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The Unending War on Terror: Who Are the Men Left in Guantanamo? (Worthington)

Andy Worthington continues his series profiling each of the 174 detainees who are still in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay. 

This fifth article  tells the stories of 13 prisoners seized in Pakistan between November 2001 and February 2002, as part of a process of capturing prisoners that was, if anything, even more alarmingly random, opportunistic, or reliant on dubious intelligence than the well-chronicled seizure, in Afghanistan or crossing the border into Pakistan, of Arabs — whether soldiers or civilians — that I chronicled in Parts One to Four of this series.

In addition to the “high-value detainees” seized in Pakistan (to be discussed in Part Eight), at least a hundred other prisoners were seized in Pakistan, far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, mostly in house raids between November 2001 and July 2002, but also in random raids on mosques, on buses and in the street. Around 60 of these men have already been released, and their cases, in general, reveal how US intelligence was often horrendously inaccurate, and how opportunism often played a part in the actions of the Pakistani authorities, who were being rewarded financially. As President Musharraf admitted in his 2006 autobiography, In the Line of Fire, in return for handing over 369 terror suspects to the US, “We have earned bounty payments totaling millions of dollars.” With so much money swilling around, it was unsurprising that those “terror suspects” often turned out to be nothing more than Arabs who had been living and working in Pakistan for many years — or students seized by mistake.

Of the 13 men whose stories are described in this chapter, only one has had a ruling on his habeas corpus petition, and, although successful, that ruling was overturned on appeal in July this year. One other man, the last Tajik in Guantánamo, was cleared for release before a judge could rule on his petition, and, of the rest, two are Afghans, two are Saudis (who were cleared for release under the Bush administration), and the rest are Yemenis. As with the Yemenis discussed in other articles, it is certain that some are amongst the 58 Yemenis cleared for release by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, who are only held because of the President’s unprincipled moratorium on releasing any Yemenis, which he announced in January, although others may be amongst the 26 Yemenis that the Task Force recommended should continue to be held indefinitely without charge or trial. Please also note that 26 more stories of men — or boys — seized in Pakistan feature in Part Six.

ISN 033 Al Adahi, Mohammed (Yemen)

Married with two children, al-Adahi had never left the Yemen until August 2001, when he took a vacation from the oil company where he had worked for 21 years to accompany his sister to meet her husband in Afghanistan. He was later seized on a bus in Pakistan, and transferred to Guantánamo. Although his sister’s husband was undoubtedly connected to al-Qaeda, Judge Gladys Kessler granted his habeas corpus petition in August 2009, because she concluded that, despite his sister’s marriage, al-Adahi himself had no connection to al-Qaeda. Although there was abundant evidence that she was correct, the government appealed the ruling, and in July 2010 the D.C. Circuit Court overturned Judge Kessler’s ruling, when Judge A. Raymond Randolph (notorious for endorsing every piece of Guantánamo-related legislation that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court) launched an unprincipled personal attack on Judge Kessler, essentially ignoring the merits of the case, and describing her ruling as “manifestly incorrect — indeed startling,” in an opinion in which he also attempted to claim that the “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in the District Courts, which is already a much lower threshold than in federal court trials, was too high.

ISN 257 Abdulayev, Umar (Tajikistan)

A refugee from Tajikistan, who had arrived in Afghanistan with his family in 1992 (when he was around 13 years old), Abdulayev was living in a refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, in November 2001, when he was seized in a bazaar by operatives of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), who asked him for a bribe which he couldn’t pay, and then imprisoned him, and, it seems, made him copy information relating to insurgency and military activity into a series of notebooks that were then used to justify his detention as a terrorist. In June 2009, as Abdulayev’s habeas case neared the District Court, the Justice Department abruptly announced that they would “no longer defend his detention,” and that they “want[ed] US diplomats to arrange to repatriate him” This decision was distressing to Abdulayev and his lawyers for two reasons: firstly, because Abdulayev is terrified of returning to Tajikistan, as he was threatened by Tajik agents who visited him in Guantánamo; and secondly, because the Task Force’s decision also led the Justice Department to ask a judge to drop Abdulayev’s habeas petition, prompting his lawyers to point out that the Task Force’s decision was “not a determination that [Abdulayev’s] detention was or was not lawful,” and that it therefore “does nothing towards removing the stigma of being held in Guantánamo or being accused of being a terrorist by the United States.” As one of his lawyers, Andrew Moss, explained to me, the Justice Department’s maneuverings meant that the writ of habeas corpus was “effectively suspended.”

ISN 560 Mohammed, Haji Wali (Afghanistan)

In The Guantánamo Files, I described the bizarre story of Haji Wali Moahmmed as follows: “Mohammed, a 35-year old money exchanger, was captured at his home in Peshawar, on 24 January 2002. Married with two wives and ten children, he was born in Afghanistan, but his family fled to Pakistan in 1978 and lived in refugee camps for the next ten years until he established himself as a successful moneychanger and moved to Peshawar in 1988. All was well until 1995, when he first lost a significant amount of money, and in 1998, after entering into a business deal with the Bank of Afghanistan that also failed, he ended up being blamed by the Taliban, who made him responsible for the whole debt — around one million dollars — even though he only had a 25 percent stake in the deal. He explained to his tribunal that the ISI took his car in November 2001 and then returned in January, because they knew he was ‘a very famous money exchanger’ and assumed that he would pay them a bribe of at least $100,000. When he said that he actually owed a lot of money to other people and was unable to pay, he was told, ‘If you don’t have a car and you don’t have the cash, sell your house and give us half of it to save you from the bad ending.’ Three days later, he was handed over to the Americans, purportedly as a drug smuggler, although his new captors soon decided that he bought surface-to-air missiles for Osama bin Laden and — despite his abysmal financial record since 1995 — was entrusted with a million dollars by Mullah Omar. Explaining that he did not know bin Laden and had no time for the Taliban, who had ruined his life, he said, ‘We were businessmen, their ways and our ways were different. That’s why they didn’t like us and we didn’t like them. Because a businessman does not have a beard and listens to music in his car, and he watches television and they didn’t like that.’”

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