| The real reason behind the confiscation of my passport!

The real reason behind the confiscation of my passport Moazzam Begg, Cageprisoners.


Moazzam Begg reveals exclusively why the British government has been conitually harassing him since his return from Guantanamo, and took his passport for the second time in eight years

In the summer of 2012 I wrote about the first of my two visits to Syria to investigate leads into cases of British and American complicity in the rendition of terrorism suspects to the regime of Bashar al-Asad.

This followed on from something I learned first-hand from CIA and US military intelligence agents who threatened to send me to Egypt or Syria if I failed to co-operate with them during my time in the Bagram prison. I made British MI5/MI6 agents, who were present at every leg of my unlawful imprisonment, fully aware of these threats. Their response was telling me that I had to co-operate with their US counterparts.

On my return to the UK, along with three other British citizens, I received a letter from the Home Office informing me that my ability to apply for a passport had been restricted by the Home Secretary under the powers of the ‘Royal Prerogative’.

Having returned from three years of separation from my loved ones mostly spent in solitary confinement and suffering the effects of regular human rights violations, I didn’t challenge the decision immediately. Instead, I tried to rebuild my lost connection to a traumatised family, including a son I’d never seen.

UK torture complicty

As part of my work for CagePrisoners, however, I began campaigning for prisoners imprisoned at Guantanamo and those held in secret detention sites or who had disappeared after being rendered to countries such as Libya, Egypt, and Syria. We conducted numerous investigations into recurrent reports of extreme torture carried out by the Syrian regime with the complicity of the governments of the US, Canada, France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Britain.

I was also constantly being invited to speak all over the world about issues pertaining to Guantanamo, torture, the rule of law and the war terror. Thus, in 2009 I mounted a successful challenge to get my passport back.

My subsequent extensive travel abroad was greeted simultaneously by meetings with people in power – including unexpected praise from US ambassadors in Luxembourg – to armed police escorting me off planes in order to deny me entry to Canada (where I’d come to meet with men who had been victims of rendition to Syria).

Returning to the UK was often an ordeal in its own right as I would be stopped almost every time and questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. This happened even on visits to Brussels where I was invited to speak at the European Parliament by British MEPs as well as trips to Malaysia where I had been giving evidence in war crimes tribunals set up by the former prime minister there. Often British police would ask me if I had gone to these places to further my claims about British complicity in torture.

During this period three very important things happened which I believe the British intelligence services have been unable to recover from:

1.     A major civil action was taken by 16 former Guantanamo prisoners against the British government and intelligence services for complicity in torture and false imprisonment.

2.     Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a judge-led inquiry to be launched into allegations that the UK was complicit in torture

3.     The Metropolitan police began a criminal investigation against British intelligence services into recurrent allegations of complicity in kidnap, torture and false imprisonment

In 2010 we won a major out-of-court settlement against the government after it was compelled to hand over documents that showed that British government ministers had decided we should be consigned to Guantanamo, despite evidence of mistreatment. At the end of the discussions with the government the then Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke QC sat with us all and listened to what we had to say. It was an odd moment, several of the world’s supposedly most dangerous terrorists sat in a room with a senior Tory minister discussing the previous government’s wrongs. I handed him a copy of my book hoping there might be some proper understanding after this but all the while the government was preparing the Justice and Security Bill – which was passed as law earlier this year – which would ensure that damaging and embarrassing civil actions such as ours would henceforth be heard in secret under colour of ‘national security concerns.’

The inquiry into torture by Sir Peter Gibson was shelved last week in favour of the Intelligence and Security Committee but in his interim report Gibson concluded that MI5 had at best ‘turned a blind eye’ to our abuse.

The criminal investigation is still on-going but I have sat for hours with the Met Police giving witness testimony to them about what happened in Bagram and Guantanamo and, they have gone to meet with rendition victims in Libya and continue to investigate the claims of Shaker Aamer who has been in Guantanamo without charge for twelve years.

Last year several former Guantanamo prisoners, including me, met with Asa Hutchinson, who had served as US Undersecretary for Homeland Security while we were captives at Guantanamo. In a report by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, which included him and two former senior US generals, they described the practice of torture by the US administration as “indisputable”. The report also stated bluntly that the treatment and indefinite detention of the Guantánamo prisoners was “abhorrent and intolerable”.  And the British government had colluded in sending us and keeping us there.


Visiting Syria

Following the uprisings of the ‘Arab spring’ I was able to make several visits to the Arab world and follow up cases of rendition, including the case of a man whose tortured false testimony was used as a justification for both the US and UK to invade Iraq.

In the July last year I also visited Syria where I met numerous former prisoners who had been held by the Asad regime as well as victims of US and UK rendition. One of the men, a Libyan who had resided in Syria had been rendered to Libya after phone call by a British Libyan dissident had been intercepted by MI5 and its contents disclosed to Asad’s mukhabaraatDocuments found in the headquarters of Gaddafi’s mukhabaraat after the fall of Tripoli clearly prove British involvement.

A few months later in October I was called by MI5 who said they wanted to talk to me about my views on the situation in Syria after having read my article. I told them that they must be aware that I was investigating several leads regarding British and American complicity in rendition and torture in Syria. They called back after consulting with their lawyers and said they understood that and would still like to meet. I agreed to speak to them and meet at a hotel in East London. Both MI5 and me had lawyers present.

MI5 were concerned about the possibility of Britons in Syria being radicalised and returning to pose a potential threat to national security. I told them that Britain had nothing to worry about, especially since British foreign policy, at the time, seemed in favour of the rebels. At the end of the meeting I was assured by MI5 that my proposed return to Syria to continue my work would not be hindered.

