Who wants to get out of Guantánamo?

So there you are – facing Chris Tarrant, you’re one correct answer off the big one (a cool million) and you don’t know the answer to the question. You know what you’re going to do, don’t you? Yes – phone a friend.

Instead, try this one. You’re detained at Guantánamo Bay, you’ve been there for over seven years and you’re close to release but still getting beaten up by goonish guards who baton you when they come into your cell. What are you going to do with a rare opportunity to phone a family member? Yes – phone Al-Jazeera and tell them what’s going on!

Incredible but true, this is what has apparently happened in the case of Mohammed el Gharani, one of the youngest GITMO prisoners. Not only did he manage to get through to the Al-Jazeera newsroom in Qatar from Cuba, but he told a reporter that he’d been beaten with batons and sprayed in the face with tear gas. He said that this had happened comparatively recently (ie after Obama’s election victory) and that he’d been beaten up for refusing to leave his cell.

This is apparently the first time a journalist has talked directly to a Guantánamo prisoner at the camp – an unlikely scoop of a kind. (For more on the story: see Reuters via Huffington).

Okay, that’s the weird Tarrant/Guantánamo interface dealt with (or at least what’s in my head anyway!), but what about the case? This is also pretty incredible actually. Mohammed el Gharani was only 14 when he was first taken into custody in Pakistan in 2001 and has now spent a third of his life at Guantánamo (he’s only 22 now).

He’s been mistreated in the camp before this recent episode and has also been held in the solitary confinement in Guantánamo’s harshest block (Camp 5): for a harrowing account of people losing their minds in the solitary confinement regime in this place, check out this Amnesty report (be warned: it’s 103 pages long!)

El Gharani has been accused of being part of an al-Qai’da cell (supposedly based in London) but the case against him has been ridiculed by a US judge. The “evidence”, deriving from the testimony of other detainees, was only ever a “mosaic of tiles” with “murky” images “reveal[ing] nothing” in the … er, colourful language of Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia court, speaking back in January. Leon’s ordered El Gharani’s release but … he’s still there.

So this is not Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (or Slumdog Millionaire). Not too many dreams have come true for Guantánamo inmates (not even a fair trial, never mind release).

Obama’s promising closure soon but to coin a phrase, it’s not over yet, so please take action for Mohammed el Gharani here.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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