RT News – 2016-01-24 20:37:52
‘They Caused Problems’:
CIA Involved with Gitmo Inmates’ Suicides — Former Guard
Murder at Camp Delta Trailer
(January 23, 2016) — A former Guantanamo guard, who says he witnessed hunger strike “leaders” being brought to a secret CIA “black site”, is accusing the agency of having staged their suicide to get rid of the “problem.” At the time, the US said the men hanged themselves.
On June 10, 2006, the Department of Defense reported that Saudi Arabians Mani al-Utaybi and Yasser al-Zahrani, and a Yemeni citizen, Ali Abdullah Ahmed, “killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact.”
“Two Saudis and one Yemeni, each located in Camp 1, were found unresponsive and not breathing in their cells by guards,” Joint Task Force-Guantanamo said at that time, adding that “all lifesaving measures had been exhausted.”
The following day, the camp quickly went into lockdown. Contrary to the official statement, unsubstantiated reports [“How US hid the suicide secrets of Guantanamo,” The Guardian] started to surface, accusing the Bush administration of hiding the truth behind what was described as a “planned event”.
Nearly 10 years on, former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman is stepping forward to unveil what he saw in the few hours leading up to the secretive deaths. Speaking to RT, Hickman shared why he thinks that the US government might have had an interest in silencing the prisoners who “caused a lot of problems for the command” of Guantanamo Bay.
‘CIA Black Site’
“At around 5:30pm and 6:00pm on June 9, I went to the tower guards — I was visiting them to see how they were going to perform their duties that night,” the former sergeant of the guard recalled. While there, Hickman noticed what he thought was an unusually suspicious commotion for a Friday evening.
“I witnessed a van — we used to call it paddy wagon — it was a detainee transport van,” he said. “The van came into the gate, backed up to Camp 1 and took a detainee out of Camp 1 Alpha Block and put him into the paddy wagon and drove [him away].”
This happened two more times, in time periods of approximately 20 minutes apart, meaning that there were “a total of three out of Camp 1 Alpha Block.”
“I got suspicious because there was no military commissions going on, they were taking detainees outside of Camp America,” Hickman said. Camp America is where all detainee holding facilities are located, “I was suspicious of why they were doing it and where they were going.”
He still has a strong recollection of the route the van was taking and can repeat it turn-by-turn. “If it went straight on the road leaving Camp America, it would be going to the main part of the base, where Navy Exchange [the store on the base] was, but about 100 meters past the checkpoint ACP Roosevelt, there was a turn,” the former Guantanamo guard recalls.
“If they made that turn, then the paddy wagon was going to a facility which we called Camp No, which is a CIA black site on Guantanamo at the time,” Hickman claims.
The wagon did not go to the main base, but instead “it went to the left.”
“There are only two things when you make that left, the CIA black site which is hidden back in the hills, behind heavy terrain, or it would lead to the beach if you went further,” Hickaman said. “So, it certainly was not going [to the beach]. The only other place it could have been going was the CIA black site.”
‘They Caused a Lot of Problems’
At the time, the JTF command had been interrogating roughly 200 prisoners per week, according to Hickman. However, detainees made it tough as Washington-approved Guantanamo interrogation policies have prohibited questioning of hunger-striking inmates.
Raising up to fight for their innocence and protest the conditions of their confinement, detainees held long-term hunger strikes, starting in 2005.
“All three of those detainees that went to that CIA Black Site that night were all leaders of the hunger strikes, massive hunger strikes,” Hickman said. “There were constant hunger strikes since they arrived. They caused a lot of problems for the command.”
He even contemplates that the Guantanamo Bay command would do whatever it takes to stop hunger strikers.
“Even [Yasser] Al Zahrani, one of the detainees who died that evening, wrote in a letter to his father, I think it was his last letter, camp command wants to get rid of me at any cost,” Hickman said.
