with his colleagues, he
      was arrested by the Pakistani authorities – apparently at the request
      of the US military.

      He was imprisoned, handed over to the US authorities in January 2002,
      taken to the US military compound in Bagram, Afghanisatan, then
      Kandahar, and finally to Guantanamo in June 2002.

      His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, of the human rights charity
      Reprieve, said his client had endured months of brutal force-feeding
      and lost nearly a fifth of his body weight during the hunger strike.

      Mr Stafford Smith said: "The US military is rightly afraid of a fifth
      prisoner dying in their custody. But they wrongly respond by treating
      prisoners worse. Blankets and clothes are removed in case they are
      used to commit suicide. The harshest methods of forced feeding are
      deployed – Sami has suffered the feeding tube being forced down into
      his lungs by mistake several times."

      The warning about the condition of Mr Haj coincided with the release
      of Guantanamo transcripts which describe the hostility between guards
      and their prisoners. The transcripts includes details of guards
      interrupting detainees at prayer, detainees flinging body waste at
      guards and interrogators withholding medicine.

      Dr Hugh Rickards, a British psychiatrist, warned in his report that
      the level of Mr Haj's mental suffering "appears so acute that it is my
      duty as a medical practitioner to put this in writing to ensure
      appropriate assessment and treatment".

      Dr Mamoun Mobayed, a British psychiatrist based in Northern Ireland,
      and a third member of the team who has also been given access to
      written notes of recent interviews with the prisoner, said there was
      also concern about the mental health of Mr Haj's wife and
      seven-year-old son, who was just one when his father went on
      assignment to Afghanistan.


      Who is prisoner 345? And why should you and I care about him?

      Free Sami Al-Hajj
      Prisoner 345

      Prisoner 345 is Sami Al-Haj. Sami Al-Haj is prisoner 345 at the United
      States Detainment Camp in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Sami has been on hunger
      strike since 7th January, 2007.
      Sami was arrested in Pakistan in December 2001 while travelling with a
      legitimate visa to work in Afghanistan as a cameraman for Al Jazeera.
      But he is being held as an `enemy combatant'. Al Jazeera, its offices,
      and its reporters have regularly come under attack (political as well
      as physical) by the Bush administration. Its crime is not becoming a
      cheer leader (like many other media outlets that we shall not mention)
      for the Bush administration's numerous endless wars.

      The Bush administration and the Pentagon have not charged Sami with
      any crime. Who gives us the right to take the freedom of people and
      separate them from their families without charging them with crimes?
      How would we feel if an American is subjected to such immoral and
      illegal practice?
      Mr. Al-Haj must be freed and compensated for all the harm we have
      caused to him and his family. Mr. Al-Haj deserves an apology. But
      again, we owe this apology to the millions of innocent Iraqis and
      Afghans that we have ruined their livelihoods for the terrorist crime
      of 9/11 which they had no responsibility for.

      I never met Sami Al-Haj. I never worked for Al-Jazeera. So why do I
      care? This position is basically for three groups of people. The
      first, it is for me personally. I have to be able to look at myself in
      the mirror. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that one who
      sees injustice and remains silent about it is a mute devil, ie a
      silent partner in that injustice. I do not want to be an accomplice in
      this major injustice.

      The second group is my children. I have always stressed to my children
      the Qur'anic teaching of speaking against injustice, especially when
      it is committed by one's own. Presently, my country is engaging in
      unjust practices. Remaining silent is not an option. My children need
      to know that when I had the chance to speak out, I did not cower. The
      Guantanamo Bay Gulag must be shut down. Those responsible for any
      crimes should have their day in an independent court and if not found
      guilty, they should be freed. The indefinite detention without charges
      is in itself a form of terrorism (called kidnapping), let alone the
      torture our government (sanctioned by our Attorney General Alberto
      Gonzales) has applied in the process. This is not what America stands
      for. As Americans, we have a duty to oppose those whose actions taint
      our country's history, image, and credibility. Of course, our first
      duty is to defend the dignity and humanity of every human being.

      The third group is Sami's family: his parents, his wife, and his son
      Mohammad who was born after Sami was illegally detained by our forces.
      They need to know that many Americans are ashamed and appalled by the
      actions of our government. We feel your pain. We pray for the day Sami
      will be free and will finally get to meet his son for the first time.
      As a father, I know that there is nothing that we can do to make up
      for the days Sami was deprived from seeing his son grow or the days
      Mohammad needed his father's love, hugs, and comfort.

      For more information on Sami Al-Haj, please read:

      Sami must be freed.


      This poem below is an excerpt from an article which appeared in the
      Independent on June 21, 2007.

      Humiliated In The Shackles
      By Sami al Hajj

      When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,

      Hot tears covered my face.

      When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed

      A message for my son.

      Mohammad, I am afflicted.

      In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.

      The oppressors are playing with me,

      As they move freely around the world.

      They ask me to spy on my countrymen,

      Claiming it would be a good deed.

      They offer me money and land,

      And freedom to go where I please.

      Their temptations seize

      My attention like lightning in the sky.

      But their gift is an empty snake,

      Carrying hypocrisy in its mouth like venom,

      They have monuments to liberty

      And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.

      But I explained to them that

      Architecture is not justice.

      America, you ride on the backs of orphans,

      And terrorize them daily.

      Bush, beware.

      The world recognizes an arrogant liar.

      To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.

      I am homesick and oppressed.

      Mohammad, do not forget me.

      Support the cause of your father, a God-fearing man.

      I was humiliated in the shackles.

      How can I now compose verses? How can I now write?

      After the shackles and the nights and the suffering and the tears,

      How can I write poetry?

      My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish,

      Violent with passion.

      I am a captive, but the crimes are my captors'.

      I am overwhelmed with apprehension.

      Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.

      Lord, grant success to the righteous.



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