Posts Tagged ‘prison’

Yemeni Prisoner Muhammad Salih Dies At Guantánamo

June 4, 2009

Andy Worthington, June 2, 2009

It has just been reported that Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih (also known as Mohammed al-Hanashi), a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo, has died, apparently by committing suicide.

The news comes just three days after the second anniversary of another death at Guantánamo — that of Abdul Rahman al-Amri, a Saudi prisoner who died on May 30, 2007 — and just eight days before the third anniversary of the deaths of three other prisoners — Ali al-Salami, Mani al-Utaybi and Yasser al-Zahrani — who died on June 10, 2006, and it must surely hasten calls for the urgent repatriation of other prisoners before there are any more deaths at the prison.

The Associated Press, which first reported the story, stated that US military officials had reported that Salih, who was 31 years old, was found “unresponsive and not breathing in his cell Monday night,” and that he had died of an “apparent suicide.”

Like the other prisoners who died of “apparent suicides” at Guantánamo, Salih had been a long-term hunger striker, refusing food as the only method available to protest his long imprisonment without charge or trial. According to weight records issued by the Pentagon in 2007, he weighed 124 pounds on his arrival at Guantánamo, but at one point in December 2005, during the largest hunger strike in the prison’s history, his weight dropped to just 86 pounds.

Salih was one of around 50 prisoners at Guantánamo who had survived a massacre at Qala-i-Janghi, a fort in northern Afghanistan, at the end of November 2001, when, after the surrender of the city of Kunduz, several hundred foreign fighters surrendered to General Rashid Dostum, one of the leaders of the Northern Alliance, in the mistaken belief that they would be allowed to return home. Instead, they were imprisoned in Qala-i-Janghi, a nineteenth century mud fort in Mazar-e-Sharif, and when some of the men started an uprising against their captors, which led to the death of a CIA operative, US Special Forces, working with the Northern Alliance and British Special Forces, called in bombing raids to suppress the uprising, leading to hundreds of deaths. The survivors — who, for the most part, had not taken part in the fighting — took shelter in the basement of the fort, where they endured further bombing, and they emerged only after many more had died when the basement was set on fire and then flooded.

Continued >>

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Indian doctor Binayak Sen released from prison on bail

May 29, 2009

Dr Binayak Sen

Dr Binayak Sen

© Private

Amnesty International, 26 May 2009

Dr Binayak Sen, who spent two years in an Indian prison as a Prisoner of Conscience, was released on Tuesday after being granted bail by the Supreme Court.

Welcoming Dr Sen’s release on bail, Amnesty International believes that the charges against him are baseless and politically motivated. Amnesty International has repeated its call on the Indian authorities to immediately drop all the charges against Dr Sen.

Dr Sen, who was held in Raipur prison in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, thanked Amnesty International and other human rights organizations that have been campaigning for his release. He said he would continue to defend human rights in Chhattisgarh despite possible threats to his life from “state and non-state actors”.

The 59-year-old is a pioneer of health care to marginalized and indigenous communities in Chhattisgarh, where the state police and armed Maoists have been engaged in clashes over the last six years.

He was arrested on 14 May 2007 on politically motivated charges, aimed at stopping his human rights work, after he met with an imprisoned leader of a banned Maoist organization.

His earlier meetings with an imprisoned Maoist leader, on which some of the charges against him were based, had all been facilitated by the prison authorities.

“Dr Sen’s prolonged imprisonment is a glaring example of how the Indian authorities misuse security legislation to target activists,” said Madhu Malhotra, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme.

“These laws are open to abuse as they contain vague and sweeping definitions of ‘unlawful activities’. Under no circumstances should work that peacefully defends human rights be termed an ‘unlawful activity’.”

Prior to his arrest, Dr Sen had criticized the state authorities for enacting special security legislation – the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act, 2005 (CSPSA).

He had also reported on unlawful killings of adivasis (Indigenous People) by the police and by Salwa Judum, a private militia widely held to be sponsored by the state authorities to fight the armed Maoists.

