Thursday, April 05, 2007

Jed Bartlet gunning for Guantanamo

Actor Martin Sheen has lent his support for Guantanamo detainee Adel Hamad by appearing in a four minute Youtube video on his behalf. The video entitled "Guantanamo: Waiting for Justice" was produced by the court-appointed attorneys of the Oregon Federal Public Defender's Office as they pursue unlawful detention lawsuits in the federal court on behalf of Hamad and other suspected terrorists held at the Cuban detention centre.

In the video Martin Sheen said Americans must not allow fear to overcome their faith in “the laws and values that have made this country great”. Sheen, who played fictional President Bartlet in TV’s The West Wing, made a discreet reference to his own career when he also said "No one should be detained without a court hearing just on the word of a president. Any president." Also in the video is a letter to President Bush from Hamad's wife, Lana, asking him to reunite her husband with their four children.

Sudanese born Hamad, 48 was handed over to US troops after his arrest in Peshawar, Pakistan, where he says he was working as a hospital administrator. The Pentagon says he is an unlawful "enemy combatant" working with Al Qaeda, although Defence Department officials told his attorneys that he could be sent home once US officials negotiate an agreement with counterparts in Sudan. The deal would see the release of Hamad without the US reversing their decision that he is an enemy combatant and that he could potentially pose a threat to the US and its allies.

Adel Hassan Hamad grew up in a small village in Sudan. He took jobs as a schoolteacher and hospital assistant before emigrating to Afghanistan where he worked at a community hospital. His job involved buying food for the hospital and writing vouchers. He also went to Pakistan where he was responsible for getting relief supplies (food, clothing, blankets) for the Afghan refugees coming across the border. Then late one night he was torn from his bed by Pakistan police. He was handed over the Americans across the border in Afghanistan and would soon become Guantanamo Bay Detainee #940.

The US made three allegations against Hamad. Firstly it claimed the hospital he worked in was run by a charity (World Assembly of Muslim Youth or WAMY) that may support "terrorist ideals". Hamad’s lawyers are asking if this is the case why the US is not targeting WAMY rather than a minor employee. Secondly they claim he may have come into contact with Al-Qaeda or Taliban members during his line of work. His defence have stated this link to be tenuous at best and potentially makes criminals of anyone who may come in contact of terrorists.

Thirdly and most importantly the US claims Hamad is an enemy combatant. However he was not captured on a battlefield, he had a valid passport and work visa and Pakistani intelligence found nothing incriminating at his home. Witnesses who knew him (employer, brother-in-law, colleagues and landlord) all describe Hamad as a moderate family man who was completely apolitical. Pentagon policy prevents the military from discussing the cases of specific detainees.

The pressure is growing to release Hamad and others after David Hicks pleaded guilty last week to material support of terrorism at the first American war-crimes tribunal since World War II. Earlier this week the parents of so-called “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh called on President Bush to commute their son’s 20 year sentence as “a question of proportionality…[and] a question of fairness”.

That fairness remains conspicuously absent on Guantanamo. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 denies basic habeas corpus rights to detainees. The Bush Administration opposes detainee rights partially on the grounds that they are terrorists who deserve no better. They also refuse to face the very real possibility that innocent people have been caught up in the system. However, the military have admitted this possibility. In 2005 Brigadier General Jay Hood, the top American officer in Guantanamo, told the Wall Street Journal in 2005 that the military acknowledged that many prisoners shouldn't have been locked up there in the first place because they weren't dangerous and didn't know anything of value. He concluded “Sometimes, we just didn’t get the right folks.”


Anonymous said...

"sometimes we didn't get the right folks".

a nation that sees nothing wrong with bombing wedding parties isn't going to trouble itself if their concentration camps are filled with a random collection of ragheads.

americans are puzzled that virulent and violent opposition is springing up all around, even the saudis have unkind words to say.

in the end,all one can do is add 'collateral damage', 'stress positions', waterboarding and sensory deprivation to 'tiger force', 'body-count', 'free-fire zones', 'phoenix program' and 'agent orange' as markers of america's national character: despicable.

they may be puzzled to be so despised, but the reasons should be clear to everyone else.

nebuchadnezzar said...

Thanks for your comments.

While I agree that America (or to be more accurate 'America's political administration') has become more arrogant and dangerous since the end of the Cold War and especially during the current Bush administration, that does not make America's national character despicable.

America still remains one of the world's healthiest democracies (unlike Saudi Arabia, for all its 'unkind' words) and while the country has manifested a strong siege mentality since 9/11, that will dissipate in time.

Also, there are many people in the US who are deeply troubled their camps are filled with a "random collection of ragheads".