An Intelligent and Eloquent Man of Integrity

Intelligent, eloquent, having great integrity.  Are those words that leap to mind in the context of prisoners at the US torture camp at Guantanamo?  Here is the story of Asim Thahit Abdullah Al Khalaqi, a man whom those descriptions fit well.

David Gilson wrote in Mother Jones on July 11, 2006 about the infamous CSRT (combat status review tribunals), those one time hearings without lawyers before panels of US officers who were to determine if prisoners really were “enemy combatants” that undefined term that the Bush regime lawyers made up though it is not recognized in either US or international law, to deny people protections under the Geneva Conventions, and imprison and torture them.

The prisoners could respond directly to the accusations made against them in these hearings, though they had no access to lawyers and could not even examine government claims which were often secret.  The US Supreme Court later ruled that these tribunals violated US law and the Geneva Conventions, which was a major step in getting legal counsel and some legal protections for these prisoners.

Gilson researched the CSRT transcripts which were released under the Freedom of Information Act and found this exchange between Asim Al Khalaqi and the tribunal:

Al Khalaqi: Are these evidence or accusations?

Tribunal President: They are in the form of both….

Al Khalaqi: I’m sorry, I just don’t understand. How does it fit the two pictures or definitions? For example, if I say this table is the chair and the chair is the table and they are the same thing, does that make sense?

Tribunal President: No, that doesn’t make sense. But this process makes sense to me and hopefully it will make sense to you, because you’re the one who’s going to have to provide us with evidence and tell us that you did or did not do these things as listed on the summary of evidence.

Al Khalaqi: So I just answer the accusations. But I’m going to call it accusations. I’m not going to call it evidence.

Tribunal President: Very well, you can call it as you wish.

After years of torture and abuse, Al Khalaqi still had the personal integrity and courage to make a dignified statement of a logical point of great importance.  Though real evidence in these cases has never been forthcoming, it appears that Al Khalaqi was a missionary from Yemen who went to work in Pakistan and then in Afghanistan.  It is known that there were many such.  He was picked up at the Pakistan border after the US invasion and turned over to the US, as so many were.

Ultimately, Al Kalaqi was cleared by a real court for release under the Bush regime, but Obama has refused to release him along with many other prisoners from Yemen.

Failing to execute a court order is a serious offence.   Being a missionary is not.  Al Khalaqi, who was cleared by a court for release remains in prison.  Obama is still in the White House.  Bush and others of his regime who were responsible for these abuses originally are free.

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