Under the Pentagon’s official version, Al-Zahrani was the first of the three found in his cell, followed by Al-Utaybi and Al-Salami.
According to the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service, all three were preparing the suicide. As the NCIS report claimed they hanged themselves on torn sheets and T-shirts, while their hands were tied.
However, the fact of precise planning Hickman also dismisses. “Many detainees, they were on the same cell block that night, also have said that no one hung themselves that night, where the government said they saw them. Nothing like that,” he said.
Hickman believes that Shaker Aamer, who was imprisoned in 2002, could have also been among the CIA’s victims. He claims that deadly night of June 9, Aamer was “brutally tortured.”
“I believe the only thing why they kept Shaker alive was his British residency,” he said.
‘Justice Department Squashed My Story’
Upon leaving Guantanamo, Hickman decided to take his concerns to the government. However, the step did not have a desired effect.
“I went to the Justice Department once. Basically, they squashed the story because I was revealing the CIA Black Site and they did not want that information out,” he said.
In February 2010, Scott Horton, a human rights attorney, for the first time unveiled a cover-up surrounding the suspicious deaths and “Camp No”, as Hickman dubbed it.
Horton’s lengthy report in Harper’s Magazine, made the full extent of Hickman’s story known to the world.
Yet, the revelations failed to bring a change. Six years after the publication, Hickman keeps pushing the issue. He has written a book, “Murder at Camp Delta” detailing the events that he saw, the concerns he had. Out in paperback starting February 23, Murder at Camp Delta is already available on Amazon.
“After those three deaths, there were two other detainees that committed suicide,” he told RT. “I wasn’t there to say exactly what happened, but I knew from my experience: Those men did not commit a suicide. It brought up questions, which brought up nightmares. It just hunted me until I came forward.”
Guantanamo Prisoner Held for
13 Years on Mistaken Identity Cleared for Release
(January 21, 2016) — The Pentagon has approved the release of a prisoner who was held at the Guantanamo Bay facility for 13 years due a case of mistaken identity. Mustafa al Shamiri, 37, had been detained under the pretenses of being a senior Al-Qaeda trainer in Afghanistan.
The so-called Periodic Review Board (PRB), however, came to a much different conclusion on December 1 when they heard his case. The board found that “most of the derogatory prior assessments . . . have been discredited and the current information shows that the detainee has low level military capability,” according to The Washington Post.
Shamiri, who is only in fact a “run-of-the-mill jihadist,” was linked to the more high-profile activities of other extremists because of their similar names, and spent 13 years in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
The Yemeni’s 2008 profile called him a high-risk threat who possessed medium intelligence valued. He was called “a senior trainer at the Al-Faruq Training Camp as well as an Al-Qaeda guesthouse logistician.” But his September 2015 profile had a much new assessment, which concluded that the activities that Shamiri was accused of being involved in were actually “carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to” his own.
The parole board said in a short statement that he was cleared for transfer, “preferably to an Arabic-speaking country,” and noted that “most derogatory prior assessments regarding the detainee’s activities before detention have been discredited.”
Counsel appointed by the US government to represent Shamiri before the Periodic Review Baord said in December that their client is willing to go to any country that will accept him.
“He has vocalized to us that while he cannot change the past, he would definitely have chosen a different path,” the representatives said in a written statement to the PRB. “He wants to make a life for himself.”
Shamiri was detained in Guantanamo since June 2002, and his latest assessment by US intelligence said that he fought in Bosnia in 1995 at age 16 or 17.
Also announced was the release of two additional detainees on Wednesday. Tariq Mahmoud Ahed al Sawah, born in Egypt, was transferred to Bosnia. Abdul Aziz Abdullah Ali al Suadi, born in Yemen, was sent on a place to Montenegro, another former Yugoslav republic.
Sawah is a former Muslim Brotherhood member who had fought in Bosnia and later Afghanistan, where he was captured.
