Another Yemeni Tourist Who Wanted to See How Things Were Done in Afghanistan

Since I don’t speak any of the languages of the Middle East, the names of the prisoners are hard for me to remember and hard to even write correctly.  I don’t know what they sound like; I know that the transliteration into the Roman alphabet is just that, and that they do not write their names in this alphabet much, if ever.  Since I want to get to know them as real persons and to treat them in every way I can with the greatest respect, I work hard to get their names as right as my limitations permit–checking and double checking the spelling from Andy Worthington’s lists and paying close attention.

Riyad al-Radai, the second of the Yemeni “tourists” that Andy Worthington identified, is the tragic victim of US authorities’ complete and characteristic failures to respect the real people in their custody, leading to failure to distinguish names.  It appears likely that he is being confused with someone whose name is like his.

In al-Radai’s second ARB, those infamous Administrative Review Boards at Guantanamo that are supposed to pass for legal judicial review for the illegal incarceration of these prisoners, Worthington reports it saying that “al-Radai ‘used additional aliases of al-Sharqawi aka al-Hajj, which are identifiable with a Pakistani facilitator.’ This was nonsense, because the real al-Sharqawi (aka Riyadh the Facilitator) was already in US custody.”  All sorts of wild allegations against al-Radai appear to be based on this probably careless, but perhaps deliberate confusion of names by US authorities who don’t know any language but English and don’t care.  The US bias against other languages is part of its arrogant attitude that it is the “greatest country in the world,” “exceptional.”  Other people are not really important.

Al-Radai himself, in a first ARB, according to Worthington, said that “’everything in the Unclassified Summary was a big lie and that America had no choice but to keep him locked up since it would look bad if they released him after holding him for three years.’ He ‘repeatedly and strenuously; stated that he had been confused with some other prisoner, and that this mistake had started in Bagram [another US torture camp in Afghanistan that remains open and torturing], where, presumably, the’evidence’ against him was first established.”  He says, too, that he was in a hospital in Kabul, when he is alleged to have been working for the Taliban.

I always want to remember that internecine conflict among Afghan warlords, among whom the Taliban were just one group, took place long before the attacks on the US of September 11, 2001, and that even if a person was affiliated in some way with them or any of the warlords, that does not make them enemies or the US.  A number of the Yemenis were intrigued by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan because it claimed to be an Islamic one.  I quote Worthington again as he discusses a second of these ARBs in 2006:

” Al-Radai maintained that he had ‘wanted to find out what the Taliban was really all about,’ and one allegation — that after ‘seeing that the Taliban was trying to serve Islam, [he] decided to serve the Taliban in any manner except for fighting’ — sounded vaguely convincing, but it was surrounded by numerous other allegations that were patently absurd, which related to his previously aired claim that he had been mistaken for another man.”

As is the case of most of the prisoners who have ever been at Guantanamo, there are no formal charges and no evidence to support any of the allegations of these kangaroo courts the US set up in order to avoid giving these people Geneva Convention protections.  There is absolutely nothing to show that Riyad al-Radai is or was ever a threat to anyone.  Most of the prisoners at Guantanamo in similar circumstances have been released.  It is only the political cowardice of Barack Obama who does not want to be accused by opponents of letting anyone from Yemen, home, point of departure of the “underwear bomber” of December 2009 that keep al-Radai and the other Yemenis in the Guantanamo torture camp.

This is atrocious and appalling.  I join with all others who are demanding the immediate release of Riyad al-Radai, as well as all the others like him, and his return to his family and friends with an apology and indemnifications for the horrors he has endured.

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