June 13, 2007

"Free" to Leave, and Still Imprisoned in Hell

Anthony Shadid reports:
SANAA, Yemen -- The word came in May 2006: Ali Mohammed Nasser Mohammed, a slight, 24-year-old Yemeni with curly black hair and a wispy beard, would be freed from Guantanamo after more than four years. He got a checkup. His photo was taken, as were his fingerprints. He was measured for clothes and shoes, then offered a meeting with the Red Cross.

As the Pentagon tersely put it later in an e-mail to his attorneys: "Your client has been approved to leave Guantanamo."

"He never went home," said Martha Rayner, one of the lawyers.

In the legal netherworld that the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has represented since it was opened in 2002, Mohammed, once a cook for the Taliban in Afghanistan, remains stuck in a limbo of mistaken identities, bureaucratic inertia and official neglect. In the eyes of his lawyers, the young Yemeni's case is an indictment of a system, still cloaked in the strictest secrecy and largely beyond accountability, in which a man who faces no charge and no sentence remains deprived of the freedom he was granted more than a year ago.

"It's a lovely illustration of what happens when there's no oversight of the jailer," said a rueful Rayner.


For lawyers, Mohammed's case is perhaps the most vexing among those of the 100 or so Yemenis who now constitute the single largest group of detainees at Guantanamo. In addition to Mohammed, lawyers say, at least six other Yemenis, and perhaps many more, were cleared for release as long ago as February 2006 but remain imprisoned there.
I've run out of literary allusions that begin to capture accurately the brutal, nightmarish unreality of the world created by the United States government.

Related Essays: America, Now Without the Revolution

Understanding the Significance of Guantanamo: The Symbol of Omnipotent Power