[Ppnews] Sami al-Hajj hits out at US captors

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 2 12:33:35 EDT 2008


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FRIDAY, MAY 02, 2008
15:54 MECCA TIME, 12:54 GMT

Sami al-Hajj hits out at US captors

http://english.aljazeera.net/mritems/images/2008/5/2/1_247049_1


Al-Hajj had an emotional reunion with his son,
after six years of detention in Guantanamo

Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj has hit out at 
the US treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo 
Bay military prison where he was held for nearly six and a half years.

Saying that "rats are treated with more 
humanity", al-Hajj said inmates' "human dignity was violated".

Al-Hajj, who arrived in Sudan early on Friday, 
was carried off the US air force jet on a 
stretcher and immediately taken to hospital.

Later, he had an emotional reunion with his wife and son.

His brother, Asim al-Hajj, said he did not 
recognise the cameraman because he looked like a man in his 80s.

Still, al-Hajj said: "I was lucky because God allowed that I be released."

But his attention soon turned to the 275 inmates 
he left behind in the US military prison.

'Dignity violated'

"I'm very happy to be in Sudan, but I'm very sad 
because of the situation of our brothers who 
remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo 
are very, very bad and they get worse by the 
day," he said from his hospital bed.

"Our human condition, our human dignity was 
violated, and the American administration went 
beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values.

"In Guantanamo ... rats are treated with more 
humanity. But we have people from more than 50 
countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges.

"And they will not give them the rights that they give animals," he said.

Al-Hajj complained that "for more than seven 
years, [inmates] did not get a chance to be 
brought before a civil court to defend their just case".

Free man

The US embassy in Khartoum issued a brief 
statement confirming that a "detainee transfer" 
to Sudan had taken place and saying it appreciated Sudan's co-operation.

A senior US defence official in Washington 
speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters 
that al-Hajj was "not being released [but] being 
transferred to the Sudanese government".

But Sudan's justice minister told Al Jazeera that 
al-Hajj was a free man and would not be arrested or face any charges.

Two other Sudanese inmates at Guantanamo, Amir 
Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali, were freed along with al-Hajj.

The two said they were blindfolded, handcuffed 
and chained to their seats during the flight home.

The Reprieve organization that represents some 
Guantanamo inmates said Moroccan detainee Said 
Boujaadia was also released and flown home on the 
same aircraft as the three Sudanese.

According to a US defence department statement, 
five detainees were "transferred" to Afghanistan 
as well. It said that all those detainees, nine 
in total, had been "determined to be eligible for 
transfer following a comprehensive series of review proccesses".

Al-Hajj was the only journalist from a major 
international news organisation held at 
Guantanamo and many of his supporters saw his 
detention as punishment for the network's broadcasts.

Seized in 2001

He was seized by Pakistani intelligence officers 
while travelling near the Afghan border in December 2001.

Despite holding a legitimate visa to work for Al 
Jazeera's Arabic channel in Afghanistan, he was 
handed to the US military in January 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Al-Hajj, who is originally from Sudan, was held 
as an "enemy combatant" without ever facing trial or charges.

Al-Hajj was never prosecuted at Guantanamo so the 
US did not make public its full allegations against him.

But in a hearing that determined that he was an 
enemy combatant, US officials alleged that in the 
1990s, al-Hajj was an executive assistant at a 
Qatar-based beverage company that provided 
support to Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya.

The US claimed he also travelled to Azerbaijan at 
least eight times to carry money on behalf of his 
employer to the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a 
now defunct charity that US authorities say funded armed groups.

The US also claimed he met Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, 
allegedly a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden 
who was arrested in Germany in 1998 and extradited to the United States.

His lawyers have always denied the allegations.

'Element of racism'

Al-Hajj had been on hunger strike since January 7, 2007.

David Remes, a lawyer for 17 detainees at 
Guantanamo Bay, told Al Jazeera that the 
treatment al-Hajj received "was more horrific 
than most" and that there was "an element of racism" in the way he was treated.

He said he had been in contact with the lawyer 
representing al-Hajj and it appeared the 
cameraman had been "psychologically damaged".

"The Europeans would never receive this treatment," Remes said.

About 275 detainees remain at Guantanamo and the 
lawyer said European detainees had all been 
returned to their country, leaving nationalities 
such as Yemenis - who now constitute one third of the inmate population.

http://english.aljazeera.net/mritems/images/2008/5/2/1_247024_1


Al Jazeera had been campaigning for al-Hajj's
release since his capture in 2001 [EPA]

Remes said al-Hajj had been released because the 
Bush administration "wants to flush as many men 
out of Guantanamo as quickly as possible 
 as 
Guantanamo has become such an international badge of shame".

"Once the Supreme Court said the men could have 
lawyers the pressure increased [on the US] and 
condemnation isolated the US administration. 
Guantanamo was a PR disaster," he said.

"Unfortunately Americans appreciate violations of 
rights but they have no sympathy for men held at 
Guantanamo as the [Bush] administration has done 
such a good job in portraying them as the worst of the worst and as evil doers.

"I've met many prisoners, gotten to appreciate 
their suffering ... we know them as humans not as 
worst of worst, we've met their families.

"I've been to Guantanamo and the human dimension 
of Guantanamo is a story yet to be told," Remes said.

Al Jazeera concerns

Al Jazeera had been campaigning for al-Hajj's 
release since his capture nearly six and a half years ago.

Wadah Khanfar, the network's director-general who 
was in Khartoum to welcome al-Hajj, said "we are overwhelmed with joy".

  But he criticised the US military for urging al-Hajj to spy on his employers.

"We are concerned about the way the Americans 
dealt with Sami, and we are concerned about the 
way they could deal with others as well," he said.

"Sami will continue with Al Jazeera, he will 
continue as a professional person who has done 
great jobs during his work with Al Jazeera.

"We congratulate his family and all those who 
knew Sami and loved Sami and worked for this moment."



Source: Al Jazeera and agencies






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