LIBERDADE PARA SAMI AL-HAJJ
Sami Al-Hajj, prisoner 345 at the United States Detainment Centre in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, has been on hunger strike since 7th January, 2007.
Sami was arrested in Pakistan in December 2001 whilst travelling with a legitimate visa to work in Afghanistan as a cameraman for Al Jazeera. But he is being held as an ‘enemy combatant’.
prisoner345.net is dedicated to empowering Sami’s family, friends and colleagues, together with all supporters of human rights around the world, in the campaign to set him free.
Reporting on Life in Guantanamo (excerpts below):
“For more than four years many of us have been isolated in a small cell, less that 10ft by 6ft, with the intense neon lights on 24 hours a day. Many of us are not allowed to exercise outside these cells for more than one hour, just once a week. We are provided with food and drinks which are not suitable for the iguanas and rats that live beside us on Torture Island.”
“I sometimes ask myself, who are these people who are held in cages not even fit for wild animals? How do these humans live? The Prophet Jonah lived inside a whale and Moses lived inside a coffin, so the Guantanamo cells are only for those who are strong and those who have a will to adopt the path of the prophets. If I stay all my life in these cages, let those who inflict this on me do what they wish, but I feel I am living the life of a King.”
“His number one concern is the other guys in there,” says Zachary Katznelson, one of several lawyers who represent Haj and who last visited him at Guantanamo on 30 April. Katznelson, senior counsel with the London-based group Reprieve, adds: “As much as he misses his family he thinks it’s vitally important that he is there to report all this. He has said he is willing to be the last one if it means the story gets out – if the world gets to know about Guantanamo.”
The prison camp at Guantanamo Bay was established at the beginning of 2002 as a place to keep terror suspects rounded up in President Bush’s war on terror. Deliberately located outside the US proper to avoid both the arm of the civil justice system as well as prying eyes, around 800 prisoners have been taken to the prison over the past five years. Of those, some 340 have been released.
When the first handcuffed, shackled and hooded suspects were taken to the prison, the authorities did their best to portray them as a dangerous and pressing threat to the US. The men were so terrifying, claimed the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, they “would chew through a hydraulics cable to bring a C-17 [transport plane] down”.
Five years on, only four of those prisoners have been charged and just one – Australian David Hicks – brought to trial. Meanwhile an analysis of the Pentagon’s own documents by New Jersey’s Seton Hall University found that 55 per cent of the prisoners brought to Guantanamo are not alleged to have have committed any hostile acts against the US. Just eight per cent are accused of fighting for a terrorist group while 86 per cent were captured by the Northern Alliance or Pakistani authorities and handed over “at a time when the US offered large bounties for the capture of suspected terrorists”.
The prison camp’s operation has been condemned by the United Nations, the American Bar Association and the Red Cross – the only organisation permitted free access to the prisoners and which broke with its normal protocol of not commenting publicly to warn in 2003 of the declining mental health of many of the inmates. It said the nature of their incarceration and interrogation was “a form of torture”. Three prisoners hanged themselves last year, and last week a Saudi man was found dead, apparently having taken his own life.