‘Guantanamo Diary’ Writer Shares Plight With Tribunal

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Guantanamo detainee who penned a handwritten memoir exposing an intimate and harrowing account of the U.S. torture and rendition program pleaded his case for transfer on Thursday.
     Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s case, perhaps more than any other, underscores the controversies that have plagued the Naval detention center since its inception.
     Slahi, now 46, penned his very personal “Guantanamo Diary” from his cell at Camp Echo in 2005, three years after his August 2002 arrival.
     The U.S. contends that the Mauritanian native trained with and swore allegiance to al-Qaida while fighting with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, but attorney Theresa Duncan emphasized that the context of this timeline is key.
     During this time the U.S. and al-Qaida were aligned in a marriage of convenience, as the Mujahedeen fought to oust Soviet troops that invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and then fought to topple the country’s pro-Soviet government in Kabul, which the Soviets had hoped to shore up.
     That set the stage for the eventual emergence of the Taliban.
     The al-Qaida that existed then was a different organization, said Duncan, who has represented Slahi for the past decade. Arguing before the military court, in proceedings streamed live to the Pentagon, Duncan said her client had nothing to do with the group that emerged later.
     Duncan submitted a report with the military court from a CIA expert who spent much of his seven years as a case officer “supporting the Afghan insurgency against the communists in the 1980s and 90s.”
     A federal judge who examined all the available evidence and heard testimony from Slahi in 2010 said the man could not be detained indefinitely.
     Though U.S. District Judge James Robertson ordered Slahi’s immediate release, saying the man was not affiliated with al-Qaida when he was captured, the government had that decision vacated on appeal to the D.C. Circuit.
     Slahi’s habeas case has withered in discovery on remand, now under the supervision of U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth.
     The public portion of Duncan’s opening statement to the board emphasized that “Judge Robertson remains the only independent person to have reviewed all the evidence in the case to date.”
     “Relatedly, a former chief prosecutor for the military commissions investigated the case against Mohamedou and concluded, ‘there is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Slahi ever engaged in any acts of hostility towards the United States,'” she added.
     The ACLU says Slahi’s original military prosecutor, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, refused to continue the prosecution after determining information obtained from Slahi was too tainted by torture to be used against him.
     Slahi’s torture is well documented.
     “At Guantánamo, Mr. Slahi was held in total isolation for months, kept in a freezing cold cell, shackled to the floor, deprived of food, made to drink salt water, forced to stand in a room with strobe lights and heavy metal music for hours at a time, threatened with harm to his family, forbidden from praying, beaten and subjected to the ‘frequent flyer’ program, during which he was awakened every few hours to deprive him of sleep,” according to ACLU records.
     The U.S. claims that Slahi recruited for “the Bosnian and Chechen jihad,” and “facilitated the travel of future 9/11 operational coordinator Ramzi bin al-Shibh and two future 9/11 hijackers to Chechnya via Afghanistan in 1999.”
     Robertson determined in 2010 that no evidence supported the latter allegations.
     Slahi’s public, unclassified profile notes that he maintains support for jihad, “but clarifies that his notion of jihad neither condones the killing of innocent people nor supports bin Ladin’s ‘version of justice.'”
     Slahi’s anonymous personal military representatives echoed this point.
     “For him, jihad means to simply uphold your responsibilities and to take care of your family.”
     The Islamic Supreme Council of America says this form of jihad can be translated more accurately as struggling or striving, rather than holy war, focused on self-control and self-improvement.
     Duncan told the Periodic Review Board that Slahi poses no threat to the U.S., and has untold support waiting for him, should he be transferred. This network includes the editor of Slahi’s book, who has promised to support his future literary ambitions; his family; Duncan; her legal partner; and the ACLU, which has promised to travel to his transfer location to help him re-establish his life.
     Though the U.S. claims Slahi’s ties to an extremist and former Guantanamo detainee, Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, could provide him an opportunity to re-engage, Duncan called the concern “misplaced.”
     “As Abu Hafs explains in the declaration we submitted to you, he cooperated with American authorities upon his return to Mauritania in 2012, meeting with members of the FBI over the course of two months,” Duncan said. “Since then, he has had no contact with law enforcement and lives a peaceful life in Mauritania.”
     There is no evidence that Slahi seeks anything other than living a peaceful and productive post-Guantanamo life, Duncan said.

%d bloggers like this: