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Shocking Stories of Sudanese Aid Workers Just Released From Guantánamo

I thank God almighty and express my gratefulness to you," Adel Hamad said. "I can finally see the light after the darkness."
 
 
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Two years after being cleared for release from Guantánamo by a military review board, Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese hospital administrator who worked for a Saudi charity, and Salim Muhood Adem, who worked with orphans for a Kuwaiti NGO, have been repatriated to the country of their birth, where, as lawyer Clive Stafford Smith explained, they are both "safe with their families."

After arriving at Khartoum airport, they were presented with traditional Sudanese clothes by intelligence officers, who took them to a hospital for a short medical examination before returning them to their families and friends. As a noisy celebration got underway, Adel Hamad spoke by phone to his American lawyers, Steve Wax and William Teesdale of the Federal Public Defender's office in Oregon. "I thank God almighty and express my gratefulness to you," he said. "I can finally see the light after the darkness."

If the administration was hoping to lie low for a while, and weather the recent torrent of criticism over its post-9/11 detention policies - in the Supreme Court, in connection with the destruction of CIA videotapes chronicling the torture of detainees, and through its generally inept attempts to pursue war crimes trials at Guantánamo itself - the release of these men will provide no comfort whatsoever, as their stories highlight some of the most egregious flaws in the whole of Guantánamo's sordid history.

Adel Hamad, who is now 49 years old, had been living in Pakistan and working for charity organizations for 17 years. Captured at his home in July 2002, after returning from a holiday in Sudan with his wife and four children, he refuted an allegation that he had any kind of connection to al-Qaeda, telling his tribunal in Guantánamo, "I hate them and I pray to God not to let people among the Muslims carry [out] their ideas." He also pointed out, "If I was a member in al-Qaeda or if I had an association with them I would've not travelled in June 2002 to Sudan with my family on an annual vacation and after the vacation ended I voluntarily returned to Pakistan. If I was a criminal, with association to those criminals, why would I return to Pakistan knowing that Pakistani intelligence was arresting al-Qaeda members?"

His description of his arrest seems particularly shocking, but was actually fairly typical of the dozens of arrests in Pakistan at the time, which were mostly based on dubious or non-existent "intelligence." "I was arrested in my house at 1.30 at night when I woke up and found myself in front of policemen from the Pakistani Intelligence pointing their weapons in my face like I was in a dream or a disturbing nightmare," he told his tribunal. "They were screaming at me, 'don't move!' So I told them, 'what is it, what do you want from me?' And with them was a tall man who did not look Pakistani, which I think he was American. So they handcuffed me and they told me 'where are your papers?' (meaning my passport). So I told them, 'in my shirt pocket.' So the tall man checked my passport and he told me that I came back early from my trip. I told him yes. He spoke in poor Arabic. He saw a legal official Pakistani permit by the date that was in my passport, which had a legal official authorization posted for two years. So the guard hesitated at the end and asked the tall man, 'do we take him?' And the man said, 'yes, take him.' So they took me and detained me in jail in Pakistan for six months and ten days. Later I was moved to Bagram and then to Cuba."

Andy Worthington is author of The Guantanamo Files (Pluto Press, October 2007), Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion , and editor of The Battle of the Beanfield

 
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