[Ppnews] prisoner 345

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 27 20:27:32 EDT 2007



Sami al Haj, ISN 345
Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay
P.O. Box 166, Washington, DC 20355

Time in Guantanamo
1870 days 01
16 hrs
26 min

Who is Sami Haj

Submitted by ibrahima on Mon, 05/07/2007 - 13:38.

Sami al Haj is an Al Jazeera journalist, 
originally from the Sudan, who has been detained 
by the U.S. at Guantánamo for over five years 
without trial. He was seized whilst working as a 
cameraman on assignment reporting on the war in Afghanistan.

Born in Khartoum on February 15, 1969, Sami has a 
wife and a 6 year old son Mohammed, who was only 
one when Sami left on assignment. Sami’s wife 
only found out where he was from the Red Cross 18 
months after he had been seized, and had feared him dead.

While the U.S. military will neither confirm nor 
deny the fact, it seems that Sami was originally 
seized at the border between Pakistan and 
Afghanistan, on December 15, 2001, because the 
U.S. thought that he had been the cameraman at an 
Al Jazeera interview with Usama Bin Laden. Their intelligence was flawed.

Despite learning this, the U.S. military flew him 
to Bagram Airforce Base on January 7, 2002. He 
reports that these were the longest days of his 
life. He was kept in a freezing hangar with other 
prisoners, in a cage, with an oil drum to use as 
a toilet. He was given one freezing cold meal a 
day. He was not allowed to talk, and he severely abused.

On January 23, 2002, Sami was taken to Kandahar. 
There, U.S. MPs pulled the hairs of his beard out 
one by one. He was forced him to kneel for long 
periods on cold concrete (he still has marks on 
his knees from this). He was beaten many times. 
An MP stuck a finger up his anus, and another 
said to Sami, “I want to f**k you.” The Qu’ran 
was thrown in the toilet in front of him.

Sami was transferred to Guantánamo Bay on June 7, 
2002. No formal charges have ever been bought 
against Sami. Indeed, he has been interrogated 
more than 100 times, and he had to ask to be 
interrogated about any allegations against him. 
The only interest that the interrogators showed 
was to get him to be a cooperating witness 
against Al Jazeera and say that Al Jazeera was 
partly funded and controlled by Al Qaida. Sami 
refuses to say this, even as the price of his 
freedom, since he says that it is false. The U.S. 
military now shows no interest in him as an 
alleged terrorist, and has not interrogated him 
about anything since he finally secured a lawyer two years ago.

“There is no evidence that Sami has committed any 
crime,” says his London-based attorney, Clive 
Stafford Smith. “Sami is no more a terrorist than my grandmother.”

Sami suffers from serious health problems both 
incurred and exacerbated at the hands of the U.S. 
Military. Sami had throat cancer in 1998 and the 
Sudanese doctors put him on medication which he 
is meant to take daily for the rest of his life, 
but which has been denied him for over five 
years, since his seizure by the U.S. Whilst at 
Bagram, Sami was stomped by guards and had his 
right knee-cap was broken so that he has no 
lateral support. Sami has not received a 
necessary operation for this. He was told by 
doctors at Guantánamo that he must have surgery, 
but that he could not expect the necessary 
therapy to recover the use of his knee there. 
Sami has constant rheumatism, as well as problems 
with his teeth, and has not received any treatment for either complaint.

On January 7, 2007, the fifth anniversary of his 
transfer by the Pakistanis to U.S. custody, Sami 
began a hunger strike. His patience was 
exhausted. All he asked for was either to be 
given a fair trial, or to be released to rejoin 
his family – a claim that has been supported by 
every major world leader outside the White House. 
On the twenty-first day of this peaceful, 
non-violent protest, the U.S. military began to 
force feed him. Now each day, at 9am and 3 pm, 
the military inflicts the same torturous 
procedure on him. He is strapped into the 
‘chair’, and a 43 inch tube is inserted up his 
nose. For the next hour and a half, doses of 
Ensure liquid nutrient are forced into him, and 
he is left in the chair to allow refeeding if it 
makes him vomit. Three times to date the tube has 
been erroneously forced into his lung, and he has 
choked when the liquid was forced in. All this is 
in violation of the Tokyo Declaration, which 
mandates that a competent hunger striker should not be force fed.

For his peaceful protest, Sami has been punished. 
All his ‘comfort items’ have been taken away. He 
is left with just a thin isomat for sleeping, one 
blanket, his prison uniform and his Qur’an. 
Because his glasses have been confiscated, it is 
difficult for him even to read that.

“Food is not enough for life,” Sami said 
recently. “If there is no air, could you live on 
food alone? Freedom is just as important as food 
or air. Every day they [the U.S. Military] ask 
me, when will I eat. Every day, I say, 
‘Tomorrow.’ It’s what Scarlett O’Hara says at the 
end of Gone With the Wind: ‘Tomorrow is another 
day.’ Give me a fair trial or freedom, and I’ll eat.”

Sami was known in school as ‘Mammoth’, because he 
was a large and heavy child. Desperate for signs 
of moral support, he has asked Al Jazeera to 
engineer a campaign using bumper stickers that 
read, “345 – The Mammoth Is Hungry”, reflecting his Guantánamo prison number.

The Sudanese government, the Qatari government, 
Al Jazeera, Reporters Without Borders, the 
Committee for the Protection of Journalists, and 
the Sudanese Union of Journalists are all calling 
for Sami al Haj’s immediate release from 
Guantánamo. There is an on-going and urgent need 
for support for this courageous journalist.

Sami is represented by Anglo-American lawyer 
Clive Stafford Smith, Legal Director of the 
London-based charity Reprieve 
(<mailto:clivess at mac.com>clivess at mac.com). His Al 
Jazeera contact is Ahmad Ibrahim 
(<mailto:ahmadi at aljazeera.net>ahmadi at aljazeera.net).

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