Friday, May 02, 2008

Al-Jazeera Camerman Released From Guantanamo

Apparently without warning, Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Hajj was released from detention in Guantanamo Bay today and flown home.

Mr al-Hajj had been imprisoned without trial or charge for over six years following his capture in Afghanistan in 2001 when he was on assignment for the Arabic-language TV station.

As previously reported on this blog, Sami al-Hajj had been on hunger strike for over 8 months at Guantanamo and was taken to hospital on a stretcher on his arrival in Khartoum. Announcing his joy at his release, Mr al-Hajj declared, "I have every right to cry after I've survived these seven horrid years of humiliation, repression and injustice for no fault on my part apart from being a Muslim."

While in Guantanamo, al-Hajj drew several cartoons depicting his ordeal. Although these were eventually confiscated by his American guards, al-Hajj was able to show the drawings to his lawyer who in turn described them to professional cartoonist Lewis Peake. Peake then reproduced one, Scream for Freedom, which is included in this post. The cartoon depicts al-Hajj being force fed during his hunger strike, an event that took place regularly and lasted up to two hours at a time.

Reporters without Boarders, who have campaigned for his release and the closure of Guyantanamo bay, issued the following statement: “Sami Al-Haj should never have been held so long. U.S. authorities never proved that he had been involved in any kind of criminal activity. This case is yet another example of the injustice reigning in Guantanamo. The base should be closed as quickly as possible.” Meanwhile, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed al-Hajj's release and announced that "His detention for six years, without the most basic due process, is a grave injustice and represents a threat to all journalists working in conflict areas."

Readers concerned about the erosion of human rights that is being perpetuated by the existence of the Guantanamo Bay facility may wish to take any of the following actions:
  1. Forward the cartoon to as many friends and social networks as possible
  2. Support Amnesty's campaign to close Guantanamo Bay and stop illegal detentions worldwide
  3. Visit Guantanamo Blog and support the campaign to remove the law licenses from American attorneys who have facilitated the current administration's policy of detention without trial.
Al-Hajj's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith has said previously that his client's detention was political and that U.S. interrogators focused almost exclusively on obtaining intelligence on Al-Jazeera and its staff. Stafford Smith also claims that on one occasion, military officials told al-Hajj that he would be released if he agreed to inform U.S. intelligence authorities about the satellite network’s activities, which Al-Haj refused to do.

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