The state authorities have so far failed to conduct effective and impartial investigations into these unlawful killings.

Dr Sen was detained without proper charges for seven months, denied bail, and kept in solitary confinement for three weeks. Many of the charges against him stem from laws that contravene international standards. Repeated delays in the conduct of his trial have also heightened doubts about its fairness. Meanwhile, Dr Sen had asked for specialist medical treatment for his heart ailment.

The Time for Mordechai Vanunu is Now

October 10, 2008

By Rannie Amiri | Counterpunch, Oct 9, 2008

As the world awaits the announcement of this year’s recipient(s) of the Nobel Peace Prize, there is no doubt 2008 has been witness to a call to war.

The pressure exerted by Israel in goading the United States to attack Iran has been relentless, and thankfully, resisted up to now. In this context, is there any better person to receive the Peace Prize than the man who initially exposed the Middle East’s first—and only—nuclear power over two decades ago?

After divulging pictures related to Israel’s clandestine atomic stockpile during a 1986 interview with The Sunday Times, Mordechai Vanunu was lured back to Israel by the Mossad and subsequently spent the next 18 years in prison (11 of them in solitary confinement) before being released in 2004. “I am proud and happy to do what I did,” he said at the time. He had remained unrepentant and indeed, unbreakable.

Life after release has not been easy, however. In flagrant violation of Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Israelis placed numerous prohibitions and restrictions on Vanunu’s movements and travels. His freedom to speak with the press or any non-Israeli citizen for that matter was also severely curtailed. In 2007, he was found to be in violation of his parole, in part for attempting to leave Jerusalem in order to visit Bethlehem, and sentenced to six months in prison. The sentence was suspended pending appeals, and this past September an Israeli court reduced the term to three months, citing “…the absence of indications that his actions put the country’s security at risk.”

As many are no doubt keenly aware, unlike Iran, Israel is a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and prohibits full inspection of its Dimona reactor by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) personnel.

At the IAEA’s 52nd General Conference of Member States which recently concluded in Vienna, a resolution was passed calling for a Middle East nuclear-free zone. It implored countries “not to develop, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons” until such a zone is established and demanded all Middle East nations open up suspected facilities to the agency’s inspectors. The vote was 82-0 in favor of the resolution. The United States and Israel were among the 13 countries abstaining. Although a second resolution more critical of Israel was narrowly defeated after opposition by the United States and the European Union, a clear message was nonetheless sent to the region’s only true rogue nuclear state.

All of this would not have been possible without the courage of Vanunu 20 years ago and today. Although often described as a mere “whistleblower”, the term does not do him justice. He was rather the “siren” who first alerted the world that nuclear weapons had found their way into the volatile Middle East.

As he sits incarcerated, and as the nuclear outlier that imprisoned him manufactures the casus belli required to plunge the region into a war ironically over non-existent nuclear weapons, there can be no more a compelling set of circumstances than these needed to award the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize to Mordechai Vanunu. The overdue recipient should wait no longer. His time has come and it is now.

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds. He may be reached at: rbamiri <at> yahoo.com.

Sami Al-Arian’s long-delayed freedom

September 4, 2008

Nicole Colson reports on a proud victory for the family of witch-hunt victim Dr. Sami Al-Arian.

Sami Al-ArianSami Al-Arian

IN A long-overdue victory, Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian was released on bail September 2 and reunited with members of his family for the first time since his arrest in early 2003.

“[I]t feels very unbelievable and surreal that he’s finally with us after more than five-and-a-half years of being apart and of only being able to see him behind glass. It’s breathtaking, really,” his daughter, Laila Al-Arian, described her feelings to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.

“And the whole time, we–me and my siblings–just kept telling each other, ‘Is this a dream? Is this real?’ We couldn’t believe it. And even when we first heard the news, we were a bit skeptical, because we’ve been in this situation so many times, where we thought my father would finally be released, and he wouldn’t. So we kind of held back our happiness and joy until he was finally with us.”