I travelled later to Syria without incident. I spent much time accumulating testimony and information for a report on the situation of the current prisoners as well as the accounts of those who had been detained and tortured in the past. I witnessed the squalid refugee camps, I visited the wounded – young and old, I buried the young and old, I saw the carnage of the Asad’s killing machine and I saw the beautiful young faces of children aged beyond their years. I witnessed the harsh winter and saw farmers chop down their olive trees to warm themselves. I saw British ambulances, British fire engines, British garbage disposal trucks and British hospitals with British doctors and nurses almost exclusively from Britain’s Muslim community. And yes, there were some British fighters too.

I returned to the UK without hindrance, except for the customary schedule 7 stop.  I was briefly questioned about my visit by border police and returned home shortly after. I came back radicalised enough to speak at numerous events for various charities working out in Syria. I also conducted interviews with people on the ground that are close to the fighters to answer questions about any tangible threat to the UK to help allay the fears of the British public and intelligence services.


Schedule 7 stops

Since then I have been ‘randomly’ stopped under schedule 7 several times while travelling.

The last time this happened was last month when I was en route to a conference in Turkey about the mass-imprisonments and torture occurring in Egypt after the military coup. British police suggested that I might be going to Syria, despite showing them details of itinerary and return flights for the following weekend.

I was made to miss my flight but the police were prepared to rebook me for the next available one meaning that they were neither preventing me from going to Turkey, or even potentially to Syria. I refused as I would have had missed the main conference by then and returned home. However, they took possession of my iPad and phone and kept them for a week. Both items contained sensitive information and documents pertaining to CagePrisoners’ investigations on both complicity in torture and responses to the British government’s measures in tackling extremism.

In anticipation of future harassment at airports I began legal proceedings to challenge the constant stops at airports under schedule 7 and informed the Home Office, the border police and British airports about my intended travel via my lawyers. We received a response from their lawyers, which acknowledged the letter but did little else.


Change of language

The language and attitude of the British government has steadily changed towards the Syrian opposition especially since it has openly chosen an Islamic path. Britain went to war based on the falsehood that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Clear evidence of the use of chemical weapons, in addition to over 120,000 dead in Syria has not elecited any such reponse. And we are gratful for that. No one wants to see British involvement in Syria, especially the Syrians who know well what happened next door in Iraq.

As a result, however, the Asad regime is now regarded as the better of the two choices. That is why last week the decision to stop even non-lethal aid for western-backed factions in Syria was taken by Britain. But, despite there being no evidence of a tangible threat from British fighters returning Syria (the contrary in fact) and certainly not the type that might have been posed from the same in Iraq or Afghanistan because of the obivous presence of British troops, the government now wants to remove not just the passport but the nationality of Britons suspected of being involved in fighting in Syria.

Simply speaking the government has lost all touch with the reality on the ground and the enormous sentiments in the Muslim community regarding the Syrian conflict. Despite seeing countless convoys leaving with aid from Britain for Syria every month they cannot fathom that this is simply about Syria, not Britian.


Losing my passport – again

After a trip to South Africa last week – which had coincided with the funeral of Nelson Mandela – where I spoke extensively about the complicity of the British government in rendition and torture, I was met upon arrival at Heathrow by officials who served me with a notice to seize my passport under the Royal Prerogative stating that it was assessed my previous visits to Syria had constituted involvement in terrorism. No explanation other than that was given.

I am certain that the only reason I am being continually harassed – something that began long before any visit to Syria – is because CagePrisoners and I are at the forefront of investigations and assertions based on hard evidence that British governments, past and present, have been wilfully complicit in torture.

How logical is it to stop me from travelling anywhere in the world simply because they want to prevent me from going to Syria? Numerous British citizens have been prevented from entering Turkey at the behest of the British authorities. They could have done the same with me. There is no doubt in my mind why this has happened.

It is these government-shaking issues are the real reason why I have been continually harassed and targeted by the authorities in this country. I am not and never have been in anyway a threat to them, except through my words, which simply call for accountability.

At a time when Islam and the Muslim community is facing an unprecedented attack via politicians, the media and ultimately some sections of the public affected by this onslaught, it is the aim of CagePrisoners and myself in trying to empower the community that is being purposefully undermined.

Since our aim is a good and just one I do not believe our detractors will succeed.



| Now even US general who opened Guantanamo prison says shut it down!

U.S. general who opened Guantanamo prison says shut it down ~ Jane Sutton, Reuters.



MIAMI (Reuters) – The U.S. general who opened the Guantanamo detention camp said Thursday it was a mistake and should be shut down because “it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

“In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong,” Marine Major General Michael Lehnert wrote in a column published in the Detroit Free Press.

Lehnert, now retired from the military and living in Michigan, was the first commander of the task force that opened the detention camp in January 2002 at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

He said the United States opened it “because we were legitimately angry and frightened” by the September 11 hijacked plane attacks in 2001 and thought the captives sent there would provide “a treasure trove of information and intelligence.”

He quickly became convinced that most of them never should have been sent there because they had little intelligence value and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes, he wrote.

“We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture,” Lehnert wrote. “Our decision to keep Guantanamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

Congress is debating an annual defense bill containing language that would give President Barack Obama more flexibility to repatriate or resettle Guantanamo detainees.

But the proposal maintains an “unwise and unnecessary ban” on transferring any to the United States, Lehnert said.

“Still, this is a step forward toward closing our nation’s most notorious prison — a prison that should never have been opened,” he wrote.

The first detainees arrived on January 11, 2002, one week after Lehnert was ordered to build the first 100 cells. The crude chain-link cages known as Camp X-Ray were used for about three and a half months and replaced by a series of more permanent prisons.

The United States has since held 779 men at the facility and 162 remain. Lehnert noted that many had been cleared for transfer by U.S. defense and intelligence agencies but were “stuck by politics.”

