[Ppnews] Judge Orders Release of Saeed Hatim

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 18 12:32:22 EST 2009


December 18-20, 2009

Judge Orders Release of Saeed Hatim

The Case of the Unwilling Yemeni Recruit


On Monday, as 
explained in a previous article, Judge Thomas 
Hogan refused the habeas corpus petition of 
Musa’ab al-Madhwani, a Yemeni who had been 
tortured in the CIA’s “Dark Prison” near Kabul, 
and who was described by the judge as a “model 
prisoner” who was not dangerous. Judge Hogan made 
his ruling partly on the basis that al-Madhwani 
had received military training at the al-Farouq 
camp in Afghanistan, which was associated with 
Osama bin Laden in the years before the 9/11 
attacks, but just two days later, Judge Ricardo 
Urbina (who 
the release of the Uighurs last October) granted 
the habeas petition of another Yemeni, Saeed 
Hatim, who had also trained at al-Farouq, but who 
told his interrogators that he “did not like anything about the training.”

The reasons for Judge Urbina’s decision on 
Wednesday are not yet clear, as an unclassified 
version of his ruling has not yet been made 
available, but elements of Saeed Hatim’s story 
are available from the Unclassified Summaries of 
Evidence for his Combatant Status Review Tribunal 
(CSRT) at Guantánamo, part of a process conducted 
in 2004-05 to ascertain whether the prisoners had 
been correctly designated as “enemy combatants,” 
who could be held without charge or trial, and 
his Administrative Review Boards (ARBs), held 
every year as part of a process to determine 
whether prisoners could be approved for release.

These were 
one-sided affairs, in which the authorities 
relied on classified evidence that was not 
disclosed to the prisoners, who were also 
prevented from having any legal representation. 
However, they often provide the only insight 
available into the prisoners’ stories, and in the 
case of Saeed Hatim, who was 25 years old at the 
time of his capture, they provide what appears to 
be a relatively coherent narrative, although it 
may, of course, be revealed as a tissue of lies, 
produced as a result of threats and coercion, 
when Judge Urbina’s ruling is made public.

In statements made by Hatim during his CSRT, or 
attributed to him by interrogators in submissions 
for his ARBs, which he did not attend, he 
apparently explained that he had “never held a 
job for more than six months” and “relied upon 
his father and older brother for financial 
support,” and stated that he went to Afghanistan 
in spring 2001, because he had “heard there was a 
lot of justice in that part of the world,” and 
also because, like several others who ended up in 
Guantánamo, he thought that he would find a way 
to fight in Chechnya. He “stated he became 
interested in Russia’s war in Chechnya because he 
witnessed the oppression on the television.” 
Explaining that he “was outraged about what the 
Russians were doing to the Chechens,” he “decided 
to travel there to fight jihad alongside his Muslim brothers.”

Hatim admitted attending al-Farouq, but said that 
he soon left the camp “because it was not what he 
expected.” He explained that he “faked a fever 
telling the people he was ill and needed to seek 
medical care,” and complained that “the trainers 
were always yelling at him, the food was 
terrible, and he was forced to sleep on the 
ground.” He added that “he did not like anything 
about the training and wanted to quit on the first day.”

Acknowledging that he was obliged to “put his 
decision to fight in Chechnya on the back burner 
for a while,” but insisting that he “did not want 
to partake in the war in Afghanistan because it 
was a civil war in which Muslims were fighting 
other Muslims,” he nevertheless reportedly ended 
up at “a place of re-supply for the front lines 
near Bagram,” where, on at least one occasion, he 
apparently traveled to the front lines to deliver 
food to the Taliban soldiers fighting the 
Northern Alliance. He also apparently spent some 
time in a number of guest houses, which, in the 
US authorities’ opinion, were associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

He added, however, that once the US-led invasion 
began, and Kabul was being bombed, he made his 
way to the eastern city of Jalalabad, where he 
took a cab to the Pakistani border, meeting up 
with an Afghan who escorted him to a Pakistani 
police station. From there, soon after, his long ordeal in US custody began.

I await Judge Urbina’s ruling with some interest, 
primarily, as I mentioned above, to discover 
whether this account bears any resemblance to the 
story uncovered by the judge in what, despite the 
persistent fog of classified evidence that clouds 
so many of the Guantánamo cases, will undoubtedly 
be the first time that something close to an 
objective analysis of his case has been 
undertaken, after eight years in US custody.

At present, however, Judge Urbina’s ruling means 
little to Saeed Hatim, as the Obama 
administration has demonstrated that it is 
extremely unwilling to release any of the Yemenis 
who now make up nearly half of Guantánamo’s 
population of 210 prisoners -- even those who 
have won their habeas petitions in the US courts. 
Just one Yemeni has been released since Barack 
Obama became President, even though, by my 
reckoning, Yemenis account for somewhere between 
50 and 60 of 
115 prisoners who have been cleared for release 
by the inter-agency Task Force 
by President Obama on his second day in office.

The administration’s reluctance to release 
Yemenis was explained by officials in September, 
around the time that the only Yemeni to secure 
his release under Obama -- Alla Ali Bin Ali 
Ahmed, who 
his habeas petition in May, after a devastating 
dissection of the government’s supposed evidence 
by Judge Gladys Kessler -- was 
released. On that occasion, the officials stated 
that “Even if Mr. Ahmed was not dangerous in 2002 

 Guantánamo itself might have radicalized him, 
exposing him to militants and embittering him against the United States.”

explained at the time:

The officials have valid fears about political 
instability in Yemen, and the existence of 
terrorist groups, even though the Yemeni 
authorities have stated that none of the 16 
Yemenis returned from Guantánamo “have joined 
terrorist groups,” but whatever their fears, they 
do not seem to have reflected that, if their 
rationale for not releasing any of the Yemenis 
from Guantánamo was extended to the US prison 
system, it would mean that no prisoner would ever 
be released at the end of their sentence, because 
prison “might have radicalized” them, and also, 
of course, that it would lead to no prisoner ever 
being released from Guantánamo.

On that note, it is, I hope, time for this 
nonsense to end, and for Saeed Hatim, a 
demonstrably insignificant figure in the “War on 
Terror,” to be returned to his homeland, along 
with all the other cleared prisoners. It’s not 
difficult. Just find a large enough plane, fly 
them home, and drop them off. At the time of 
writing, I’m pleased to note that the 
Post is reporting that, “according to sources 
with independent knowledge of the matter,” six 
Yemenis, along with four Afghans, “will be 
transferred out of Guantánamo Bay in the near 
future,” and that this transfer “could be a 
prelude to the release of dozens more detainees 
to Yemen.” I certainly hope that this is the 
case; otherwise, we may as well all stop 
pretending that being cleared by a court, or by 
the administration’s own Task Force, means anything at all.

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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