[Ppnews] Putting an Afghan Nobody on Trial
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 8 11:58:23 EST 2010
January 8 - 10, 2010
The Case of Obaidullah
Putting an Afghan Nobody on Trial
By ANDY WORTHINGTON
On Wednesday evening, the
Press reported that, in court filings, Justice
Department lawyers stated that Attorney General
Eric Holder has decided that a sixth Guantánamo
prisoner -- an Afghan named Obaidullah -- will be
put forward for trial by Military Commission. On
November 13, when
announced that five prisoners -- including Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed -- would face federal court
trials for their alleged involvement in the 9/11
attacks, he also announced that five other men,
previously charged in the Bush administrations
Military Commissions, would be tried in revamped
version of the Commissions that
administration and Congress concocted over the summer.
weaknesses of the Military Commission trial
system (some of which emerged in its
faltering outing last month), and
very real fear that it is being used by the Obama
administration as a second-tier system of
justice, the decision to charge Obaidullah is
particularly dispiriting, as he is so clearly a
peripheral character of such insignificance that
putting him up for a war crimes trial risks ridicule.
explained in September 2008, when he became the
18th prisoner to be put forward for a trial by
Military Commission (in the second version of the
Commissions under George W. Bush), he was charged
with conspiracy and providing material support
to terrorism, based on the thinnest set of
allegations to date: essentially, a single claim
that, [o]n or about 22 July 2002, he stored
and concealed anti-tank mines, other explosive
devices, and related equipment; that he
concealed on his person a notebook describing
how to wire and detonate explosive devices; and
that he knew or intended that his material
support and resources were to be used in
preparation for and in carrying out a terrorist attack.
As I also explained:
It doesnt take much reflection on these charges
to realize that it is a depressingly clear
example of the U.S. administrations disturbing,
post-9/11 redefinition of war crimes, which
apparently allows the U.S. authorities to claim
that they can equate minor acts of insurgency
committed by a citizen of an occupied nation with terrorism.
This was not all. In his Combatant Status Review
Tribunal and Administrative Review Boards at
Guantánamo (the military review boards
established to ascertain whether he had been
correctly designated as an enemy combatant, and
whether he still posed a threat to the U.S.), he
made it clear that he had made false allegations
against himself and another Afghan prisoner still
held -- a shopkeeper named Bostan Karim --
because of the abuse he had suffered, at the
hands of U.S. forces, in a forward operating base
in Khost and in the main U.S. prison in Afghanistan, at Bagram airbase.
The following exchange, from his ARB in 2005,
when he explained that he had been forced to
make false confessions about Karim while held in
Bagram is particularly enlightening:
Board Member: Who forced you to say things?
Board Member: How did they force you?
Detainee: The first time when they captured me
and brought me to Khost they put a knife to my
throat and said if you dont tell us the truth
and you lie to us we are going to slaughter you.
Board Member: Were they wearing uniforms?
They tied my hands and put a
heavy bag of sand on my hands and made me walk
all night in the Khost airport
In Bagram they
gave me more trouble and would not let me sleep.
They were standing me on the wall and my hands
were hanging above my head. There were a lot of things they made me say.
Back in September 2008, I concluded my article by
asking, So tell me, after reading this: does
charging Obaidullah for war crimes look like justice?
With the news that Obaidullah is to be charged
again, when he is not actually accused of harming
a single American, and when he may, in fact, have
been tortured, through sleep deprivation and
hanging, to produce false confessions against
himself and at least one other prisoner, leads me
not only to repeat the question, but to actively
call for the open mockery of Attorney General
Eric Holder and the lawyers and bureaucrats in
the Justice Department and the Pentagon who
thought that reviving the charges against him was a good idea.
Andy Worthington is a British journalist, the
Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774
Detainees in America's Illegal Prison' (published
by Pluto Press), and the co-director (with Polly
Nash) of the new Guantánamo documentary,
the Law: Stories from Guantánamo. Visit his
He can be reached at:
<mailto:andy at andyworthington.co.uk>andy at andyworthington.co.uk
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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