He said a handful should be transferred to the United States for prosecution or incarceration. He acknowledged the risk that some released detainees could go on to plan attacks against the United States, but said the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law trump that risk.

“It is time that the American people and our politicians accepted a level of risk in the defense of our constitutional values, just as our service men and women have gone into harm’s way time after time to defend our Constitution,” Lehnert wrote. “If we make a mockery of our values, it calls us to question what we are really fighting for.”

He added, “It is time to close Guantanamo. Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility.”

(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Vicki Allen)



Related articles

Gitmo 2 Gitmo Collage

| US scales back plans for Gitmo prosecutions to LESS THAN 3%!

United States scales back plans for Guantanamo prosecutions ~ Jane Sutton, GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba, Reuters.

(Reuters) – Far fewer prisoners will be tried in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals than the Obama administration originally planned because a recent court ruling cast doubts on the viability of some charges, the chief prosecutor for the tribunals said.

The president’s Guantanamo Review Task Force had said 36 detainees could be prosecuted, but the tribunal’s chief prosecutor put the figure at 20 at most.

The number set by the task force after a review completed in 2010 was “ambitious” in light of a recent court ruling, said Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for the tribunals.

He said captives who would be prosecuted by the Guantanamo tribunals included the seven whose trials are finished and the six facing pre-trial hearings this week and next.

The drastic scaling back of the Guantanamo prosecutions comes after a U.S. appeals court in Washington threw out the conviction of Osama bin Laden‘s former driver, Salim Hamdan, who was found guilty in 2008 of providing material support for terrorism.

An appeals court agreed with defence arguments that material support was not internationally recognized as a war crime when Hamdan worked for bin Laden’s motor pool in Afghanistanbetween 1996 and 2001.

Congress made material support a war crime in a 2006 law underpinning the Guantanamo tribunals, but the appeals court said the law could not be retroactively applied.

The tribunals were established by the Bush administration and revised by the Obama administration to try suspected al Qaeda operatives and their associates on terrorism charges outside the regular U.S. civilian and military courts.

By the time the appeals court threw out Hamdan’s conviction in October 2012, he had finished his sentence and returned to Yemen. But the ruling dissuaded prosecutors from pursuing cases against other prisoners they had considered charging with providing material support to al Qaeda, Martins said.

He spoke to Reuters on Monday as lawyers, court personnel, journalists and observers travelled to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba for two weeks of pre-trial hearings set to begin on Tuesday in the pending cases.


Hours later on Monday, the Pentagon unveiled charges against an Iraqi prisoner identified as a senior al Qaeda commander, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi. Prosecutors allege he funded and oversaw all of al Qaeda’s operations against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan from March 2002 to 2004.

The charges accuse him of using unlawful tactics such as firing on a medical evacuation helicopter, ordering his forces to kill anyone who tried to surrender, detonating car bombs and suicide vests in civilian areas, and videotaping the resulting deaths for propaganda purposes.

Martins did not identify the handful of other prisoners he still wanted to charge but said he would concentrate on those linked to the most serious crimes.

Pre-trial hearings were set to resume on Tuesday in two of the highest-profile cases at Guantanamo, both of them death penalty cases.

Lawyers will debate a long list of secrecy issues concerning Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi captive accused of directing suicide bombers to ram a boat full of explosives into the side of the USS Cole while the warship was fuelling off Yemen in 2000. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed in the explosion.

Pre-trial hearings are set next week in the case against five prisoners accused of plotting the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and propelled the United States into an ongoing global war against al Qaeda.

The defendants include the alleged mastermind of the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four men accused of training and providing money to the hijackers.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Vicki Allen)


Gitmo Collage

Gitmo 2_____________________________________________________________________

Less than 3% of all Guantanamo prisoners will be tried, prosecutor announces

Commenting on the announcement by Guantanamo’s Chief Prosecutor that a total of just 20 detainees – down from a previous estimate of 36 – are to receive trials, Cori Crider, a Guantanamo attorney and Strategic Director at human rights charity Reprieve said:

“With nearly 800 people having been sent to Guantanamo over the years, this represents a total of under 3% who will even make it to trial – let alone be found guilty.  This shockingly low figure demonstrates what a terrible mistake Guantanamo has been, and just how many lives have been ruined for no good reason.

“Meanwhile, more than half the prisoners still held in Guantanamo have been cleared for release, yet are going nowhere.  It is high time President Obama got his act together and delivered on his promise to close this prison.”


Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.


| Enterally feeding: US denies what detainees clearly describe as Gitmo force-feeding!

US deny force-feeding in Guantanamo. As detainees describe force-feeding in Guantanamo ~ REPRIEVE UK.

The US authorities at Guantanamo have publicly denied that they are force feeding hunger-striking detainees. Meanwhile detainees continue to describe being force-fed.

In a BBC Radio 4 Today report from the prison, Colonel John Bogdan – who is in charge of the prison camp – denied that the US is force-feeding detainees on hunger-strike. When BBC reporter Jonathan Beale, reporting from the camp, said:“I’d call it force-feeding” Colonel Bogdan, replied: “It’s a bit of semantics…it is a medical procedure. We do this enteral feeding to regular patients in regular hospitals who need to be fed.”

Marine General John Kelly – Chief of the US Southern Command – also recently denied that the US engages in force-feeding, a practice denounced by the American Medical Association, the World Medical Association and the UN, saying: “We don’t force-feed right now at Gitmo.

Yet detainees who are being force-fed continue to describe the process to their lawyers in phone calls, letters and during legal visits.  Up to 140 detainees are now on hunger strike and the force-feeding figures are steadily rising – to 41 in the main camps this morning, according to the US military.

