[Ppnews] Gitmo's Youngest Prisoner Sent to Chad

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 12 13:00:22 EDT 2009


June 12-14, 2009

Gitmo's Youngest Prisoner Sent to Chad

The Long Ordeal of Mohammed El-Gharani


The long ordeal of Mohammed El-Gharani, 
Guantánamo’s youngest prisoner, has finally come 
to an end. <http://www.reprieve.org.uk/>Reprieve, 
the legal action charity that represents him, 
reported yesterday that he has been sent back to Chad.

A Saudi resident and Chadian national, El-Gharani 
was just 14 years old when he was seized by 
Pakistani forces in a random raid on a mosque in 
Karachi, but was treated appallingly both by the 
Pakistanis who seized him, and by the U.S. 
military. I provided a detailed explanation of 
the abuse to which he was subjected in an article 
last year, 
Forgotten Child,” which I condensed for 
article in January, when I explained:

As with all but three of 
22 confirmed juveniles who have been held at 
Guantánamo, the U.S. authorities never treated 
him separately from the adult population, even 
though they are obliged, under the terms of the 
Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the 
Child (on the involvement of children in armed 
conflict) to promote “the physical and 
and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.”

Instead, El-Gharani was treated with appalling 
brutality. After being tortured in Pakistani 
custody, he was sold to U.S. forces, who flew him 
to a prison at Kandahar airport, where, he said, 
one particular soldier “would hold my penis, with 
scissors, and say he’d cut it off.” His treatment 
did not improve in Guantánamo. Subjected 
relentlessly to racist abuse, because of the 
color of his skin, he was hung from his wrists on 
numerous occasions, and was also subjected to a 
regime of “enhanced” techniques to prepare him 
for interrogation -- including prolonged sleep 
deprivation, prolonged isolation and the use of 
painful stress positions -- that clearly 
constitute torture. As a result of this and other 
abuse, including regular beatings by the guard 
force responsible for quelling even the most 
minor infractions of the rules, El-Gharani has 
become deeply depressed, and has tried to commit suicide on several occasions.

In January, over seven years after his initial 
capture, El-Gharani finally had his case reviewed 
in a U.S. court, following 
Supreme Court’s ruling, in June 2008, that the 
prisoners had habeas corpus rights; in other 
words, the right to ask a court why they were 
being held. Judge Richard Leon, who had granted 
the habeas petitions of 
Algerian prisoners in November, ruling that the 
government had failed to establish a case against 
them, was, if anything, even more dismissive of the claims against El-Gharani.

In his habeas petition, El-Gharani insisted, as 
he had throughout his detention, that he 
“traveled to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia at the 
age of 14 to escape discrimination against 
Chadians in that country, acquire computer and 
English skills, and make a better life for 
himself,” and that he “remained there until his 
arrest,” although the government claimed that he 
“arrived in Afghanistan at some unspecified time 
in 2001,” and was “part of or supporting Taliban 
or al-Qaeda forces,” for a variety of reasons, 
including claims that he received military 
training at an al-Qaeda-affiliated military 
training camp, fought against U.S. and allied 
forces at the battle of Tora Bora, and was a 
member of an al-Qaeda cell based in London.

Noting that the government’s supposed evidence 
against El-Gharani consisted of statements made 
by two other prisoners at Guantánamo, and that, 
moreover, these statements were “either 
exclusively, or jointly, the only evidence 
offered by the Government to substantiate the 
majority of their allegations,” Judge Leon stated 
that “the credibility and reliability of the 
detainees being relied upon by the Government has 
either been directly called into question by 
Government personnel or has been characterized by 
Government personnel as undermined,” and 
dismissed all the claims, reserving particular 
criticism for the claim that El-Gharani had been 
a member of a London-based al-Qaeda cell.

As I wrote in January,

This was, indeed, the most extraordinary 
allegation, as El-Gharani was just 11 years old 
at the time, and, as his lawyer, Clive Stafford 
Smith, explained in his book 
Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking 
Justice in Guantánamo Bay, “he must have been 
beamed over to the al-Qaeda meetings by the 
Starship Enterprise, since he never left Saudi Arabia by conventional means.”

Leon’s verdict was marginally less colorful, but 
no less devastating. “Putting aside the obvious 
and unanswered questions as to how a Saudi minor 
from a very poor family could have even become a 
member of a London-based cell,” he wrote, “the 
Government simply advances no corroborating 
evidence for these statements it believes to be 
reliable from a fellow detainee, the basis of 
whose knowledge is -- at best -- unknown.”

Despite this long-overdue court victory, 
El-Gharani’s suffering in Guantánamo did not come 
to an end. In April, he was finally allowed to 
call one of his relatives in Chad, but took the 
opportunity to call the Arabic broadcaster 
al-Jazeera instead, telling them, as 
described it, that “he had been beaten with 
batons and teargassed by a group of six soldiers 
wearing protective gear and helmets after 
refusing to leave his cell.” He explained, “This 
treatment started about 20 days before Obama came 
into power, and since then I've been subjected to 
it almost every day,” and added, “Since Obama 
took charge he has not shown us that anything will change.”

El-Gharani’s return to Chad is not without its 
problems. He is currently being held by the 
security services, although they have stressed to 
his lawyers that it is just a formality and that 
they fully understand the horrors he has been 
through. More troubling is the fact that, 
although he has extended family in Chad who will 
take care of him, he cannot be reunited with his 
parents, because they live in Saudi Arabia. 
Representatives of Reprieve are expected to fly 
out to Chad this weekend, to help with his 
rehabilitation, but in the meantime El-Gharani 
himself has said only that he is, of course, 
delighted to be free, and is looking forward to 
undertaking an education, to make up for the lost 
years and lost opportunities while he was held in Guantánamo.

As Zachary Katznelson, Reprieve’s legal director, 
explained to me in a telephone conversation 
yesterday, “Reprieve is delighted that, after 
seven long years of unjust, illegal 
incarceration, Mohammed is finally out of 
Guantánamo Bay. A federal judge looked at his 
case in January, and found that there were never 
any valid grounds to hold him. He should have 
been released long ago, but we’re glad that justice has finally been served.”

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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