Sami Al-Arian is the former University of South Florida professor who has been the victim of an ongoing government witch-hunt since the Bush administration, in the days following the September 11 attacks, accused him of using an Islamic think tank and a Muslim school and charity as a cover for raising funds to finance “terrorism” through the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Though then-Attorney General John Ashcroft held up Al-Arian’s arrest as an essential part of the “war on terror” here at home, after a six-month trial costing more than $50 million, a Florida jury in 2006 refused to find Al-Arian guilty of a single count of the 17 charges against him.

What you can do

Visit the Free Sami Al-Arian Web site to get regular updates about his case and learn more about what you can do to protest the government’s continued persecution of Dr. Al-Arian.

You can send donations to help the Al-Arian family defray the costs of more than five years of legal defense to: Liberty Defense Fund, P.O. Box 1211, 24525 E. Welches Road, Welches, OR 97067.

The documentary film USA v. Al-Arian can be viewed on the Internet at the LinkTV Web site.

Facing the prospect of a lengthy and costly retrial, not to mention further separation from his wife and children, Al-Arian agreed to plead guilty to a single count of the least-serious charge against him in exchange for what was supposed to be a minor additional sentence and voluntary deportation.

Instead, before his scheduled release date, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg had Al-Arian moved to Virginia to try to compel his testimony in an unrelated investigation of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)–despite an explicit agreement with Florida prosecutors, recorded in court transcripts, that Al-Arian would be exempt from all future testimony.

Because of his continued refusal to testify, Al-Arian has had his prison stay extended first with civil, and then criminal contempt charges. But according to his defense lawyers and family, the government’s request of his testimony is nothing more than a trap–designed to keep Al-Arian imprisoned indefinitely on contempt charges if he refuses to testify, or allow government prosecutors a reason to charge him with perjury if he were to testify.

As Laila Al-Arian noted on Democracy Now, “[W]hat we’ve learned along the way [about Gordon Kromberg]…is that he’s not really interested in the truth. What he’s interested in really is retrying the case that the government lost so badly in Florida.”

Continued . . .

Extraordinary Rendition, Extraordinary Mistake

August 31, 2008

Sangitha McKenzie Millar | Foreign Policy In Focus, August 29, 2008

Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen, was living in Sydney with his wife and four children when he took a trip alone to Pakistan to find a home for his family. When Habib boarded a bus for the Islamabad airport to return home, Pakistani police seized him and took him to a police station, where he was subjected to various crude torture techniques, including electric shocks and beating. At one point, he was forced to hang by the arms above a drum-like mechanism that administered an electric shock when touched. Pakistani police asked him repeatedly if he was with al-Qaeda, and if he trained in Afghanistan. Habib responded “No” over and over until he passed out.

After 15 days in the Pakistani prison, Habib was transferred to U.S. agents who flew him to Cairo. When he arrived, Omar Solaimon, chief of Egyptian security, informed him that Egypt receives $10 million for every confessed terrorist they hand over to the United States. Habib stated that during his five months in Egypt, “there was no interrogation, only torture.”  His skin was burned with cigarettes and he was threatened with dogs, beaten, and repeatedly shocked with a stun gun. During this time, he heard American voices in the prison, but Egyptians were in charge of the torture. In Michael Otterman’s book American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and Beyond (Pluto Press 2007), Habib said he was drugged and began to hallucinate: “I feel like a dead person. I was gone. I become crazy.” He remembers admitting things to interrogators, anything they asked: “I didn’t care … at this point I was ready to die.”

He was transferred back to the custody of U.S. agents in May 2002. They flew him first to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then to Kandahar. After several weeks, American agents sent Habib to Guantánamo Bay. Three British detainees who have since been released from the prison described Habib as being in a “catastrophic state” when he arrived. Most of his fingernails were missing and he regularly bled from the nose, mouth, and ears while he slept.