Reprieve client Abu Wa’el told one of his lawyers on a recent phone call. “I am protesting peacefully and they are taking me forcefully…they brought ERF and starting force-feeding, forcefully…they take me forcefully to feed me…all I am doing is a peaceful protest…but they are putting me on a force-feeding chair. Really, it should be called a torture chair and not a feeding chair.”

Another of Reprieve’s clients, Ahmed Belbacha, has said: “Later, they began feeding me through the nose The guard entered the tube through my nose, and then pumped the feeder. The food rushed into my stomach too quickly and I started to feel ill. I asked him to reduce the speed. He not only refused, but tried to turn it up.”

In a recently published op-ed in the New York Times, Samir Mokbel described the process: “I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”

Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and counsel for several hunger-strikers, said: “If the commander-in-chief calls it force-feeding, you’d think those below him would take note. Instead the military ‘PR’ strategy is to peddle an alternative reality that no one believes. My clients are protesting their indefinite detention using the only tool at their disposal: a hunger strike. They don’t want to be fed. And yet detainees are being brutally force-fed. It’s a fact.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk

2. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.


Gitmo 2


Guantnamo hunger strikers subjected to harsh force feeding method condemend as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment ~ The Guardian.

Human rights lawyers and activists have lobbied US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel to end the use of a method of force feeding being used against Guantnamo hunger strikers, which they state is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

100 of the 166 detainees are now on hunger strike. Detainees are being shackled to a chair, fitted with a mask and have tubes inserted through their nose and into their stomachs for up to two hours at a time. Detainess desribe the practice as excruciatingly painful. This method violates the Geneva Conventions.

Lawyers for the detainees also state that they are being threatened with humiliating body cavity searches if they wish to have any contact with their lawyers, a practice condemned as sexual abuse.


Gitmo Collage



| Gitmo prison guard converts to Islam because of the living faith of Muslim detainees!

Guantanamo Bay prison guard converts to Islam because of the living faith of Muslim detainees ~ Kay Campbell, religion reporter for The Huntsville Times.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Terry Holdbrooks Jr., 29, wears the beard of a bald Amish guy, the tattoos of a punk kid, and the twitchy alertness of a military policeman. Take him to a restaurant, and he’ll choose the chair with its back against the wall. Take his photo, and he’ll prefer to look away from the camera.

Part of that wariness Holdbrooks learned while guarding detainees from 2003 to 2004 at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. holding tank for military prisoners on the southeastern point of Cuba.

And part of that wariness he developed after he converted to Islam while stationed at Guantanamo. That was after months of midnight conversations with the Muslim detainees, and his conversion prompted several of his fellow soldiers to try several times to talk some “sense” into him so he wouldn’t “go over to the enemy,” as they put it.

Holdbrooks told the story of his conversion and of his observations of the controversial detention center to an audience of about 80 people at the Huntsville Islamic Center in Huntsville Saturday night, May 25, 2013. The camp, he said, tramples on every human right the U.S. has said it supports. The current hunger strike by 102 of the 166 prisoners has crossed 100 days. Many of those men were cleared to go home five or six years ago, Holdbrooks said. Their home countries tell their lawyers the U.S. won’t release them, and the U.S. tells them their home countries won’t receive them.

“They’ve lost hope. They’ve decided it’s better to die,” Holdbrooks said. “One of them is down to 70 pounds.”

Holdbrooks is traveling with Khalil Meek, a co-founder and executive director of the Texas-based Muslim Legal Fund of America. They are raising money for that non-profit civil rights organization, which helps pay for legal help for Muslims who are American citizens and who have been accused of vague crimes or placed on no-fly lists and other restrictions under the increasingly broad “anti-terrorism” provisions.

Terry Holdbrooks jpg.jpg
“Traitor?” by Terry Holdbrooks Jr.

Even more than raising money for legal defense, Holdbrooks said, he wants to stir Americans to action. Holdbrooks’ self-published account of his experience at Guantanamo, “Traitor?,” was published this month — a 164-page single-space account whittled by an editor he worked with from his 500-page manuscript.

It’s available for sale online at www.GtmoBook.com.

“I tell this story and I wrote the book so idiot-simple that anyone could read and understand that the existence of Guantanamo is something to be ashamed of,” Holdbrooks said. “I just want to share information with people in depth and then let them make up their mind.”

“I may have become a Muslim, but I am not a traitor.”

12-year-old ‘terrorist’

At Guantanamo, Holdbrooks mulled over the information Army instructors had taught about Islam as he’d watched the so-called terrorists day after day. What he’d been told wasn’t lining up with what he observed. The detainees read their Qurans. They kept the daily schedule of prayers. They remained undiscouraged under horrendous pressure.

One of his duties was to escort prisoners to interrogations and then return them to their cells. He knew the kind of stresses and tortures they were undergoing in repeated questionings. He had dodged their thrown poop when anger ripped down the row of mesh wire cages. When detainees were punished with the “frequent flier program,” he’d moved men from one cell to another every two hours, round the clock.

“How can you wake up in Guantanamo and smile?” Holdbrooks asked them. “How can you believe there’s a God who cares about you?”

“I am happy to have spent time in Guantanamo,” said one detainee, the man who became his mentor, after his release. “Allah was testing my ‘deen’ (faith). When else would have I have five years away from all responsibilities, when the only thing I had was my Quran, and I could read it and learn Arabic and mental discipline?”

“Fortunately for us,” Holdbrooks said. “Most of them are bigger men than some of us would be.”

As Holdbrooks got to know the detainees, as he learned their stories during his long night shifts, he came to see the detainees as individuals. Many were men who enjoyed talking about the same things he does: Ethics, philosophy, history, religion. Many let him know what they thought of the 9/11 attacks: That they violate the teachings of Islam.

“Here, I had all the freedom in the world, and I’m miserable,” Holdbrooks said. “They have nothing, and they’re happy – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out something’s going on.”

