Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Guantanamo Cartoon the US Military Don't Want You to See

Among the approximately 355 detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, at least one is a professional journalist.

Sudanese-born Sami al-Hajj was, until his arrest in Afghanistan, working for Arabic television station Al-Jazeera and was covering the war in Afghanistan as a cameraman at the time of his arrest. He has been interned at Guantanamo since June 2002 and has not been charged with any crime.

On hunger strike for the last 8 months, al-Hajj has drawn four cartoons depicting his experiences at the camp. Although the originals were banned by the military authorities, al-Hajj has been able to describe them to his lawyer who in turn described them to cartoonist Lewis Peake who re-created one, titled Scream for Freedom, reproduced above.

The cartoon depicts the journalist being restrained in a chair in which he is force-fed twice a day with liquid food via a tube inserted into his nostril.

One of his lawyers, Cori Crider, was shown the original sketches by her client when she visited him in February of this year. Camp authorities refused to allow the originals to leave the base, understandably concerned over the ensuing bad publicity they might generate. Crider remarked that her client "felt compelled to express the nightmare that he and the rest of the hunger strikers in Guantanamo have been suffering," and that the sketches "speak volumes about what he goes through every time they strap him to that chair for force feeding."

Al-Hajj has, according to another legal representative Clive Stafford-Smith, lost over 18 kilos since starting the hunger strike and has serious intestinal problems. He also has paranoia attacks and has increasing difficulty in communicating normally.

Reporters without Borders has been campaigning for his immediate release and the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility.

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