Habib was held at Guantánamo Bay until late 2004, when he was charged with training 9/11 hijackers in martial arts, attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and transporting chemical weapons. A Chicago human rights lawyer took his case and detailed all of Habib’s allegations of torture in court documents. After the case garnered national attention through a front page story in The Washington Post, Habib became a liability for the U.S. government. Rather than have his testimony on the torture he suffered in Egypt become a matter of public record, U.S. officials decided to send him back to Sydney in January 2005 – over three years after seizing him in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, Habib’s case isn’t unusual. There’s substantial evidence that the United States routinely and knowingly “outsources” the application of torture by transferring terrorism suspects to countries that frequently violate international human rights norms. As details of the extraordinary rendition program have emerged, politicians, journalists, academics, legal experts, and policymakers have raised serious objections to the policy. It has captured the attention of U.S. legislators, and both the House and Senate Committees on Foreign Relations as well as the House Committee on the Judiciary have held hearings to analyze the policy and examine related cases. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Democratic vice presidential nominee, expressed concern that “rendition, as currently practiced, is undermining our moral credibility and standing abroad and weakening the coalitions with foreign governments that we need to effectively combat international terrorism.” As the public continues to learn more about the program, calls to end extraordinary rendition have increased, and the next presidential administration will likely be forced to take a stand one way or another on the issue.

Continued . . .

Britain’s terror laws have left me and my family shattered

August 23, 2008

RINF.COM, August 21, 2008

Stop the War Coalition

The UN’s committee on human rights has just published a report criticising Britain’s anti-terror laws and the resulting curbs on civil liberties. For many commentators the issues raised are mostly a matter of academic abstractions and speculative meanderings. For me, it is anything but. These laws have destroyed my life.

On May 14 I was arrested under section 41 of the Terrorism Act – on suspicion of the “instigation, preparation and commission of acts of terrorism”: an absurdly nebulous formulation that told me nothing about the sin I had apparently committed. Once in custody, almost 48 hours passed before it was confirmed that the entire operation (involving dozens of officers, police cars, vans, and scientific support agents) was triggered by the presence on my University of Nottingham office computer of an equally absurd document called the “al-Qaida Training Manual”, a declassified open-source document that I had never read and had completely forgotten about since it had been sent to me months before.

Rizwaan Sabir, a politics student friend of mine (who was also arrested), had downloaded the file from the US justice department website while conducting research on terrorism for his upcoming PhD. An extended version of the same document (which figures on the politics department’s official reading list) was also available on Amazon. I edit a political magazine; Rizwaan regularly sent me copies of research materials he was using, and this document was one.

Within hours of my incarceration I had lost track of time. I often awoke thinking I had been asleep for days only to discover it wasn’t midnight yet. My confidence in the competence (and motives) of the police ebbed away. I found myself shifting my energies from remaining cheerful to remaining sane. In the early hours, I was often startled by the metallic toilet seat, crouched in the corner like some sinister beast.

For days on end, I drew cartoons and wrote diary entries in the margins of Mills and Boon novellas. I spent hours reciting things to myself: names of Saul Bellow characters, physics Nobel prize winners, John Coltrane albums, anything to keep the numbness away.

I’m constantly coming across efforts being made to give detention without charge the Walt Disney treatment: the crushing weight of solitary confinement is painted as a non-issue; the soul-sapping nothingness of the claustrophobic, cold cell is portrayed as a mild inconvenience. Make no mistake: the feeling that one’s fate is in the hands of the very people who are apparently trying to convict you is, without doubt, one of the most devastating horrors a human being can ever be subjected to. It is (to misquote Carl von Clausewitz) the continuation of torture by other means.

“Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear,” goes the tautological reasoning of the paranoia merchants calling for harsher, ever more draconian “security” measures – as we saw throughout the 42-days debate. They should read Kafka: nothing is more terrifying than being arrested for something you know you haven’t done. Indeed, it is the innocent who suffers the most because it is the innocent who is tormented the most. The guilty calculates, triangulates, anticipates. The innocent doesn’t know where to start. The answers and the questions are absolute, unbreachable, towering conundrums.

Continued . . .


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