Terry Holdbrooks Jr.jpg
Former Guatanamo Bay Army prison guard Terry Holdbrooks Jr. addresses an audience in the fellowship hall of the Huntsville Islamic Center in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday, May 25, 2013. (Kay Campbell / KCampbell@al.com)

Tough kid

Terry Holdbrooks Jr. grew up a troubled kid with junkie parents who dumped him at 7 on his ex-hippy grandparents to be raised. By 18, he’d finished both high school – a year early – and trade school. He loved drugs, sex, rock-and-roll and tattoos – his ink would eventually cover his arms from shoulder to wrist. His earlobes have been stretched to so that they can hold a plug that a thumb could pass through.

So when Holdbrooks walked into an Army recruiter’s office in Arizona a year after 9/11 saying he wanted to “join the Army, go kill people and get paid for it,” the recruiter looked up briefly and turned back to his computer. “No, thank you,” the recruiter said.

“This was still right after 9/11,” Holdbrooks said. “The Army was flush with recruits, and they could take the cream of the crop.”

It wasn’t until his fourth visit to the office — when he took the ASVAB, the military’s aptitude test — that the recruiter realized Holdbrooks was worth pursuing.

Holdbrooks signed up for military police because it offered a bonus. When his unit was transferred to Guantanamo, the sergeant detoured through New York to take them to Ground Zero.

“Remember what Muslims did to us,” the sergeant told the soldiers. “Remember who you’re protecting.”

So Holdbrooks arrived at the hot, seared base expecting hulking killers in every cell. What he found were doctors, taxi drivers, professors. One scary “terrorist” was 12. Another was in his 70s and dying of tuberculosis. Holdbrooks identifies himself as antagonistic, questioning, independent person. He is naturally suspicious – and found his suspicions turning in a surprising direction.

“You start thinking, ‘Was I lied to?’” Holdbrooks said.

In this March 30, 2010 photo reviewed by the U.S. military, a U.S. trooper stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the detention facility on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Priceless gift

In the time he had off from his escort and cleaning duties at the prison, Holdbrooks began reading more about Islam online. The prisoner he talked the most to, a former chef from England, gave him his own copy of the Quran.

“You’ve got to realize the significance of that,” Holdbrooks said, his tough bravado breaking for a moment. “He’s in this cage for 23 and a-half hours every day. If you lose your Quran, you’re out of luck. That’s it. You’ve lost everything.”

It took Holdbrooks three nights to read it. As a restless seeker in his teens, he had studied Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and never saw much sense in them. Monotheism, he decided, was responsible for a lot of misery, and he renounced religion.

But in the Quran, for the first time, he found a religious text that meets his criteria of logic.

“It made sense from beginning to end,” Holdbrooks said. “It doesn’t contradict itself. There’s no magic. It’s just a simple instruction manual for living.”

After three months of intense study and conversation, one night Holdbrooks told the detainee that he wanted to become Muslim.

“No,” the man said.

“Whoa,” Holdbrooks said, stirring laughter during his talk in Huntsville. “The guard wants to embrace Islam, and the bad guy says ‘no’? I must really suck.”

The detainee explained what he meant. Converting to Islam meant Holdbrooks would have to change his life. Change his diet. Quit drugs. Quit drinking. Stop profanity. Quit getting tattoos. And be prepared for his relationships to everything – wife, Army, government – to change.

Little by little, Holdbrooks made the changes. Holdbrooks found a measure of health, discipline and peace of mind he’d never had before. And he found a family.

“Every little step I took toward Islam, Islam was taking more steps toward me,” Holdbrooks said.

One night in December 2003, he was ready to stumble through the declaration of faith in Arabic. He read from a card on which the detainee had transliterated into English syllables the Arabic words for, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

“I knew I’d finally said it right when their faces lit up,” Holdbrooks said.

Guantanamo protest.jpg
Holding a single flower each, two protesters wearing black hoods and orange jump suits take part in a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 24, 2013, calling for the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The protest was organized by a coalition of groups including Witness Against Torture. Former Guantanamo Army guard Terry Holdbrooks Jr., who spoke in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday, May 25, 2013, is among those calling for a swift closure for the prison. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

After Gitmo

But after Gitmo, when he rotated back to the States, he lost his grip on both peace and discipline.

He was honorably discharged early — for “generalized personality disorder,” the Army told him, although Holdbrooks wonders if his new faith influenced the decision. He and his wife divorced. He began trying to drink away his memories of Guantanamo.

“But you can’t drink away things like that,” Holdbrooks said.

By the end of 2008, he found himself wondering, “When was I happy?” The answer, he realized, surprised him: When he was in Guantanamo – because there he was being a good Muslim.

Holdbrook has been clean since 2009 – a victory he credits to following Muslim dietary codes, including daytime fasting several days a week all year, not just during Ramadan. Last fall, he married a nurse he met at his mosque. They had spent a year of careful getting acquainted in accordance with Muslim guidelines – which meant a lot of chaperoned visits, he said. He’s finished a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He spends most weekends traveling with the Muslim Legal Fund of America to tell his story and to encourage Muslims to become involved in pushing for policy changes.

Holdbrooks is part of a small, but growing, number of former Gitmo guards who are speaking out about conditions at the center. But in addition for adding to the chorus calling for the camp’s closure, he has a message for fellow Muslims.

If the Prophet Muhammad were to come back to Earth today, Holdbrooks said, he would find the best examples of Islam in the United States. American Muslims have a responsibility to live their faith so others can see a true example, not the perversions of the terrorists or the tyranny of corrupt governments in some majority-Muslim nations.

“You can’t be afraid to be a Muslim in public,” Holdbrooks said. “Tell your neighbors you’re Muslim. Invite them into your home. Invite them to visit the masjid to see our secret bomb factories.”

