[Ppnews] Gitmo as Hotel California

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Aug 4 13:15:15 EDT 2009


August 4, 2009

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave

Gitmo as Hotel California


Imagine if you were imprisoned for seven years 
without charge or trial, and then 
judge ruled that the government’s case against 
you consisted solely of unreliable allegations 
made by other prisoners who were tortured, 
coerced, bribed or suffering from mental health 
issues, and a “mosaic” of intelligence, 
purporting to rise to the level of evidence, 
which actually relied, to an intolerable degree, 
on second- or third-hand hearsay, guilt by 
association and unsupportable suppositions, and 
stated that the government “should take all 
necessary diplomatic steps to facilitate“ your release.

Now imagine that, instead of being freed, you 
continued to be held because the government 
refused to send you home, stating that it would 
not release you unless you first passed through a 
rehabilitation center in your home country, or, 
preferably, in a third country.

You would, I think, be pretty depressed about 
your situation, and would conclude that the 
United States’ much-vaunted justice system was a 
farce. And yet, this is exactly the problem that 
currently faces 
Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, a Yemeni prisoner in 
Guantánamo, whose habeas corpus petition was 
granted in May by Judge Gladys Kessler.

On Sunday, the 
Press reported that, although “The government’s 
deadline for appealing Ahmed’s release has run 
out,” he continues to be held because the of the 
government’s refusal to send him home without 
first putting him through a rehabilitation 
center, preferably in Saudi Arabia, which, unlike 
its impoverished neighbor, has 
rehabilitation centers that have processed 
thousands of former and would-be jihadists in the 
last few years, including dozens of Saudi 
prisoners repatriated from Guantánamo (some of 
whom, it should be noted, were not in Afghanistan 
to fight for the Taliban, but had visited as missionaries or charity workers).

In the AP’s report, the U.S. government’s refusal 
to free Ali Ahmed outright was dressed up as part 
of a wider policy on the government’s part to put 
an unspecified number of the remaining 100 or so 
Yemeni prisoners, “who officials say probably 
will be freed,” through a rehabilitation center 
“before they are released to make sure they pose no threat to Americans.”

However, in the case of Ali Ahmed, and two other 
Yemeni prisoners -- 
Basardah, whose habeas petition was granted in 
March, and 
Batarfi, a doctor whose release was approved by 
the government’s own Detention Policy Task Force 
at the same time -- this makes no sense, as 
either the courts or the government itself have 
already concluded that they “pose no threat to Americans.”

These cases are not the only examples of 
inexplicable obstruction on the part of the 
administration. Although 15 other prisoners 
cleared by the courts -- 
Lahmar, an Algerian, and 
Rahim al-Ginco, a Syrian -- are awaiting new 
homes, because of fears that they will face 
torture -- or worse -- if returned to their 
homelands, the government has also approved “more 
than 50” other prisoners for release, after their 
cases were reviewed by the inter-departmental 
Policy Task Force 
by Executive Order on Obama’s second day in 
office), which, as 
News explained, has, for the last six months, 
involved 65 representatives “from agencies like 
the FBI, Pentagon, the CIA, and attorneys from 
the Justice Department” meeting up once a week 
“on a secure floor within a secure facility to discuss the review.”

Sadly, in a demonstration of the executive 
secrecy that was such a hallmark of the Bush 
administration, officials in the Obama 
administration have not revealed the identities 
of any of these men (other than Ayman Batarfi, 
Mohamed, the British resident who was 
released in February to avoid 
Transatlantic torture scandal, and 
Abdulayev, a Tajik, cleared in June, who was 
seized by opportunistic Pakistani intelligence 
agents from a refugee camp), but it seems, from 
the limited information made available -- rumors 
that three Tunisians will be 
to Italy and that some Tunisians and Algerians 
will be 
in Spain, and 
recent news that Belgium will take some prisoners 
and Ireland will accept two Uzbeks -- that the 
decisions on who to release correspond broadly 
with those made by military review boards at 
Guantánamo under the Bush administration.

Although hundreds of the 544 prisoners freed from 
Guantánamo were released after military review 
boards concluded that they no longer posed a 
threat to the United States and/or no longer had 
ongoing intelligence value, 58 of these prisoners 
were still held when George W. Bush left office, 
even though some had been approved for release in 
2006. Excluding the Uighurs (four of whom were 
released in Bermuda in June) and three Saudis 
released in the same month (see 
this leaves a total of 38 prisoners still at 
Guantánamo whose transfer from Guantánamo was 
approved by the Bush administration.

of these men -- five Algerians, an Egyptian, a 
Libyan, eight Tunisians, four Uzbeks and Umar 
Abdulayev, who was cleared for release under 
George W. Bush before this decision was repeated 
by Obama’s Task Force -- could not be repatriated 
by the Bush administration because of fears that 
they would be tortured on their return, and three 
are Palestinians, and are therefore effectively 
stateless, as the Israeli government has no desire to facilitate their return.

However, there appears to be no good reason why 
the remaining 15 men could not be repatriated 
tomorrow. Three are Saudis, and the other 12 are 
Yemenis, and, just to reiterate, in case anyone 
missed it the first time round, some of these men 
were approved for transfer from Guantánamo over three years ago.

I don’t mean to complain unnecessarily, but when 
the government has a genuine problem finding 
homes for at least 35 prisoners cleared for 
release by the Bush administration, by the U.S. 
courts, or by its own Detention Policy Task 
Force, it seems inexplicable that 18 others -- 
also cleared for release by either the Bush 
administration, the courts or Obama’s Task Force 
-- cannot simply be flown home tomorrow, bringing 
to an end this farcical situation in which, as my 
Hotel California analogy was meant to signify, 
prisoners who do not face ill-treatment on their 
return to their homelands are still held no 
matter how many times their release is approved 
by various representatives of the U.S. government.

Andy Worthington is a British journalist and 
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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