Imprisoned without a cause:Former Guantanamo detainee’s voice finally heard [Archives:2007/1018/Front Page]

January 22 2007

Nisreen Shaddad
SANA'A, Jan. 21 ) A group defending human rights presented on Thursday a program which detailed the plight of a released prisoner, detained for five years in the American prison Guantanamo, where he was abused physically and mentally, denied medical attention, and held without any hope for a trial. Mohammed Al-Asadi, with a crestfallen demeanor, detailed his despair with strong words at The National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedom, or HOOD headquarters in Sana'a.

Families of other detainees were also present at the program. Many of the detainees being held at the American prison in Cuba, have absolutely no evidence against them of having committed hostile acts against the United States. The United States opened the prison in 2002, rounding up many of the men in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and labeling them enemy combatants and terrorists.

“My son went to Pakistan to study but never came back. He was arrested without a definite case those are the documents that prove the purpose of his going to Pakistan,” said Hail's mother.

Umm Abdullah's says her husband, Ismael Al-Raimi, traveled to the United Arab Emirates to secure work and had been there for two years when he called his wife saying he was returning to Yemen. After that phone call, Al-Raimi disappeared, and his family didn't hear from him for months. The family painstakingly found his name on a list of Guantanamo detainees. However, according to Umm Abdullah, she has been trying to find out more information on her husband through the Red Cross, but has been told he is not in Guantanamo. She fears her husband is in one of America's secret jails, Umm Abdullah said.

The other five Yemeni detainees who were recently released from Guantanamo are still being held in the Central Prison in Sana'a, while the government runs a background investigation.

“Al-Asadi wasn't held with the five other detainees as America released him without requesting further interrogations,” said Khalid Al-Anisi, executive director of HOOD.

Although Al-Asadi was tortured for five years, his talk exuded confidence, strength, and faith, and he said he hopes in the future to be able to do more to become a defender of detainee rights.

“In this conference I call on all people to stand tall to shut down Guantanamo and end the trail of human tragedy at all secret detentions America must be aware of the danger the U.S. government is leading them to. Such treatment creates rancor and spite and brings evil to the whole world,” Al-Asadi said.

He added, “I will use all my efforts and energy to clarify the sorrow and pain the rest of the detainees suffer from. I will struggle to present their issues to the public and work with the organizations that defend human rights.”

Shadi Mokhter, an American lawyer pursuing her doctorate in human rights, and an attendee at Thursday's event, agreed that Guantanamo is an illegal prison, “Release the detainees or give them a fair trial,” she said.

Another attendee, Ryadh Al-Ghaili, who was once a detainee at the political security prison in Yemen said, “My coming to this conference is to support all detainees around the world whether they are being held at Guantanamo or Guantanamian systems used in Arabic or Islamic countries. There is no difference between Guantanamo and a political security prison as they are both violations of one of the greatest blessings God gives man, which is freedom.”

Others present at the event agreed that before fighting terrorism as security centers claim, they need to heal the tendency of terrorism in their hearts and understand the concept of human rights.

“The issue we need to face today is not only the existence of Guantanamo, but also the upside-down concepts and principles of human rights such as a pre-emptive war and a war against terrorism. Such concepts changed the aggressive war against Iraq into a war of liberation, and legalizes arresting innocent men under the banner of 'War Against Terrorism,'” said Tawfeeq Al-Bathi, from the Human Rights Information and Training Center.

Al-Ghaili also explained the cause of terrorism.

“The treatment while being arrested is enough to create terrorists. They snoop on our private affairs, rush into our homes, and illegally detain us for months or years while using torture and depriving us of the necessities of daily life,” Al-Ghaili said.

During his statement, Al-Asadi asserted: “It is a war against Islam, because while being in the prison they punished us while we were praying. They stomped on the Holy Quran and threw it in deserted places and toilets. They frisked our private organs. They forced us to shave our beard. And when we asked them for rights, they told us we are neither humans nor animals to deserve rights. We are devils, and devils have no rights.”

There were about 759 men, all Muslim, initially held at Guantanamo. The number of detainees fell to 400 in 2006. 100 of the current prisoners are Yemenis, 70 are Saudis, and 230 are other nationalities.