Former Gitmo Detainee Urges the Release of Innocents
Abu Bakker Qassim, a Chinese Uighur, now living in Albania has been urging the American government to release 17 of his compatriots from the offshore prison -- Gitmo.
The debate about how to go about closing the prison in Cuba has been gathering steam and now many states have declared they have no wish to house, in prisons, those deemed terrorists. There are, however a number of people incarcerated at Guantanamo who are acknowledged innocents, having been caught up in the sweep to capture those suspected of bombing the Twin Towers.
Qassim was one of those. He left his homeland to try to make a better life for himself and family. Now he cannot return to China without facing imprisonment or execution. He has been separated from his family since leaving China in 2000.
In 2001, just days before the start of a US bombing campaign aimed at overthrowing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the Uighurs arrived in the Afghan city of Jalalabad.
Four days after their arrival, Jalalabad was bombed. The Uighurs left to seek sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan. They could not know that, after an arduous march through the mountains of Tora Bora, the villagers who would greet them warmly on the other side of the border had, only a few days earlier, been blanketed by fliers from US aircraft, promising that whoever "hunts an Arab becomes a rich man."
"In Kandahar, the Americans realized we had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, but they still shipped us to Guantánamo," Qassim contends. "At that point, we understood that we were flying into hell."
Qassim spent the next five years behind steel bars.
"The remaining Uighurs would pose a threat to no one, and Abu Baker is an example," Willet says, referring to Qassim. "He has lived peacefully in Tirana for more than three years, while the other Uighur men in Gitmo have essentially the same background as Abu Bakker and are as peaceful as he."