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13 Years Ago, Three Men Died at Guantánamo, Victims of a Brutal Regime of Lawlessness That Is Fundamentally Unchanged Today

Yasser al-Zahrani and Ali al-Salami, two of the three males who died at Guantánamo on the night time of June 9, 2006, in circumstances that stay deeply contentious. The US authorities insist that they dedicated suicide, however other troubling accounts have robustly questioned that conclusion. No photograph publicly exists of the third man, Mani- al-Utaybi.

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On the night time of June 9, 2006, three prisoners at Guantánamo died, their deaths shockingly and insensitively described by the jail’s then-commander, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., as “an act of asymmetrical warfare against us.”

The three men have been Yasser al-Zahrani, a Saudi who was simply 17 when he was seized in Afghanistan in December 2001, Mani al-Utaybi, one other Saudi, and Ali al-Salami, a Yemeni. All three had been outstanding hunger strikers.

Al-Zahrani, the son of a outstanding Saudi government official, was a survivor of the Qala-i-Janghi bloodbath, which John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban,” who was lately launched after 17 years in a US jail, additionally survived. Over 400 fighters, supporting the Taliban, had been informed that if they surrendered, they might then be let loose, however it was a betrayal. They have been taken to a fort, Qala-i-Janghi, run by Common Rashid Dostum, one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, where some of the lads, fearing they might be killed, began an rebellion with hid weapons. Over the course of a week, the prisoners have been bombed, set on hearth, and, finally, flooded out of a basement, and once they lastly emerged, only 86 of the original prisoners had survived.

In Guantánamo, he was remembered fondly by his fellow prisoners, however the authorities famous a historical past of him being “non-compliant and hostile to the guard force and staff.” Nevertheless, he was considered having little or no intelligence value, and his categorized army file, dated March 2006 and released by WikiLeaks in 2011, famous that, “If a satisfactory agreement can be reached that ensures continued detention and allows access to detainee and/or to exploited intelligence, detainee can be Transferred Out of Control” of the Guantánamo authorities and again to Saudi Arabia (which, in reality, would have meant him being repatriated and put by way of Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program for jihadists, like quite a few other Saudi prisoners).

Mani al-Utaybi, who was round 30 when he died, had been in Pakistan enterprise missionary work with Talbighi Jamaat, a vast proselytizing group, and there’s no evidence that he was anyplace near the battlefields of Afghanistan. He was seized in January 2002, near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with four other men, all wearing burkas, who seem to have taken it up on themselves to try to get into Afghanistan in an absurd and thwarted bid to assist the resistance to the US occupation.

Described by the US authorities as having been “belligerent, argumentative, harassing, and very aggressive,” he was additionally worthless from an intelligence perspective, and, in June 2005, had been cleared to be “transferred to the control of another country for continued detention” (which, as with al-Qahtani, would have meant the Saudi rehabilitation program).

The third man, Ali al-Salami, around 23 years previous at the time of his seize, had additionally been considered “aggressive” at Guantánamo, however was additionally, in accordance with the US authorities, completely insignificant in terms of his intelligence value, “a street vendor who sold clothing,” and “was prompted to travel to Pakistan to receive [a religious] education upon hearing God’s calling.” As with al-Utaybi, there isn’t any allegation that he was anyplace near the battlefields of Afghanistan. He had been learning in Faisalabad at Jamea Salafia College, a madrassa (spiritual faculty), however had been dwelling in a dormitory that was allegedly related to Abu Zubaydah.

The facilitator of an unbiased coaching camp, Khaldan, Abu Zubaydah organized the comings and goings of those in search of army training in Afghanistan, however the CIA mistakenly regarded him as Al-Qaeda’s No. 3, ignoring the FBI, who knew that he was not only not al-Qaeda’s no. 3, but he wasn’t even a member of al-Qaeda at all. On seize, he was flown to a secret CIA “black site” in Thailand, where he turned the first victim of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, and was waterboarded on 83 separate events. He was later moved to different “black sites” in japanese Europe, before being delivered to Guantánamo, with 13 different alleged “high value detainees,” additionally held in CIA “black sites,” in September 2006, have been he has continued to be held, largely incommunicado, ever since.

