[Ppnews] Two 50-Year Olds Released From Guantánamo

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 8 11:51:36 EDT 2008


October 8, 2008

Two 50-Year Olds Released From Guantánamo

Seized in Pakistan


As the US courts put pressure on the government 
to justify the long detention of prisoners at 
Guantánamo without charge or trial (following the 
Supreme Court’s 
in June, that they have constitutional habeas 
corpus rights, and that the government must 
justify their imprisonment), two of Guantánamo’s 
oldest prisoners have been quietly repatriated: 
51-year old Sudanese prisoner Mustafa Ibrahim 
al-Hassan, and Mammar Ameur, a 50-year old refugee from Algeria.

Al-Hassan, a 51-year old father of four -- two 
boys and two girls -- was immediately reunited 
with his family after he arrived home. He was 
held at Guantánamo for six years and two months, 
even though there was no basis whatsoever for his 
imprisonment. Like others at Guantánamo, he had 
traveled to Pakistan in 2002, to study his 
religion and to seek out business opportunities, 
but was seized at a checkpoint by opportunistic 
Pakistani soldiers who were aware that the US 
authorities were offering bounty rewards for 
“al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects,” and that foreign visitors were easy prey.

Despite the fact that he had nothing whatsoever 
to do with al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and was one 
of many innocent men seized in Pakistan without 
ever having set foot in Afghanistan, he reported 
that he was treated brutally in Pakistan custody. 
“When the investigators were interrogating me”, 
he said, “when I told them I went there to trade 
and I went there to study, they hit me, they 
tortured me. They were torturing us with 
electricity and they made us walk on sharp 
objects. They hit us a lot, and because of the pain we just said anything.”

Al-Hassan also suffered horribly in Guantánamo, 
and was beset by medical problems. For years he 
complained about stomach pains, but received no 
treatment. Then, in 2007, medical tests revealed 
the cause of the pain -- a stomach ulcer that 
required immediate surgery. This was a source of 
great concern for Mustafa, as he had already had 
his spleen removed while he was a free man. 
Mustafa also suffered from liver pain in 
Guantánamo, and although his stomach surgery was 
successful, a blood test showed that he was also 
suffering from liver disease. In spite of this 
disturbing discovery, the authorities would not 
tell him how advanced his illness was.

Although al-Hassan’s health continued to 
deteriorate, he remained in Guantánamo, cruelly 
overlooked, even as his compatriots were freed. 
Last December, he was left behind after 
Hamad and Salim Adem, two other innocent Sudanese 
prisoners seized in Pakistan, were released. 
Earlier this year, he was told that he would soon 
be released, but in May, when al-Jazeera 
al-Haj and two other men -- 
Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali -- were also 
released, he was, inexplicably, left behind yet again.

These disappointments, added to his grave illness 
and the pain of separation from his family, 
brought Mustafa al-Hassan to the point of 
despair. Zachary Katznelson, one of his lawyers 
at the legal action charity 
<http://www.reprieve.org.uk/>Reprieve, recently 
explained, “Mustafa is a family man, but it is 
almost impossible to be a father from Guantánamo 
Bay. Mustafa is not allowed any phone calls. Mail 
takes months and months to arrive. When it does 
arrive, it is usually heavily censored, even if 
it contains only family news. Still, he thinks 
about his children all the time. He wants to 
protect his children as much as possible from the 
reality of having their father locked up so far away.”

“My children should not have to bear these 
troubles,” he told Katznelson during a visit at 
Guantánamo. “They should not feel sadness or 
depression, but should be allowed to be children. 
But their father has been taken away.”
As Katznelson left, he said, “I am innocent. I 
didn’t do a thing to hurt anyone. All I want is to be home with my children.”

The other released prisoner, Mammar Ameur, had 
been living in Pakistan since 1990, and had been 
a registered UN refugee since 1996. Ameur was 
captured at the same time and in the same 
building as Adel Hamad, the Sudanese hospital 
administrator released last December. He and his 
wife and their four children lived in an 
apartment downstairs, and Hamad and his family lived upstairs.

In his tribunal at Guantánamo, Ameur specifically 
refuted an allegation that his house was “a 
suspected al-Qaeda house.” He pointed out that it 
was a small, two-roomed apartment near an airport 
used by the military, in an area that was “full 
of police stations,” and indicated, with some 
justification, that this was not an ideal 
location for al-Qaeda to operate in with any degree of safety.

The allegations against Ameur were as weak as 
those against Hamad, who was forced to refute 
groundless allegations that the Saudi charity who 
owned the hospital he worked for, the World 
Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), was a front for 
terrorism. Ameur was accused of being a member of 
the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), but he 
pointed out that he left Algeria before it was 
founded, serving as a mujahideen fighter against 
the Communist regime in Afghanistan from 1990-92, 
and stressed, “I don't believe in this ideology 
because it's against my religion. These people 
are criminals, like criminals everywhere.”

Unable to come up with any other allegations, the 
US authorities attempted to implicate him in the 
purported terrorist activities of the 
International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), 
another huge Saudi charity that mounts enormous 
humanitarian aid efforts, on the spurious basis 
that he knew someone who worked for the 
organization, and with the World Assembly of 
Muslim Youth, because of his neighbor. Cutting to 
the heart of this entire folly, Ameur described 
what he was told by one of the Pakistanis who 
arrested him: “I was told by Pakistan 
intelligence when they captured us that we were 
innocent ... but we have to do something for the 
Americans. We will have to give you as a gift to 
protect Pakistan.” He added, however, “Americans 
themselves have detained me here for nothing; I 
thought it was a Pakistani mistake, but it was 
the Americans. They have fabricated allegations as reasons to keep me here.”

It is to be hoped that the Algerian authorities 
pay attention to Ameur’s story, and do not 
subject him to a show trial on his return. The 
pity, of course, is that the United Nations High 
Commission for Refugees failed to help him, and 
that he must now endure the dangerous vagaries of 
the Algerian courts, who may decide to make some 
kind of pointless example of him.

An even greater pity, of course, is that both he 
and Mustafa Ibrahim al-Hassan were ever sent to 
Guantánamo in the first place. Like at least 120 
other prisoners seized in Pakistan, their long 
imprisonment never had anything to do with 
al-Qaeda or the war in Afghanistan, and was, 
instead, the direct result of opportunism on the 
part of the Pakistani authorities and gullibility 
on the part of the US military and intelligence 
agencies, who somehow failed to understand that, 
if you offer substantial bounty payments for 
“al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects,” you end up with 
nothing more than innocent men -- in this case a 
UN refugee and an economic migrant -- packaged up 
as Osama bin Laden’s henchmen.

Andy Worthington is a British historian, and the 
author of 
Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 
Detainees in America's Illegal Prison' (published 
by Pluto Press). Visit his website at: 
He can be reached at: 
<mailto:andy at andyworthington.co.uk>andy at andyworthington.co.uk

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