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Andrew Motion condemns 'shocking situation' of Guantanamo

The Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has today condemned the “shocking situation” of Guantánamo Bay ahead of an event to launch a new book of poems from prisoners held at the US-run military prison.

Mr Motion has also commended the ability of prisoners at the controversial camp to write poetry as “acts of witness” and to “make a connection with the wide world”.

Andrew Motion will appear at a special Amnesty International event on Wednesday 12 December to launch “Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak”, a collection of poems from 17 Guantánamo prisoners, some still detained. Mr Motion said:

“‘Poems from Guantánamo’ gives moving evidence of poetry’s ability to reach in at the same time as it reaches out.

“The book contains acts of witness to a particular and shocking situation, but also to what the authors themselves are denied - connection with the wide world across many different kinds of barrier.”

Apart from the Poet Laureate, Amnesty International’s event will bring together former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg (who has contributed to the collection), the star of “Britz” and “The Road to Guantánamo” actor Riz Ahmed (who will recite several of the poems), and the poetry book’s American editor Marc Falkoff.

Marc Falkoff, who is also a US attorney representing a number of men still held at the military prison, will reflect on the legal situation concerning his clients and the other 300 prisoners as well as taking part in the evening’s discussion of the relationship between “captivity and creativity”.

One of the most notable aspects of the Guantánamo poems is that fact that they were originally written on whatever limited materials were available in the prison camp’s cells (such as disposable polystyrene cups). Many of the poems were destroyed by prison guards and had to be reconstructed from memory by prisoners after their eventual release.

The evening will be chaired by Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen, who has herself paid tribute to the way that the poems were written “against the odds”.

Amnesty International continues to call for the camp to be closed and for all prisoners to be either properly charged and tried, or safely released.

Amnesty International’s event comes a month ahead of the six-year point since the first “war on terror” prisoners were taken to the US-run prison camp in Cuba (on 11 January 2002).

Earlier this year Amnesty launched a major new “Unsubscribe” campaign to unite people in opposition to terrorism and opposition to human rights abuses committed in the “war on terror”. The campaign encourages people to “unsubscribe” to human rights abuses in the “war on terror” and since its launch in October it has already seen over 150,000 people visiting .

  • find out more about our terrorism, security and human rights campaign /li>

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