The dormitory — often known as the Crescent Mill visitor home — was raided on the identical night time that the home Abu Zubaydah was staying in was also raided, when al-Salami and 15 other men have been seized, but although the US authorities tried to tie them to al-Qaeda, it was fruitless process, they usually have all since been freed — apart from al-Salami, of course. For a devastating analysis, by a US decide, of the paucity of the US’s claims about these seized within the guest home, see my 2009 articles, Decide Condemns ‘Mosaic’ Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses and Guantánamo: A Prison Constructed On Lies.

Investigating the deaths

The US authorities have all the time caught to their line concerning the males’s deaths, although others have questioned whether the lads killed themselves, or whether they have been, in reality, intentionally killed by operatives of the US government, or by chance killed as a outcome of a torture session that went too far.

Probably the most outstanding dissenter from the official line is former Employees Sgt. Joe Hickman, who was in cost of the watch towers on the night time of the deaths. Hickman’s account of the deaths, which he bottled up until Barack Obama turned president, considering that it’d result in the truth being exposed, was first reported in Harper’s Magazine, in an article entitled, “The Guantánamo Suicides,” by the lawyer and journalist Scott Horton, in January 2010.

In it, Hickman was reported as stating that frantic activity in response the lads’s deaths adopted the movement of automobiles to and from the course of a shadowy facility that he and other personnel had dubbed “Camp No,” because every time they asked about it, they have been advised that it didn’t exist. It was Hickman who advised that,. on the night time of the deaths, the lads had either been deliberately, or by chance killed in this facility away from the primary base.

Nevertheless, hopes that Hickman’s account would lead to an trustworthy, impartial investigation have been dashed. The Justice Department, which initially expressed curiosity in it, dropped an investigation before the Harper’s article was revealed.

Hickman later wrote a ebook concerning the alleged suicides, Murder At Camp Delta, which was revealed in January 2015, and he was also the lead investigator on a 2013 report, “Uncovering the Cover-Ups,” by The Middle For Coverage and Analysis at Seton Corridor College Faculty of Regulation, whose director, Mark Denbeaux, had been Hickman’s first port of call when he determined to go public. The report forensically went by means of documentation launched following a report on the deaths by the Naval Legal Investigative Service (NCIS), which found it to be full of obtrusive holes.

For a detailed article following up on all of the above, please take a look at “To Live and Die in Gitmo”, revealed in Newsweek to coincide with the publication of Hickman’s ebook, and written by Alexander Nazaryan.

As a end result of the refusal of the authorities to revisit the alleged suicides, the events of June 9-10, 2006 nonetheless stay deeply contentious, although “Camp No” has subsequently come into sharper focus, as it has been revealed that there were two amenities outdoors of the control of the US army at Guantánamo — Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane, named after two celebrated songs by the Beatles.

Strawberry Fields was a CIA “black site” from the autumn of 2003 till spring 2004, when it was moved as a result of the authorities recognized that a US decide was about to grant habeas corpus rights to the prisoners, permitting legal professionals into the jail, piercing the veil of secrecy required for Guantánamo’s brutality to go unnoticed.

Penny Lane, in the meantime, was where double brokers from the prison’s inhabitants have been groomed, or, as Alexander Nazaryan put it, “its purpose was supposedly to turn detainees into CIA assets who could infiltrate jihadist networks.” He added that it “appears to have been shuttered for about four months after the three men died.”

