Freed Al-Jazeera cameraman details horrors of Gitmo
Some of his most powerful words came Friday: “My last message to the US administration,” he concluded, “is that torture will not stop terrorism—torture is terrorism.”
SANA’A, May 4 — Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Hajj returned to his home in Sudan this past weekend after being released from the American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, though more than 200 other inmates languish without trial in the facility.
Al-Hajj, who was accompanied home by three other detainees, two Sudanese and one Moroccan, spoke out publicly against the conditions of the prison facility, which he called “very bad” and said it was getting worse by the day. Five Afghan detainees were also repatriated, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Al-Hajj, who was detained for over six years without formal charges, has been on a hunger strike since January 2007 and was rushed to the hospital in Khartoum as soon as he exited the American military plane he arrived in. The U.S. declared Al-Hajj an “enemy combatant” during a hearing after his arrest.
Without prior announcement, the military returned al-Hajj tohis home country of Sudan with two other prisoners who had alsobeen held for years at the US-run Guantánamo Bay prison.Al-Hajj was gaunt and too weak to stand or speak as soldiers carriedhim off the C-17 cargo plane and placed him, still shackled, ona stretcher. He was transported immediately to a hospital in Khartoum.His brother told reporters he did not immediately recognize al-Hajj,who had been seized as a healthy 32-year-old and now resembleda man in his eighties.
While imprisoned, he was denied medical care for his cancer,kidney infections, and injuries. He was also subjected to beatings,extreme temperature exposures, sexual assault, threats with militarydogs, and other human rights violations. Al-Hajj also reportedthat guards defaced the Koran and flushed the book down the toilet.
Speaking to Al Jazeera television from his hospital bed inKhartoum on Friday, al-Hajj stated: “I’m very happyto be in Sudan, but I’m very sad because of the situationof our brothers who remain in Guantánamo. Conditions inGuantánamo are very, very bad, and they get worse by theday.
“Our human condition, our human dignity was violated,and the American administration went beyond all human values,all moral values, all religious values. In Guantánamo...ratsare treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than50 countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges,and they will not give them the rights that they give to animals.
In a second statement that was reported by Reuters later onFriday, al-Hajj said, “Security and human rights are inseparableissues—you cannot have one without the other. Human rightsare not only for times of peace—you need to hold onto themalways, even during difficult times and times of war.” “Mylast message to the US administration,” he concluded, “isthat torture will not stop terrorism—torture is terrorism.”
Continuing to insinuate al-Hajj’s association with militantor terrorist activity, one of the Pentagon plants told ABC, “Iexpect he’ll likely be in the news for some time to continueclaiming all sorts of wild things. It’s the advantage theyhave in this fight. It’s a war of ideas, and they can claimany wild number of things happened to them and they’ll capitalizeon it. It puts the pressure on us to disprove them.”
Similarly, another unnamed Pentagon official told Reuters thatal-Hajj was “not being released,” but rather “beingtransferred to the Sudanese government.” Sudanese officialstook pains to make it clear that al-Hajj was not in custody anddid not face any charges.