Thursday, September 29, 2016

LGC Newsletter – September 2016

Guantánamo Bay:

In early September, the US military announced that it had closed the notorious maximum security Camp 5 at Guantánamo on 19 August. The camp, built in 2004 for $17 million, was used to house non-compliant prisoners and hunger strikers, often in solitary confinement. A small number of prisoners who remained at the camp were transferred to Camp 6 which now holds around 40 prisoners, over half of whom are cleared for release. The US military plans to refurbish the camp and turn it into a medical centre, proving that there are no plans to close the detention facility. The closure of the camp means that staff numbers have been downsized too, by around 400 less staff, or around 1500 personnel to monitor 61 prisoners.

On 8 September, all initial periodic review board hearings for prisoners not cleared for release or subject to trial were completed. Hearings were held in September for Pakistani prisoner Mohammed Ahmad Rabbani on 1st September, whom some sources falsely claimed was due to be released. Wrongly assumed to be an Arab, as he is fluent in Arabic, he was arrested in his native Pakistan and arrived at Guantánamo in 2004. He is still on hunger strike and while his lawyers claimed during the hearing that he would like to return to his family in Pakistan if released, the US military claimed he would like to be sent to Malaysia.
The final initial hearing was held for Saudi Hassan Muhammad Ali Bin Attash, the youngest prisoner held at Guantánamo, aged 33, on 8 September. The US military claims he was a facilitator and weapons expert for Al Qaeda. It also stated that he had been non-compliant with the guards at Guantánamo. His counsel reported that he has always been found to be a pleasant person and that he is interested in studying and receiving an education upon release; he would like to be returned to Saudi Arabia.
Decisions were made in the cases of several prisoners who had their review hearings in August. The board decided that Afghan prisoner Muhammad Rahim should remain detained largely due to the threat he poses to the USA based on intelligence he may have about possible risks to the USA in 2001 and due to his refusal to admit any complicity and relationship with Al Qaeda. The board also decided to continue the detention of Malaysian prisoners Mohd Farik bin Amin and Bashir bin Lap and Libyan Mustafa Faraj Muhammad Masud al-Jadid al-Uzaybi. It is worth noting that all four men were subject to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme; Muhammad Rahim was the last person to enter it in 2004. All have been severely tortured in various ways, including physical, sexual and psychological torture, at secret CIA facilities in different countries for years prior to their arrival at Guantánamo. The US thus does not have an interest in releasing individuals who could disclose sensitive information about the torture and torture experimentation they have suffered at the hands of the US authorities.
The initial review has so far seen 23 prisoners determined to pose a continued threat to the US on a non-legal and arbitrary basis. The next set of – second round – full review hearings are due to commence on 18 October with Yemeni prisoner Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi.

A three-day pre-trial hearing was held on 6-9 September in the military commission of Abd Al-Nashiri, accusing of bombing a US naval ship in the Gulf of Aden in the 1990s. This follows an 18-month break as the federal appeals court ruled in August not to halt the military commission as it has jurisdiction to hear the case and that any issues on the legality of proceedings could be appealed after judgment is made in the case by the military court; the trial is unlikely to start for a few more years. Various pre-trial issues of legality of the case and the composition of the defence and prosecution, which has changed in the interim 18 months, were discussed. Al-Nashiri’s lawyers said they would appeal the August ruling.

A brief hearing was held on 13 September for Majid Khan, who following three years of torture at secret CIA facilities, entered a secret guilty plea in 2012, the only previous time he appeared in court, amid charges of helping to finance a 2003 terrorist attack in Indonesia. Sentencing under the plea deal, which will see him serve a 19-year sentence, is due to take place in 2018. However, since his guilty plea (which is not a confession) evidence has emerged of the extreme torture he faced and the legality of some of his guilty pleas has been challenged, undermining the deal made - the appeals court has since ruled some of the charges illegal. The hearing was held to allow Khan to withdraw his guilty plea of providing material support for terrorism which is not an offence. Further challenges may be brought against his case and the plea deal made, although this could be more prejudicial to Khan.

Former Guantánamo prisoner and Syrian refugee in Uruguay, Jihad (Abu Wa’el) Dhiab has been on hunger strike since 12 August demanding he is sent to an Arab country or Turkey where he can be reunited with his family whom he has not seen for over 15 years. He was returned to Uruguay from Venezuela at the end of August. On 1st September, he refused to ingest liquids and was twice hospitalised and fell into a coma. He has since agreed to take liquids as the Uruguayan authorities look for a country that will accept him and his family. Turkey, where his refugee family is, and two Arab states have refused to take the whole family. Dhiab was promised family reunification by his lawyers and the Uruguayan authorities when he was released but it has never happened in spite of repeat demands.
The LGC has launched a petition and urgent action for him:

Arrested in Madrid in 2014, former Guantánamo prisoner Moroccan national and Spanish resident Lahcen Ikassrien was sentenced to 11 and a half years by a Spanish court for terrorism recruitment to a cell allegedly supporting the Islamic State militant group and falsification of documents.

LGC Activities:
The September Shut Guantánamo demonstration was on Thursday 1 September. The October demonstration is on 6 October at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, opposite Marble Arch:  

The LGC (@shutguantanamo) is continuing to hold weekly #GitmObama Twitter storms to raise awareness about Guantánamo prisoners every Monday at 9pm BST. The pastebin is available which is updated weekly with the latest information and tweets to raise awareness about Guantánamo. Please join us online if you can!

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