“If it’s time to pray – pray. The whole world is an acceptable place to pray.”

Note for further reading: A book just published by the University of Florida Press:“Selling Guantanamo: Exploding the Propaganda surrounding America’s Most Notorious Military Prison” by Berry College associate professor of government John Hickman, takes the idea of its prison back to its original justification.

truth 01


| “Humanity Perseveres” at Guantanamo amid chaos of hunger strike!

“Humanity Perseveres” at Guantanamo Amid Chaos of Hunger Strike ~ Jason Leopold, The Freedom of the Press Foundation.

On May 15, military officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility escorted visiting media to maximum security Camp 5, where non compliant prisoners are held, for a rare opportunity to observe the prisoners’ morning prayer. Aliya Hussain, who works with the Center for Constitutional Rights‘ Global Justice Initiative, tweeted after she watched the video, “Despite all that’s cruel and unjust at Guantanamo, humanity perseveres.”

The visit to Camp 5 took place amid a mass hunger strike that is now entering its fourth month and counts 103 prisoners as taking part in the protest and 32 who are being force-fed. Media arrived at the camp at 4:30 am and were instructed to remain silent as the officer in charge of the camp did not want prisoners to know we were present. The prisoners did not leave their cells for prayer so we were unable to see them. What you are hearing (at 3:00 into the video) is the leader’s call to prayer being done from inside of his prison cell. The closest we in the media came to a seeing a prisoner on the cell block is when one man stuck his arms through a bean hole to hand the guard an unknown object. The guards walking the block are checking the prisoners cells every one to three minutes in accordance with their standard operating procedures. They are wearing “splash shields” over their faces to protect from being splashed with urine and feces, the military said.

As we exited the camp and waited outside for the gate to open, I looked up behind me and could see three very narrow prison cell windows. In one stood a prisoner dressed in white. He stared at me and gave me a “thumbs down” sign.


Gitmo Collage


It is so unbelievably poignant that those publicly slandered in the media as the worst of the worst retain such dignity amidst such adversity – if ever an advert championing innocence till proven guilty was needed surely this is it – from the festering US sore called GITMO.

PS. This should be mandatory viewing and reading for all NATO chiefs.

Gitmo 2

| Disgracing democracy: The lost Briton of Guantanamo!

The lost Briton of Guantanamo: He’s been cleared – but had a devastating secret about MI6 and the Iraq invasion which means he can never be freed ~ DAVID ROSE, Mail Online.

  • Shaker Aamer, 44, has been a prisoner for more than 11 years
  • He has been cleared twice for freedom but still not released
  • The US says he can only leave Guantanamo for Saudi Arabia
  • Aamer says he witnessed torture that led to bogus intelligence for Iraq
Shaker Aamer with two of his childrenGuantanamo prisoner: Shaker Aamer with two of his children

The last UK prisoner at America’s infamous terror jail camp at Guantanamo Bay is guarding a devastating secret: he witnessed the torture of another detainee in an Afghan interrogation unit which led to the crucial, bogus ‘intelligence’  that sparked Britain and America’s invasion of Iraq.

Shaker Aamer, 44, a father of five from Battersea, South London, has been a prisoner for more than 11 years even though he has never been charged – and has twice been cleared for freedom by the US.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that America wants to silence him permanently by saying he can only leave Guantanamo for Saudi Arabia, the country he left at the age of 17. But his  lawyers say if he goes there he would be forbidden from speaking in public or seeing his British wife and children – and would end up in another jail.

Aamer’s case is so explosive the Commons is set to hold an emergency debate on his case on Wednesday. A Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed:

  • Aamer has told his lawyer how British MI6 officers were present when he was brutally assaulted and interrogated at Bagram air base in Afghanistan – where he was known as ‘Prisoner No  5’.
  •   He said MI6 officers were also in attendance when similar treatment was meted out to Ibn Shaikh al-Libi – who was then ‘rendered’ to Egypt and tortured into claiming Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was training Al Qaeda terrorists how to use chemical weapons. That was the vital confession used by President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to justify war – and which persuaded Tony Blair that Saddam had to be toppled. If Aamer’s allegation that British officials witnessed Al-Libi’s ill-treatment is true, it would imply MI6 either knew about or was directly involved in his rendition to Egypt – one of the darkest episodes of the so-called ‘war on terror’.
Guantanamo bay: A US Army MP holds down the head of a detainee at Guantanamo so he is not identified Imprisoned: A US Army MP holds down the head of a detainee at Guantanamo so he is not identified

  • The Guantanamo detention facility is close to meltdown. Last week dozens of soldiers in riot gear stormed its  minimum-security section, Camp 6. They fired on inmates with rubber  bullets because mutineers had blocked the lenses of CCTV cameras with  towels, sprayed guards with urine, and refused to allow their cells to be searched. The inmates involved are now all in solitary confinement.
  •  A hunger strike started before the action has now spread through the entire jail. Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale said 63 of Guantanamo’s 166 prisoners are now refusing food, up from 45 on Tuesday.

Aamer joined the strike in early  February and has already lost several stone. Fifteen men are being force- fed through tubes inserted into their stomachs via their nostrils and four have been hospitalised.

Aamer’s back story is similar to those of many of the other nine British citizens and eight British residents who ended up at Guantanamo. Like them, he was caught in the chaos which followed the fall of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Like them, he has paid a heavy price.

But there is a difference. All the others were released years ago, the first batch in March 2004.

Born in Medina, Saudi Arabia, Aamer studied in America and worked as a US Army translator during the first Gulf War. He moved to London where he continued translating and met and married Zin Siddique, a British Muslim woman.

They had already had four children and Zin was pregnant with their fifth when they went to Afghanistan – where Aamer worked for a charity – in the  summer of 2001.