In accordance with Joe Hickman’s assessment, it was at this facility that, on the night time of the lads’s deaths, they have been subjected to a torture session that involved what has grow to be generally known as “dry-boarding,” during which that they had rags stuffed down their throats. That would definitely explain what otherwise stays one of the good hindrances to accepting the US authorities’ account of the deaths: how, to paraphrase Alexander Nazaryan, the three males had managed to stuff rags down their very own throats, tie their ft collectively, tie their arms together, create a noose, climb up onto the cell’s sinks, put the noose around their neck, and then bounce with adequate pressure to die by self-inflicted strangulation, all while shielding their activities from the guards, who have been presupposed to persistently hold a watch on the cells.

Within the years since Joe Hickman first surfaced together with his account, it — and Scott Horton’s Harper’s article — have been criticized by some commentators, and, basically , dismissed out of hand by representatives of the US authorities. Nevertheless, on re-reading Alexander Nazaryan’s article, I was struck by the next paragraph: “A highly placed source in the Department of Defense who deals with detainees’ affairs, and who asked to remain anonymous because he is not permitted to speak to the media without receiving prior clearance, wrote to me in an email: ‘After reviewing the information concerning the three deaths at Camp Delta on June 9, 2006, it is painfully apparent the personnel involved in fact created an illusion of an investigation. When you consider the missing documents, the lack of key interviews, and the questionable evidence found on the bodies, it is blatantly obvious there was something that occurred that night that is not documented.’”

A damning conclusion

13 years on from the deaths, as I make my annual effort to not allow them to be forgotten, what strikes me as probably the most miserable facet of this sad and unresolved episode in Guantánamo’s lengthy and miserable historical past is how three men, none of whom had any variety of intelligence value, died at Guantánamo, whether or not accidentally or design, not because of what that they had completed previous to their capture, however because that they had responded with resistance to the appalling ways during which they have been handled after seize.

Think about that: three men died at Guantánamo, not because of what that they had achieved previous to their seize, however as a result of, within the pointless brutality of Guantánamo’s grinding, dispiriting, day-to-day existence, that they had both killed themselves, in despair at how very far that they had ended up from any notion of justice in any respect, or, much more damningly, as a result of, in resisting that infinite injustice, that they had angered the authorities to such an extent that they have been killed.

Keep in mind too that 40 males are nonetheless held at Guantánamo, and that, though some are considered vital terrorist suspects, others are nonetheless held as a result of they, like the lads who died on the night time of June 9, 2006, refused to passively accept the injustice of Guantánamo, partaking in hunger strikes and non-compliant conduct, regardless that they too have been nothing more than, at most, insignificant foot troopers from a long-forgotten struggle, with no intelligence value and no good cause for their ongoing imprisonment, seemingly for the remaining of their lives, with out cost or trial.

Observe: There have, formally, been 9 deaths at Guantánamo because the prison opened on January 11, 2002, and a few of these other deaths — also of long-term hinger strikers — are also suspicious. For additional info, please take a look at the hyperlinks in my article concerning the deaths from last June, and a detailed report from this yr about Haji Naseem, who died in 2011, by Jeffrey Kaye, an investigative journalist and retired psychologist, who has been extraordinarily tenacious in his pursuit of the reality about a number of of the deaths at Guantánamo.

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Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, writer, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and fundamental songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is on the market by way of Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Shut Guantánamo campaign (and see the newest photograph campaign right here) and the profitable We Stand With Shaker marketing campaign of 2014-15, and the writer of The Guantánamo Information: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Jail (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is additionally the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (obtainable on DVD right here — or right here for the US), and for his photograph undertaking ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photograph a day from six years of bike rides across the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy turned very involved in housing points. He is the narrator of a new documentary movie, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, concerning the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a track ‘Grenfell’, within the aftermath of the totally preventable hearth in June 2017 that killed over 70 individuals, and he additionally arrange ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focus for resistance to property destruction and the loss of group area in his residence borough in south east London. For 2 months, from August to October 2018, he was half of the occupation of the Previous Tidemill Wildlife Backyard in Deptford, to stop its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the backyard was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the timber have been reduce down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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