Suadi was originally thought to be an explosives trainer for Osama bin Laden, and also fought in Afghanistan before he was captured there. Since 2010, he has only been considered to pose a negligible thread.
A third detainee, Mohammed Ali Abdullah Bwazir of Yemen, refused an offer for release. He said that he was “frightened” of leaving the prison he had called home for 14 years to go to an unidentified country where he had no family.
“Can you imagine being there for 14 years, and going to a plane where you could finally leave, and saying ‘No, take me back to my cell?'” His lawyer, John Chandler said, according to The New York Times. “This is one of the saddest days of my life.”
The approval of the detainees’ release comes at a time when Guantanamo is being phased out of operation by President Obama. The prison’s population is now down to 91, making January 2016 the first time since its inception that it’s held fewer than 100 inmates.
Kuwaiti Man Repeatedly Tortured
Is Freed after 14 years in Guantanamo
(January 9, 2016) — A Kuwaiti national, detained illegally for 14 years in the Guantanamo Bay military prison, where he was repeatedly tortured, was transferred and sent to his home country, said the Department of Defense. The detainee, 40-year-old Fayez Mohammed Ahmed Al-Kandari, was never charged with any war crimes.
The Pentagon made the announcement of the transfer on Friday. Al-Kandari was captured by US forces in 2002 and accused of recruiting personnel to receive weapons training in Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
Al-Kandari maintained his innocence during his 14-year detention in Guantanamo, and claimed he was in Afghanistan doing charity work and rounded up for reward money. He was never convicted of any crime, and all charges against him were dropped last year.
As part of Al-Kandari’s release, he will undergo “rehabilitation.” He also will be subject to surveillance by his government for the rest of his life and will have travel restrictions.
Al-Kandari’s attorney, Eric Lewis, stated, “Mr. Al Kandari is delighted to be going home and reuniting with his beloved parents and family after all these years away.”
“He goes home with optimism and looks forward to resuming a peaceful life and to putting GuantÃ¡namo behind him,” Lewis added, according to the Miami Herald.
Lieutenant Colonel Barry Wingard, who also represented Al-Kandari, said in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story in 2009 that his client was subjected to a litany of torture that caused psychological and physical damage, including sleep deprivation, physical short stress positions, sexual humiliation, extreme temperatures, loud music, and being threatened with dogs.
During his captivity, his ribs were broken, and during one exchange he was beaten by chains so severely the bruises showed as a chain link.
The Miami Herald also reported Al-Kandari was “an active participant in the widespread hunger strike that swept through the prison in early 2013.” His lawyer said he was “being force-fed in April 2013, because the 5-foot, 6-inch man had withered to 108 pounds and had the waist of a small child.”
“There simply is no evidence other than he is a Muslim in Afghanistan at the wrong time, other than double and triple hearsay statements, something I have never seen as justification for incarceration, let alone eight years,” Wingard said of the government’s case against Al-Kandari.
The man’s transfer comes just a day after two Yemeni nationals were transferred to Ghana, where they will live for two years under surveillance. It is the first time a West African country has taken prisoners from Guantanamo.
The Yemeni nationals, Khalid al-Dhuby and Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef, both spent more than a decade behind bars without being charged, and were both approved for release in 2006 and 2009.
Fourteen more men are expected to be released in January, as well as more parole board decisions that could clear others for transfer. Over the last year, prisoners have been released under various conditions to countries all over the Middle East, as well as South America and Africa. After Al-Kandari’s release, 104 detainees remain at the camp, according to government records.
Out of the nearly 800 men who have been held at Guantanamo, only seven have actually been convicted of crimes, and eight have died while in detention.
President Barack Obama made a campaign promise to close the military prison, and continues to promise he would do so before he leaves office January 2017. The Republican-led Congress has strongly opposed such a proposal, and in its omnibus budget forbade the president from closing the detention center or spend money on building new facilities in the US. The omnibus spending bill funds the government until October 2016.
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