Sudanese Journalist : Seven Years at Guantanamo was ‘Living Hell’

Above, supporters of Sami Al’Hajj unfurl banner during Al’Hajj’s 2008 hunger strike. Below, Al Jazeera interviews Sami Al’Hajj at the Doha International Airport in Quatar, May 30, 2008. Photo by omar_chatriwala / Flickr.

Journalist Al’Hajj describes Guantanamo detention
Before international war crimes conference

By Maria J. Dass / October 29, 2009

A journalist from Al Jazeera who was detained in Guantanamo Bay for seven years described his detention as a living hell.

Sami Al’Hajj, a Sudanese who was released on May 1, 2008, told the Criminalise War International Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, of beatings, water boarding, being striped naked, sleep deprivation, degradation of religion and being force-fed through a tube that he endured throughout his detention.

“There were psychiatrists who were part of the programme to psychologically break us,” he said.

He claimed five of the detainees were driven by American soldiers to their death.

Sami was detained by Pakistani authorities at the Afghanistan border on Dec 15, 2001, mistaken for his colleague Tassir Alony who was wanted by the United States for information on Taliban and Osama bin Laden whom he (Tassir) had interviewed after the Sept 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Sami believes he was a victim of the Pakistani authorities who were eager to hand over people to the US for a bounty of US$5,000 (RM17,129) for each person.

He was first detained at the Bangram detention centre in Afghanistan for six months before being transported to Guantanamo.

“We were shackled in a hunched position with hoods placed over our heads and ear plugs to cut us off completely from what was happening around us.

“My legs were numb from having to hunch for several hours during the journey from Pakistan, and then I was forced to stand up and pushed out of the plane, causing me to fall and break my legs at the knee,” said the 40-year-old who depends on a walking stick as a result of that injury.

The 20-hour journey from Kandahar to Guantanamo was as harrowing.

Sami said although the Americans realised that he was not the person they wanted, they were reluctant to release him probably because they fear he would expose the atrocities he witnessed at the detention centres which held children as young as 11 and men as old as 95.

He appealed to representatives of countries attending the conference to take in prisoners released from Guantanamo who have nowhere to go.

“I appeal to all of you to find homes for men who were tortured and detained without trial, so that they can lead normal and meaningful lives.

“The torture has not ended. The reality is there are 212 detainees at Guantanamo still suffering under the Obama regime,” he said.

He said many of those released were sent home only to be imprisoned in their own countries, such as Tunisia, Libya and Morocco.

“This is despite the fact that they were detained without any sound reason without trial for so many years,” he said.

“Those who have to return to China face the possibility of being imprisoned and tortured worse than they were in Guantanamo Bay.”

According to Sami, the largest group of people at the detention centre at the moment are 97 Yemenis.

Source / Malaysian Sun / Media Channel

Also see When We Torture By Nicholas D. Kristof / New York Times / Feb. 14, 2008

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5 Responses to Sudanese Journalist : Seven Years at Guantanamo was ‘Living Hell’

  1. Fed Up says:

    I appreciate this man’s testimony about what happened to him in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. But just exactly how is this guy qualified to talk about what happens in China? Did he go to China? Was he imprisoned in China?

    What is it with the left that they seem to love to bash China in all sorts of mendacious ways at any slight opportunity, like this?

  2. “The torture has not ended. The reality is there are 212 detainees at Guantanamo still suffering under the Obama regime” … “This is despite the fact that they were detained without any sound reason without trial for so many years,”

    I dont think anyone at Guantanamo was detained without reason. Detainees have been given tribunals, they are not entitled to trials. This man was released which proves the system eventually worked. If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. If you hang out with terrorists you may find the US intelligence is interested in talking to you for a while. I am far more concerned about the generational theft occurring in the halls of Congress than I am about anyone at Guantanamo.

  3. Fed Up says:

    Talk? That wasn’t talk, that was imprisonment, and torture! Can’t you distinguish between talk and torture? Between talk and imprisonment!

    Evidently not.

    You don’t agree with habeus corpus do you? You think someone can be accused by anyone of murder or anything without even producing the body, much less proving that the accused actually did it?

    If so, then I sincerely hope you find yourself in that position.

  4. Fed Up, you pose your questions in a country that got its sovereignty by killing and savaging hundreds of thousands of English troops and US loyalists. Where Indians and Mexicans were displaced at the end of a gun so our states and cities and commerce could flourish. Where cheap and plentiful oil, purchased at the expense of toppled nations and wars, fueled a technological and industrial revolution that brought us great innovation, prosperity and peace. Now you stand on the shoulders of all those whose blood and lives created, defended and prospered this nation and tell them, they should be doing it better?

    Any noteworthy achievement of our nation and defense of western ideals has been paid for in blood and lives. Some in Guantanamo deserve their fate. Some do not. However well its planned and executed, keeping America safe today from those who want to harm us is complex and uncertain. And it will come at the cost of blood and lives and yes imprisonment, even for some who do not deserve it. You say it’s not fair. I agree.

    You curse those who fall short of perfection. But I am humbled by and give thanks to those who sacrifice their relationships and sometimes their lives to do the best they can in very difficult circumstances.

  5. DHS, that last comment is precisely how I feel – I appreciate your eloquence and your summary of FACTS!!!!!

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