FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Former Guantánamo Detainee Seeks Asylum in Sweden

by ANDY WORTHINGTON

On Tuesday November 20, Adel Abdul Hakim, a former Guantánamo detainee from Xinjiang province in the People’s Republic of China, took another step towards reconstructing his shattered life by applying for asylum in Sweden.

The 33-year old, an ethnic Uyghur from a state where the repression of his people is widespread, made his claim for permanent resident status during a visit from Tirana, the capital of Albania, where he had been living, in a UN refugee camp, since his release from Guantánamo with four other Uyghurs in May 2006. After negotiations conducted by his US lawyers, various NGOs and lawyers in Sweden, he had been granted a four-day visa, to attend a human rights conference, and, finally, to be reunited with his sister and her family, who are part of a large Uyghur community in Sweden, one of the leading countries in the world in fulfilling international obligations to accept refugees.

The five men — and 13 of the other 17 Uyghurs, who are all still in Guantánamo, despite having been cleared for release — had fled the well-chronicled oppression in their homeland, and were living in a ruined village in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains, when the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began in October 2001. Although they indulged in nothing more sinister than renovating the settlement’s ruined buildings, and occasionally firing a bullet from their only weapon, an aging AK-47, while dreaming of rising up against their oppressors, they were targeted in a US bombing raid (in which several of their companions died) and were then captured by enterprising Pakistani villagers after making their way to the Pakistani border.

They were subsequently sold to the Americans, who soon realized that they were not involved with al-Qaeda, but who decided to hold them for their supposed intelligence value. In The Interrogator’s War, a book written by a former military interrogator at the US-run prisons in Afghanistan, the author, writing under the pseudonym of Chris Mackey, explained that the arrival of the Uyghurs triggered a frenzy of activity in the upper echelons of the administration. “[T]he requests for follow-up questions flooded in from Washington,” Mackey wrote, “and every query that came in made it clear that US intelligence was starting from practically zero with this group.”

After their transfer to Guantánamo, the US authorities obligingly allowed Chinese intelligence operatives to visit the prison to question the men, which was, understandably, an experience that some of them found disturbing. Dawut Abdurehim, one of those still held at Guantánamo, said after the visit that he was vaguely threatened, but reported that “some other Uyghurs had conversations with bad, dirty language,” in which they were told by the Chinese delegation that, “when we go back to the country, we’d be killed or sentenced to prison for a long time.” It later became clear that the US administration’s cooperation with the Chinese authorities, which included branding the Uyghur separatist movement (the East Turkistan Islamic Movement) as a terrorist organization, was intimately tied to securing China’s support — or lack of opposition — to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Despite this arrangement, it was the very real threat that the men would be tortured or even killed if they were returned to China that led to the US administration seeking out a third country that would accept the men after they had been cleared of all wrong-doing in the tribunals at Guantánamo — the Combatant Status Review Tribunals — which were established to determine whether, on capture, they had been correctly designated as “enemy combatants.” Despite the US administration’s best efforts at cajoling or bribing other countries to accept the men, however, Albania — a Muslim country, but one of the poorest states in Europe — was the only country that could be prevailed upon to accept them.

Although Adel and his companions found their new life in Albania frustrating, as there are no other Uyghur speakers and there was also no prospect of work, they were fortunate to have been cleared and released. Their 13 companions not only remain in Guantánamo, but some were also subjected to multiple tribunals, as the administration revealed another facet of Guantánamo’s prevailing injustice by reconvening tribunals when they produced what was regarded as the wrong result.

For Adel, at least, the opportunity to rebuild his life in earnest is now a possibility. It is, for the moment, the one bright light in the stories not only of the Uyghurs, but of all the other dispossessed men, captured and imprisoned through chronic failures of intelligence, many of whom are, sadly, still languishing in Guantánamo. It remains to be seen whether this development will open a new avenue for the release of some of the other innocent men (as many as 70, according to some estimates), who are also fearful of returning to their home countries, and whose continued presence in Guantánamo provides a major obstacle to the administration’s stated plans to wind down much of the prison’s operation.

[Note: I am immensely grateful to Sabin Willett, one of Adel’s lawyers, for informing me about his visit to Sweden].

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British historian, and the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (to be published by Pluto Press in October 2007). Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk

He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk

 

 

ANDY WORTHINGTON is a British journalist, the author of ‘The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison’ (published by Pluto Press), and the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new Guantánamo documentary, ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.’ Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk He can be reached at: andy@andyworthington.co.uk        WORDS THAT STICK ?  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail