Guantanamo Bay prisoner feels abandoned by Obama

A Guantanamo Bay detainee, a Yemeni prisoner, said that it seems that United States President Barack Obama seems to have forgotten about their existence.

Last Updated: May 14, 2013, 13:40 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: After a long wait of over a decade for freedom, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, a Yemeni prisoner - Musa’ab Omar Al Madhwani, said that it seems that United States President Barack Obama seems to have forgotten about the existence.

Obama had earlier made a vow to close down the facility but acknowledged, “It`s a hard case to make because I think for a lot of Americans, the notion is `out of sight, out of mind.

During a court declaration this year, Madhwani stated, “believe that President Obama must be unaware of the unbelievably inhumane conditions at the Guantanamo Bay prison, for otherwise he would surely do something to stop this torture.“

Al Madhwani is a strong example of the political thicket that Obama faces as he makes another run at fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise to close the prison — or at least transfer some detainees back to their countries. For one, Al Madhwani is from Yemen, and the administration has prohibited the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to that country since January 2010 because of security concerns after a would-be bomber attempted to blow up a US-bound airliner on instructions from al Qaeda operatives in Yemen.

For another, Al Madhwani already has lost a court challenge to his detention, despite the judge`s conclusion that he was not a security threat to the US of 26 documents the government relied on containing statements Al Madhwani had made at Guantanamo, US District Judge Thomas Hogan in Washington threw out 23, concluding they had been tainted by coercive interrogation by US forces prior to his arrival at the Cuban prison.

That taint would make it difficult to convict Al Madhwani in a civilian court, or even a military tribunal, increasing the odds that Al Madhwani will remain in the limbo of indefinite detention. Many other detainees are in the same situation. To date, only two prisoners have been convicted in a trial by military tribunals at Guantanamo, and both were reversed by the federal appeals court in Washington (although one remains under review). The five other convictions of Guantanamo prisoners came through plea bargains.

In Obama`s first week in office, he signed an executive order to close Guantanamo, but Congress has used its budgetary power to block detainees from being moved to the US on Saturday, Attorney General Eric Holder criticized what he called Congress` "unwise and unwarranted restrictions on where certain detainees could be housed, charged and prosecuted."

Like most of the 166 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo, Al Madhwani is participating in a hunger strike to protest his detention and prison conditions. "Indefinite detention is the worst form of torture," wrote Al Madhwani, who is in his 11th year at the prison and has never been charged with a crime.

The judge said he found Al Madhwani`s testimony about harsh treatment at the hands of US forces in Afghanistan prisons to be credible.

Of the prisoners remaining at Guantanamo, 86 have been cleared for transfer to other countries, but Al Madhwani isn`t one of them.

This year, Al Madhwani filed a motion in the D.C. federal court for humanitarian relief, claiming that Guantanamo officials had shown "deliberate indifference" to his medical needs. Hogan denied the motion, ruling that federal law bars him from reviewing claims about an enemy combatant`s conditions of confinement.

Obama expressed the same sentiment two weeks ago when he said: "The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried — that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop."

(With Agency Inputs)