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Guantanamo: Stamp of Shame for the US

IslamOnline
By Isma'il Kushkush
May 7, 2008

KHARTOUM - Sami al-Haj, a cameraman for the Doha-based Al-Jazeera news network, arrived back home on Friday, May 2, after six nightmarish years in America's notorious Guantanamo detention camp.

Haj talked to IslamOnline.net at Al-Amal Hospital in Khartoum North.

IOL [IslamOnline]: Can you tell us about your experience in Guantanamo and that of other detainees?

Al-Haj: Guantanamo is a stamp of shame for the US administration. We were shocked at what happened to us in Guantanamo. We thought that America was the land of freedom and democracy, but unfortunately we did not see that in Guantanamo. Guantanamo will only be recorded in history’s dark pages.

I personally have no animosity towards the United States but I am critical of the US administration, that of President George W. Bush. They are responsible for all the misery and suffering.

They were behind the torture that took place in Guantanamo, and I was a victim of this administration. I suffered and was tortured only because I am a journalist. I only carried a camera to deliver the truth. I was shocked at what happened, I never thought this would happen from the US administration.

IOL: Can you tell us about the status of your health? You were on a hunger strike for more than one year.

Al-Haj: By the grace of God, I am in good health now. In Guantanamo, we suffered from deliberate negligence from the hospital’s administration. We were clearly tortured; that was even recognized by the camp’s administration in their reports.

Our freedoms were taken away from us. We were prevented from the freedom to contact [relatives], the freedoms of expression and worship. We were insulted religiously by the camp’s administration and our health was neglected among other things.

IOL: You were the only journalist imprisoned in Guantanamo. Do you have a message to the American people and to the rest of the world especially that the US elections are near?

Al-Haj: I respect the American people and their opinions, and I hope when they vote in their new leadership that they put the right person in the right place.

The administration of George W. Bush was bad for the US and the entire world because of what happened in Guantanamo and what is happening in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan and other places in the world. I am amazed at this administration that says that it is for peace, but has imprisoned all these innocent people.

What did Hajji Fayd Allah do? He is one hundred and ten (110) year old and was in Guantanamo! What threat to the US did this old man pose? What did Muhammad Jawed do? A thirteen-year-old Afghan kid; what did he do? Incredible contradictions, but God willing, time will reveal what happened in Guantanamo.

IOL: How did you find your family and your son, Mohammad?

Al-Haj: This is what made me forget the bitterness of the experience [in Guantanamo], plus the warmth of the Sudanese people. I was happy to see my son whom I did not see for six years and five months. I left him when he was a year and two months old. He is now eight years old and has grown up. I was happy to see him and the family in Sudan.

IOL: Once again Sami, welcome back, and we hope to see you back to work soon.

Al-Haj: Thank you and I want to thank all those who helped in this just cause, from the Middle East or even in the United States itself, especially the Center for Constitutional Rights that provided us with attorneys. I also want to thank those from the American people who stood with us particularly fellow journalists. I received many reports written by journalists, I thank them all and you.

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