Prison life: Detainees at Camp Delta exercising. Shaker Aamer claims he has been abused by US soldiers during his detention at Guantanamo bayPrison life: Detainees at Camp Delta exercising. Shaker Aamer claims he has been abused by US soldiers during his detention at Guantanamo bay

Like other British Guantanamo detainees, he was captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance and handed over to the Americans – who were paying thousands of pounds in bounties for supposed Al Qaeda members.

After a short time at Bagram and Kandahar, he reached Guantanamo on February 14, 2002.

He has since become a high- profile figure – partly because of his fluent English – and he acts as a spokesman for the prisoners and led earlier protests and  hunger strikes.

His lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, of human rights organisation Reprieve, says his actions as a  figurehead cannot account for his failure to be released. Other such prisoners have been freed – including Ahmed Errachidi, a former chef in London. Errachidi was even dubbed ‘the General’ by his captors because of how he organised protests and resistance at the camp.

And the second of two tribunals which cleared Aamer was exhaustive. Established soon after Barack Obama became US President in 2009, its remit was to review all remaining Guantanamo cases. It involved not only extensive interviews between Aamer and officials from Washington, but input from all the US intelligence and security agencies as to whether he might be dangerous.

Mr Stafford Smith said their conclusion was unequivocal – he wasn’t a danger.

Yet neither Aamer nor his lawyers were told he had been cleared for release only to Saudi Arabia. Official disclosure of this critical fact emerged only six weeks ago when, after further talks with the Americans, Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote to Mr Stafford Smith.

Detainees wear orange jump suits at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, the year after Aamer was detained there. They cannot hear, see or smell anythingDetainees wear orange jump suits at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, the year after Aamer was detained there. They cannot hear, see or smell anything

‘We remain committed to securing Mr Aamer’s release and return to the UK,’ he said. ‘However, it is our understanding Mr Aamer has only ever been cleared for transfer to Saudi Arabia.’

Even before the current wave  of hunger strikes and protests, Aamer’s situation was wretched. In the high-security wing known as Camp 5, inmates spend 23 hours a day in cells measuring 6 ft by 10 ft, containing nothing but a toilet with a small built-in sink, a  metal shelf bed with a thin mattress, and a few possessions such as a Koran and toothbrush.

Their recreation takes place in isolation – in a small unroofed area in the middle of the block. There is no association between prisoners: the only way they can communicate is by yelling down the corridor.

Now, however, conditions are much worse, with 24-hour solitary confinement. When Aamer asks for anything – even a bottle of water – he becomes a victim of what is known as ‘the Forcible Cell Extraction team’.

The team of six soldiers shackle his feet and arms behind his back and then lift him ‘like a potato sack’ – so that he cannot cause any trouble. It is a process Aamer finds ‘excruciatingly painful’ because of a long-term back injury.

Guantanamo Bay, CubaPrisoner: Shaker Aamer has been a prisoner at Guantanamo for more than 11 years even though he has twice been cleared for freedom by the US

Jane Ellison – the Aamer  family’s Conservative MP in  Battersea who has been instrumental in securing this week’s Commons debate – said the US insistence on sending him to Saudi Arabia was ‘completely illogical’.

She said: ‘It would be disastrous for his family if he were sent to Saudi Arabia. Obama may not have been able to close Guantanamo, but I don’t understand why he can’t at least solve one small part of a very big problem by letting Shaker return to Britain.

‘It just doesn’t stack up. My feeling is they won’t let him go because he knows too much and if he spoke out it would just be too embarrassing – for some people in America, and perhaps also in Britain.’

So what does Aamer know that other prisoners don’t? Mr Stafford Smith believes it is linked to what was happening in Bagram in January 2002, just before Al-Libi was taken away by CIA agents from military custody and sent to Egypt. Aamer’s lawyer’s notes record he arrived in Bagram on Christmas Eve, 2001, and from the beginning, ‘British intelligence officers were complicit in my torture’.

There were, he has said, always at least two UK agents based there, and they witnessed the abuse he  suffered: ‘I was walled – meaning that someone grabbed my head and slammed it into a wall. Further, they beat my head. I was also beaten with an axe handle. I was threatened with other kinds of abuse. People were shouting that they would kill me or  I would die.’

Aamer told Mr Stafford Smith: ‘I was a witness to the torture of Ibn Shaikh al-Libi in Bagram. His case seems to me to be particularly important, and my witnessing of it particularly relevant to my ongoing detention  .  .  .  He was there being abused at the same time I was.

‘He was there being abused when the British came there. Indeed, I was taken into the room in the Bagram detention facility where he was being held. There were a number of interrogators in the room.’


The Guantanamo prison  in Cuba today bears little resemblance to the collection of open cages – known as Camp X-Ray – where prisoners were held when it opened in 2002.

Both they and their successor, Camp Delta, a collection of prefabricated sheds with hard roofs, have long been disused.

Instead, prisoners are held  in three large, concrete two-storey buildings – each ringed by concentric security fences, along Recreation Road, which leads along the Cuban coast to a beach.
Camp 5 and Camp 6 are for ‘ordinary’ prisoners, guarded by the US military.

The super-secret Camp 7 is run by the CIA and reserved for prisoners formerly held in its ‘black site’ jails in countries such as Poland and Thailand. They include some of the world’s most notorious terrorists – including Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who face military trial as the alleged architects of 9/11.

Most of the remaining 166 detainees are said to be much less dangerous.

According to a survey by US lawyers, more than three-quarters of them were not captured ‘on the battlefield’ by  Americans – but sold for huge bounty payments by the Afghan Northern Alliance or Pakistani tribesmen.

1996 – US-educated Saudi translator Shaker Aamer  settles in London, marries  Briton Zin Siddique.

Summer 2001 – Aamer takes family to Kabul and works for Saudi charity.

September 11, 2001 – Al Qaeda terrorists attack America.

November 2001 – Taliban regime falls.

December 18, 2001 – Ibn Shaikh al-Libi captured, taken to Bagram.

December 24, 2001 – Aamer handed to US troops by Northern Alliance; taken to Bagram.
Early January 2002 – Aamer allegedly abused with UK officials present and witnesses abuse of Al-Libi.

Mid January 2002 – Al-Libi sent by CIA to Egypt for torture.

February 14, 2002 – Aamer flown to Guantanamo.

October 2002-February 2003 – Bogus claims that Iraq trained Al Qaeda in WMD, based on  Al-Libi’s tortured confessions, made by Bush and Powell.

2004–09 – All 17 other  UK-based Guantanamo detainees freed – but Aamer  kept at camp.
October 2006 – Al-Libi flown to Libya and jailed.

November 2008  – Obama pledges to close Guantanamo.

July 2009 – Al-Libi allegedly murdered in Libyan jail.

2007 and 2009 – Aamer cleared by US tribunals as safe to release but he is not freed.

February 2013 – Foreign Secretary reveals US will only allow Aamer’s transfer to Saudi Arabia, not UK.

April 2013 – Guantanamo close to meltdown with mass hunger strike and riot.

He told Mr Stafford Smith the interrogators included two MI6 men. Very soon afterwards Al-Libi was removed from Bagram and rendered. His false claims that Saddam trained Al Qaeda went straight into a crucial speech by President Bush in October 2002, and Colin Powell’s notorious presentation to the UN Security Council in February 2003, just weeks before the invasion.

America’s deep embarrassment at the bogus claims Al-Libi made under torture has long been apparent.  He was supposedly a ‘high value detainee’, the former head of a  terrorist training camp, and after leaving Egypt spent years at a CIA ‘black site’ prison – a secret prison  where enhanced interrogation techniques were used.

In 2006, other prisoners judged equally important were moved from the black sites to Guantanamo’s  top-secret Camp 7. But Al-Libi was sent instead to Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya. He died in mysterious  circumstances. The regime claimed he committed suicide. Its then- opponents, now Libya’s government, say he was murdered in his cell.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said she could not discuss the links between Aamer and the Al-Libi case because ‘it is the long-standing policy of successive governments not to comment on intelligence matters’.

The Pentagon’s Lt Col Breasseale  said: ‘We do not disclose the nature of our diplomatic discussions with foreign governments.’

Mr Stafford Smith said: ‘I’m sure William Hague is sincere. But other UK officials may have a strong interest in maintaining what amounts to a cover-up – either by keeping Aamer at Guantanamo, or having him sent to Saudi Arabia.’

Last night Aamer’s father-in-law Saeed Siddique said: ‘Shaker was cleared for release years ago. We all miss him desperately.

‘It is almost impossible to describe how terrible it is to go through this day after agonising day. Why isn’t he home – to his British family, and to London where he belongs.’



Gitmo Collage


| Join ACLU and ask Obama to deliver by finally closing Gitmo!

Close Guantánamo ~ ACLU, Because Freedom can’t protect itself!


More than 10 years have passed since the first prisoner arrived in Guantánamo Bay, making it the longest-standing war prison in U.S. history. Almost 800 men have passed through Guantánamo’s cells. Today, 166 men remain. Fashioned as an “island outside the law” where terrorism suspects could be detained without process and interrogated without restraint, Guantánamo has been a catastrophic failure on every front. It is long past time for this shameful episode in American history to be brought to a close.



Ten years on, we are stuck in a multi-branch quagmire, where no arm of government is willing to act to end Guantánamo’s blight on our reputation and our security. All must change tack, and Guantánamo must close.

  • The Supreme Court must define the scope of war-time detention, and ensure that the right to habeas corpus is a meaningful one that tests, and does not endorse, the government’s case.
  • Congress must lift the unnecessary restrictions on transfer and release from Guantánamo, particularly for the 86 men whom our security services and military have unanimously determined should be released.
  • And the President must show the courage of his previously-stated convictions and either prosecute the other 77 men in federal court, if there is untainted evidence against them, or set them free (the 3 remaining prisoners were convicted by deeply flawed military commissions).

From the Blog:



ACLU Asks Guantánamo Tribunal Not to Censor 9/11 Defendants’ Accounts of Torture


| US Electoral Inadequacies: Fifteen Issues this Election is Not About!

Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of the death penalty for federal or state crimes.

Neither candidate is interested in eliminating or reducing the 5,113 US nuclear warheads.

Neither candidate is campaigning to close Guantanamo prison.

Neither candidate has called for arresting and prosecuting high ranking people on Wall Street for the subprime mortgage catastrophe.

Neither candidate is interested in holding anyone in the Bush administration accountable for the torture committed by US personnel against prisoners in Guantanamo or in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of drones to assassinate people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia.

Neither candidate is against warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, or racial profiling in fighting “terrorism.”

Neither candidate is interested in fighting for a living wage. In fact neither are really committed beyond lip service to raising the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – which, if it kept pace with inflation since the 1960s should be about $10 an hour.

Neither candidate was interested in arresting Osama bin Laden and having him tried in court.

Neither candidate will declare they refuse to bomb Iran.

Neither candidate is refusing to take huge campaign contributions from people and organizations.

Neither candidate proposes any significant specific steps to reverse global warming.

Neither candidate is talking about the over 2 million people in jails and prisons in the US.

Neither candidate proposes to create public jobs so everyone who wants to work can.

Neither candidate opposes the nuclear power industry. In fact both support expansion.


Bill Quigley

Bill Quigley is Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years. He volunteers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau de Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port au Prince. Contact Bill at quigley77@gmail.com